Lyon’s Pape Cheikh Diop has pledged his international allegiance to Spain over his birthplace Senegal.
The 21-year-old Dakar-born midfielder moved to Spain at 14 and helped them to European under-19 success in 2015 as well as played for the under-21s.
He revealed that the Senegalese Football Federation (FSF) has tried to persuade him to play for the Teranga Lions.
“I have been called by Senegal several times, but I remain committed to Spain” Pape Cheikh told Spanish sports newspaper Marca.
“Of course, I can never forget my origin, I am Senegalese, but I also feel Spanish.
“Spain has given me everything and I want to give back in return. I am very happy with the decision I’ve made.”
Under Fifa rules he can still switch allegiances because he is yet to play a competitive match for Spain’s senior side.
Pape Cheikh has impressed for Lyon in the French Ligue 1 and Champions League for Lyon, who beat Man City at the Etihad last week.
Despite his remarkarble rise to Europe’s elite competition, Pape Cheikh has not forgotten his humble beginnings at Solar FC in the country of his birth – where he previously played barefoot.
“Solar FC was where it all started for me and I still have interesting memories,” he recalled.
“Now I try to help out with everything I can: with clothes, kits, balls and whatever I can. The conditions are not easy down there and we have to help them.”
His football career in Spain started at Club Internacional de la Amistad (CIA) and also impressed a year later at Montañeros CF, before switching to the Celta de Vigo youth setup in 2013.
He progressed to Celta’s senior side and made his debut in December 2015, where a goal in 27 appearances led to a move to Lyon last summer.