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England and France face ‘arm wrestle’ over Spurs star Bentaleb, says Sherwood

07:45 21 January 2014

Nabil Bentaleb

Nabil Bentaleb

PA Archive/Press Association Images

Tim Sherwood believes Nabil Bentaleb could find himself in the middle of an “arm wrestle” between England and France when it comes to his international allegiance.

The midfielder was born in Lille in France to Algerian parents and has made one appearance for France’s Under-19s.

However, he is still eligible to play for England and, having arrived in these shores to sign for Tottenham in January 2012, the five-year residency rules mean he would be entitled to a UK passport by January 2017.

Sherwood admits that Bentaleb is “blatantly French” but, given that the youngster has only been given one youth cap by Les Bleus, he feels England have a chance of securing his services.

“He would have to wait a while [to be eligible for England], but if he carries on as he is then we would be knocking on the door this year for the French World Cup squad, you would have thought,” said the head coach. “He’s a good player. I’ve not had a close look at what they [France] have got.

“He has to make a decision and I’m not sure how much love the French have shown him until now - quite rightly so because he’s been in the wilderness.

“I can understand that. He hasn’t played, they would have had to scout him in our Under-21s. He’s certainly not one who has had to do the loans either.

“But now everyone’s starting to know about him and he’s been performing regularly. It probably could be an arm wrestle if the English are genuine about it – them and the French.”

The FA are thought to be keeping tabs on Adnan Januzaj’s situation too, given that the Belgian-born Manchester United winger could also play for England – in addition to a number of other countries – in future.

Sherwood admits the issue is a tricky one, and that English-born midfielders would be disappointed to see Januzaj or Bentaleb being picked ahead of them in the national team.

However, he says his Spurs protégé is so comfortable in England that he mistook him for an Essex boy.

“What would I think if it was me? I wouldn’t be happy, he’s blatantly French to be fair,” said the Spurs boss.

“Although when we were in the development squad there were no other French players and I never heard him speak French – ever.

“Now’s the first time, in the past few weeks, that I’ve heard him speak French. I didn’t realise he was French until I pulled him up on it. I thought he was from Harlow or something!”

Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs

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