A story which all Irish football fans will be taking a great interest in is the developing story of the Bayern Munich youth Ryan Johansson as he tries to resolve his international future.
The 18 year old who featured for the Bayern Munich first team in pre-season games against Tottenham and Arsenal, and was an unused substitute in Bayern’s DFL Supercup loss to Borussia Dortmund on the 3rd of August, has publicly declared his preference to play international football for the Republic of Ireland, despite also being eligible to play for Luxembourg, the country of his birth and who he has represented at Under-21 level, and Sweden, where his father is from, and who he has represented 3 times at Under-16 level.
The versatile player, who is primarily a midfielder, but is also comfortable to play on the wings or at full-back, gets his Irish heritage from his mother’s side, as his maternal grandparents are native to Mullingar. Johansson has only represented the Irish national team once at youth level, playing in an Under-19 game last year, however, despite having much more playing time with both of the other countries he is eligible to play for, it is Ireland who he and those close to him have stated that he is most interested in officially declaring for at senior level.
The FAI have shown mutual interest in securing the playing services of the young Bayern hopeful, with an FAI source having declared their interest in the player two years ago, around the time he was first picked up by the German giants in 2017. However, despite both sides wanting to come to an agreement, it was recently revealed by Johansson in the Swedish media, that the hold-up regarding the finalisation of the youngster’s international future is due to complications regarding his eligibility to declare for Ireland due to ‘paperwork issues’. Johannson’s father clarified the specific details of these paperwork issues in an interview of his own, in which he stated that at the time Johansson had first played for Luxembourg at Under-21 level, he did not have an Irish passport, whereas he did already hold both a Luxembourg passport and a Swedish passport.
You can be sure that the FAI will be actively trying to come to an agreement with FIFA over the resolution to this ongoing saga regarding Johansson and his international future, and they along with all Irish fans will be hopeful that they manage to secure a positive outcome from an Irish perspective, as this young, versatile player, who at 19 years of age is already present in and around the Bayern first team, would likely end up being a very positive addition to the Irish national team for many years to come.
Despite his desire to play for Ireland, Johansson has made it no secret that he would be satisfied to play internationally for Sweden, should playing for Ireland ultimately prove impossible. The mutual interest from Sweden and the difficulty with securing his Irish eligibility is a worrying turn of events from an Irish perspective. The Swedes are certainly no strangers to developing world class players, nor are they strangers to achieving success at youth level. As recently as 2015, they were the winners of the Under-21 European Championships, a competition which Ireland have never qualified for, and the Sweidsh senior national team are currently ranked 14 places higher than Ireland in the FIFA World Rankings. With many of the top players of their senior squad reaching the wrong side of 30, and an Under-21 side who failed to even qualify for this past Summer’s Under-21 European Championships, ‘the Blue and Yellow’ would certainly be just as happy as Ireland to add a very promising youth prospect to their ranks, and they undoubtedly look to be quite an attractive option for the young midfielder.
The FAI will hope to quickly make a breakthrough with FIFA to secure the services of Ryan Johansson, just as Johansson himself will hope to make a breakthrough into the Bayern squad this coming season. Following the recent saga of Declan Rice and his decision to switch international allegiance to England, despite making three senior appearances for Ireland in friendly matches, it would certainly be a big boost to morale as well as the Irish squad to get Ryan Johansson on board.