London: Manchester United midfielder Adnan Januzaj will be included in Belgium's preliminary World Cup squad, head coach Marc Wilmots has confirmed.
Last week Wilmots revealed Januzaj had pledged his international allegiance to Belgium despite interest from England, Albania, Kosovo, Turkey and Serbia. Januzaj will have a chance to impress Wilmots at a pre-World Cup training camp next month, although the Belgium coach has warned the teenager he is not guaranteed to make his final 23.
"I have seen him play several times and now I want to see him with the squad," Wilmots told Le Soir. "I will include him in the list of 30 pre-selected players for the World Cup and he will be one of the 26 or 27 players who take part in training in Genk and then in Sweden. "I prefer to keep the numbers down but Januzaj will be there." Januzaj joined United from Anderlecht in 2011 and was promoted to the first-team squad last summer following a series of impressive performances in the youth sides.
The 19-year-old made his debut in United's Community Shield win over Wigan last August and he has since gone on to make 32 appearances and score four goals. Wilmots has not promised the flexible teenager he will be going to the World Cup, although the Belgium coach conceded his chances had improved following the news that Aston Villa forward Christian Benteke will miss the tournament in Brazil because of a torn Achilles tendon.
"Things were clear between us: he has received no assurance from me of a place in the World Cup squad," Wilmots added. "I only said he was selectable. Adnan and his entourage were very receptive and understood the message perfectly. "The truth will come out on the pitch and he will have to win his place like everyone else. "What is for sure is that the boy is an interesting player in the absence of Christian Benteke. "Not many people know but in the Manchester United reserve team, he has often played as a number nine. His versatility is an asset."
The Football Association was keen to get Januzaj to commit to England, even though the player would have had to wait until 2018 to pull on the Three Lions due to residency rules. But Januzaj, who has Kosovar-Albanian parents, instead chose to represent the country of his birth following a meeting with Wilmots.
"With Adnan and his father, we spoke for a bit more than three hours," the Belgium coach revealed. "I explained to them both that I know well the sensitivity for a family in Belgium who retain links to their country of origin. I told them whatever Adnan decided would be respected. "Adnan was born in Brussels, went to school here and his education as a young footballer came at Brussels and Anderlecht before he headed overseas."