Twelve months ago, it seemed inconceivable that Huddersfield would be represented in the Premier League, let alone the World Cup.Now, as the Terriers bravely battle against relegation from the top flight, a 23-year-old right back is hoping to fly the blue and white flag in Russia this summer.
Florent Hadergjonaj might not be a typically Swiss name, but he’s hoping to add to his solitary cap earned against Brazil and get a call-up to the Switzerland national side.
He’s only on loan at the John Smith's, German side Ingolstadt are his primary employers, but his performances in England’s top flight will have ensured he’s in Vladimir Petkovic’s plan.
They’ve certainly earned him respect in England, David Wagner has already activated a clause to sign him permanently in the summer.
It might have been very different for the full-back whose parents are from Kosovo. They emigrated to Switzerland, and it was the home of cuckoo clocks and chocolate that has given the youngster his chance. He came through the ranks at Young Boys, featuring briefly in the Europa League against Everton, before his move to the Bundesliga.
In Germany his debut was a baptism of fire, he featured against Dortmund, Aubameyang, Dembele and co. He managed an assist in a 3-3 draw, a hearty achievement for a humble young man.
Ingolstadt were relegated at the end of the season, but the form of the full-back had been noted and he earned a Premier League move, albeit temporarily, along with teammate Pascal Gross. Both signed for promoted clubs, Gross for Brighton and Hadergjonaj to West Yorkshire.
He made his Premier League debut against Burnley, kept a clean sheet and has since made another 20 Huddersfield appearances. He’s been improving all season too, something that will surely have kept his international manager on red alert.
It may be too late for him to earn that Swiss call up, if he did he’d be featuring against Brazil once more. Switzerland, whose various betting markets can be found amongst the other World Cup qualifiers with Oddschecker, have the South America giants in their group, along with Costa Rica and Serbia.
If Hadergjonaj does make the squad, he could be the third Kosovan eligible player from England to play for Switzerland, joining Granit Xhaka of Arsenal and Xherdan Shaqiri of Stoke. They’re not sweating on their places though, they’re established and carry the hopes of the Swiss on their shoulders.
It might be too early for Florent Hadergjonaj, but at 23-years-old he has the world at his feet and by playing in England’s top flight, he will only edge closer and closer to full international honours. After all, if Tim Klose can play for Norwich U23s and Switzerland, the door must be open for a player facing the world’s best on a weekly basis.