Pitch Patriots: 10 Players Whose Record is Better for Country Than for Club

Josip Brajkovic
Josip Brajkovic
Published: 24. veljače 2024.

Patriots, victims of tactics at a club, the nature of international football, or something else entirely - yet there is no doubt that there are players whose record is better for country than for club. Quite a few of them actually.

Now, these are not necessarily bad club players, or at all. Yet anyone following their careers can see that they enjoy the national team shirt more than that of their clubs.

Paul Pogba (France & Juventus)

Paul Pogba

One of the most hyped players in the past 10 years, Paul Pogba's transfer to Manchester United was the first one to cost €100,000,000 in history. Yet the midfielder has little to show for it in his CV. He hasn't come close to a Premier League title, won the Europa League and two League Cup consolation prizes. His time at Old Trafford will be remembered by frequent injuries, issues with managers, and chronic inconsistency. The return to Juventus is going even worse with a doping scandal added to the list of problems.

Yet in the international stage, Paul Pogba played in two World Cup finals, won once, and even triumphed in the 2021 Nations League as a bonus. Pogba has 20 goal involvements for the national side, 11 goals and nine assists in 91 games. But it's his overall contribution on the pitch - and the consistency - that makes him a lock as one of the players whose record is better for country than for club.

Memphis Depay (The Netherlands & Atletico Madrid)

Memphis Depay

Once the biggest Dutch talent in football, Memphis Depay hasn't remained as relevant as it was proposed. With his failure after his first major move to Manchester United still a sore spot - with seven goals and six assists in 53 games! With Lyon, Depay did put in good numbers, yet his time in Spain with Barcelona and Atletico Madrid hasn't been as prolific. In 42 matches for Barca, the winger-turned-forward scored 14 goals and made two assists. In 30 games for Atleti, he bagged two goals fewer and had the same number of assists.

With his Lyon numbers, 76 goals and 55 assists in 178 games, it comes down to a respectable output. Yet Depay is truly excelling with the Dutch national team as he scored 44 goals and made 29 assists in 88 games! Truly a world-class return for the 30-year-old.

Xherdan Shaqiri (Switzerland & Chicago Fire)

Xherdan Shaqiri

Outside of the limelight with his move to the MLS, yet Xhardan Shaqiri is still 32 and is still a key player for the Swiss national team. While he was mostly a fringe player for top sides like Liverpool and Bayern Munich, not truly exceling anywhere else. His 92 Stoke City game saw evenly distributed 30 goal involvements. His 20 matches for Inter produced three goals and two assists.

Hence, Shaqiri is undoubtedly one of the players whose record is better for country than for club. In 119 games wearing the red shirt, the winger scored 29 goals and made 34 assists! Playing in four World Cups and two Euros.

Andriy Yarmolenko (Ukraine & Dynamo Kyiv)

Andriy Yarmolenko

With two opportunities on the bigger club stage, Andriy Yarmolenko can't say he never had the opportunity to achieve predicted heights. Yet his €25,000,000 move to Borussia Dortmund resulted in only 26 games, with 12 goal involvements spread equally. The following €20,000,000 transfer to West Ham saw him get 13 goals and seven assists in 86 games! But for Ukraine, the winger has a stellar record of 46 goals and 26 assists in 116 games! That's 72 goal involvements. For comparison, widely considered one of the best wingers in the world, Marcus Rasfhord, plays for a far stronger NT and has 23 goal involvements in 59 games.

Yarmolenko did excel for Dynamo Kyiv though, in both his spells, so he maybe just needs that emotional connection to play that well. It's easy to say that it's the quality of the opposition that's lower, yet he performed for Dynamo in the continental competitions as well.

Aleksandar Mitrovic (Serbia & Al-Hilal)

Aleksandar Mitrovic

With 111 goals and 22 assists for Fulham in 206 matches - across two divisions - it's hard to say that Aleksandar Mitrovic underperformed for his last club. He's excelling at his current one too, with 28 goals in 28 games for Al-Hilal. Yet what he has been doing for Serbia is nothing short of stellar. It helps to be a part of one of the best duos in football with Dusan Tadic, but Mitrogol has become THE nation's hero.

With 57 goals in 87 matches, the 29-year-old striker is the country's record scorer. Even looking into the history books of Yugoslavia, whose records Serbia inherited. When Mitrovic was struggling playing for the club he supported - Newcastle, he was still someone Serbia could lean on. In his 11-year tenure, the popular Mitar delivered them to two World Cups and now one Euros.

With him moving to Saudi Arabia, the Serbian fans are worried what that might mean for their national team considering two of their top three players left Europe.

Domagoj Vida (Croatia & AEK Athens)

Domagoj Vida

The Croatian centre-back played nine games for a top-five league club in his career, and two World Cup semi-finals. Reaching the finals once. It's not that he was ever a bad player for the clubs he represented, but the glaring fact that he never truly played in the best national leagues sticks out like a sore thumb. The 34-year-old was a prospect from the get-go and joined Bayer Leverkusen directly from a smaller Croatian side Osijek. Yet he ended up playing just 700 minutes and moved back to the homeland. Yet representing Dinamo Zagreb, and then Dynamo Kyiv, Besiktas and now AEK always earned him call-ups to the Croatian national team.

In his 103 caps, the dedicated CB won a silver and a bronze medal. Never got a red card despite his uncompromising playstyle. It also can't be said that he coasted by playing with other world-class defenders in Croatia's side because there weren't any in both runs.

Romelu Lukaku (Belgium & Roma)

Romelu Lukaku

Being that he is 20th on the Premier League's all-time scoring list, with multiple massive transfer fees spent on him, suggests that Romelu Lukaku is a top player. Yet his trophy haul is modest, especially for a player he thinks he is. With one league title won in the top five leagues of Europe. No continental glory either. Lukaku has primarily excelled only in certain systems, employed by some managers. Like the 3-5-2 of Antonio Conte. Yet, at other clubs and with different tacticians, he has been more silent.

But for Belgium, Big Rom is a force to be reckoned with. As he has bagged 83 goals and made 16 assists in 113 games! With the scarce international calendar, team tactics can be trumped by Lukaku's sheer physicality, which doesn't require fine-tuning through training. This is why we see target men excelling on the international stage, like Olivier Giroud, Mitrovic, and Lukaku.

Hakim Ziyech (Morocco & Galatasaray)

Hakim Ziyech

One of the big 2020 Ajax sales that disappointed at their new club, Hakim Ziyech kept his reputation with his tremendous achievements with the Morocco national team. At Chelsea, the winger scored 14 goals and made one assist fewer in 107 games! His loan stint at Galatasaray isn't going that great either, with four goals and two assists in 14 matches.

But Ziyech was one of the leading players for Morocco's World Cup 2022 semi-final run. Overall, in 59 games, the winger has 22 goals and 12 assists.

James Rodriguez (Colombia & Sao Paulo)

James Rodriguez

Arguably the grandaddy of players who excelled for national teams more than for clubs. James Rodriguez became a superstar after the 2014 World Cup. Earning him a €75,000,000 move to Real Madrid. James did perform there, as he did in Porto and Monaco before. Maybe not to the level of Real, or of those transfer fees, but then he did begin struggling.

Changing clubs often as he was some fringe player, going from Real to Everton, to Al-Rayyan, to Olympiacos to Sao Paulo since 2020. Still only aged 32. But the numbers never waivered for Colombia, as he scored 27 goals and made the same number of assists in 96 games.

Alvaro Morata (Spain & Atletico Madrid)

Alvaro Morata

Not only is Alvaro Morata's record better for country than for club, but his perceived importance to the squad is too. For Spain, even though he's not on the level of his predecessors like David Villa and Fernando Torres, Alvaro Morata is a must. While he was a laughing stock in England, the Red Fury kept to its hard-working boy.

Morata's numbers were at their best at Juventus, but those 59 goals and 39 assists in 185 games happened a long time ago. At Atletico, in 140 matches, the 31-year-old scored 56 goals and made 12 assists. His time at Chelsea is one he hopes to erase from memory with 24 goals and six assists in 72 games with many bad misses. Yet for Spain, Morata has a tally of 41 goal involvements in 69 games, 34 goals and seven assists with little to no fuss behind them.


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