Where?! 7 Players Who Started Their Professional Careers in the Most Unexpected of Locations

It's relatively unusual for players to begin their professional careers outside of the countries in which they were born.

The typical exceptions of which European fans are more familiar are either Spanish players raised in English academies, or African stars who come through the ranks in France.

However, there are a number of examples of footballers first taking to the pitch in more unexpected countries, considering their birth certificates. 

Here are seven of the strangest...

1. Eric Dier

Nationality: England

Professional Debut: Portugal

Now a regular for the England national team and in the Premier League with Tottenham Hotspur, the versatile 23-year-old received his professional debut in his adopted home of Portugal.

Dier came through the ranks at Sporting CP, eventually breaking into the first team in 2012 before Spurs came calling with a £4m bid two years later. He has since developed into an impressive first team star and is destined for greatness.

2. David Trezeguet

Nationality: France

Professional Debut: Argentina

The third all-time top goalscorer for Les Bleus, David Trezeguet actually grew up in Buenos Aires thanks to his Argentine father and featured for local side Club Atletico Platense as a 16-year-old.

After just a handful of games though, Trezeguet's talent was quickly recognised by Monaco and he returned to his homeland to become a star, before his career-defining move to Juventus.

3. Mikel John Obi

Nationality: Nigeria

Professional Debut: Norway

After being picked to play for the Pepsi Football Academy in Nigeria, which was a breeding ground for future professional footballers, Mikel was signed by Norwegian side Lyn, after impressing at the U17 World Cup.

The defensive midfielder spent two years in Oslo, before joining Chelsea as an 18-year-old, but only after an almighty transfer debacle involving Manchester United. Mikel spent over a decade at Stamford Bridge, before moving to the Chinese Super League earlier this year. 

4. Brad Friedel

Nationality: United States 

Professional Debut: Turkey

After stints with Newcastle United and Brondby, where he failed to make a professional appearance, American keeper Brad Friedel finally found himself between the sticks for Galatasaray as a 23-year-old newcomer.

He returned to his native United States with Columbus Crew for a season, before embarking on a lengthy Premier League career with the likes of Blackburn Rovers, Aston Villa and Spurs, all three of whom he played for as part of a English top flight record for most amount of consecutive appearances.

5. Paulinho

Nationality: Brazil

Professional Debut: Lithuania

A superstar for the Brazilian national team, Paulinho had his reputation shot during an abysmal spell in the Premier League with Tottenham Hotspur and currently plies his trade in China for Guangzhou Evergrande.

The central midfielder's professional career started very far from home indeed, after he made the decision to join Lithuanian side FC Vilnius, with whom he played for two years, before returning to his homeland via a stint in Poland.

6. Patrice Evra

Nationality: France

Professional Debut: Italy

Italy is hardly a bizarre location to start one's professional career, but for a Frenchman it is. Patrice Evra trialled with PSG as a youngster but an Italian scout brought him across the border, where he would eventually make his debut with Serie C1 side Marsala.

After returning to France, the left-back would eventually hit the big time with Monaco, which prompted a big-money move to Manchester United. He has since won multiple honours and picked up 81 caps for the French national side. 

7. Gus Poyet

Nationality: Uruguay

Professional Debut: France

Montevideo born and bred, cultured midfielder Gus Poyet somehow found his way to France to kick-start his career as a footballer, featuring for minnows Grenoble for just one season before he returned to Uruguay.

Poyet would eventually play for the likes of Real Zaragoza, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur over a span of 14 years, before entering the world of management, with Chinese Super League club Shanghai Shenhua his current employers.