Last week’s premiere of this series had a very African feel as we explored the four players to represent Cape Verde and Zambia in the Premier League. This time around we’re going to bring it slightly closer to home and have a look at the “Ania Brothers”, Lithu and Alb. So sit back, relax and hope that your team isn’t mentioned.
One of the three Baltic states, Lithuania is situated in Eastern Europe and borders Latvia, Belarus and Poland (two of those countries will feature in another update, no prizes for guessing which two though). I mentioned last week that Zambia were clinging on for dear life in the top 100 of the FIFA rankings, but in the past seven days things have changed. It is now Lithuania’s turn to be floundering in that position. It is not surprising that they are down so low considering that they have never qualified for the World Cup or the Euros. Despite this poor record, two Lithuanians have travelled across Europe to feature in the Premier League.
Tomas Danilevičius (Arsenal 2000-2001)
Kicking off with the name that is the hardest to pronounce, Tomas Danilevičius was an Arsenal signing back in 2000. The 21-year-old striker was signed from Lausanne-Sport after impressing during a preseason trial. He scored an equaliser against Barcelona, in a game where Arsenal lost 2-1, but his performance was enough to earn himself a £1.3million move to the capital. Sadly he unsurprisingly never adapted to life in England which meant that his progress with the club was virtually non-existent. Danilevičius made just two substitute appearances during the 00/01 season, failing to find the net against neither Sunderland nor Charlton Athletic. As the season drew to a close the Lithuanian was offloaded on loan to Dunfermline Athletic in March of 2001. Again, he failed to make an impact and was used only three times.
At the start of the following campaign, he was again sent out on loan, this time to Belgium with KSK Beveren. His time with Arsenal came to an end when he was sold to AS Livorno for a fee which cannot be found anywhere on the internet. This is either a reflection of how poor the internet was in 2002, or how insignificant the transfer was, but I’ll let you make your own decision on that one.
Danilevičius achieved 72 caps during his 14 years of international service. During that time he bagged 19 goals, the last of which came against the Faroe Islands in a 2010 World Cup qualifying fixture. You might not believe me due to the number of prolific finishers that Lithuania have produced, but Danilevičius is currently Lithuania’s all-time top goalscorer, breaking a record that had stood since 1938. He is also the fourth most capped Lithuanian of all time.
Giedrius Arlauskis (Watford 2015-present)
Giedrius Arlauskis has played just 33 minutes of Premier League football but earns himself a place in this series nonetheless. Having been the number one for Romanian side Steaua Bucharest for 25 games of the 2014/15 season he missed out on the rest of the campaign due to injury. His efforts in Romania earned him the prestigious Lithuanian player of the year award for 2014 and the ego boost led to him rejecting a contract extension. He was then linked with a high-profile move to AS Roma or Fiorentina. Bizarrely, he opted to become Heurelho Gomes’ backup at Watford.
Arlauskis made his debut in the second round of the EFL Cup against Preston North End. It looked as though he would become the club’s “cup ‘keeper”, but he conceded after just eight minutes. This resulted in a poor 1-0 loss and his tenure was over before it had even begun. His only league appearance came after Gomes was substituted for a serious-looking head injury against Aston Villa in November 2015. Arlauskis came on in the 67th minute and conceded a stoppage time goal, but the Hornets still managed to edge to an entertaining 3-2 away win.
In January 2016 Arlauskis was loaned out to Espanyol where he made just three appearances, one of which was a 6-0 defeat to Real Madrid. He is currently still on Watford’s books but as he didn’t take to the field at all last season, and is their third-choice shot-stopper, his future in England looks uncertain. The goalkeeper has represented his country 23 times but his lack of club playing time has seen him fall out of favour at international level and he hasn’t featured for Lithuania since 2015.
Albania is a country in South-eastern Europe which borders Greece. Following their first ever successful qualification to the European Championship, their football team currently sits at their highest ever FIFA ranking at 63rd. During the tournament Taulant Xhaka faced off against his brother Granit who was playing for Switzerland, their country of birth. Despite Granit’s big-money move to Arsenal for the purpose of this series he doesn’t count as an Albanian.
Lorik Cana (Sunderland 2009-2010)
This is a momentous occasion as Lorik Cana has made more Premier League appearances than any other player to feature in this series to date! Cana was offered a trial at Arsenal at the age of 16, however he didn’t show up due to being denied a British visa. Instead, he worked his way through the PSG ranks, all the way up to being captain, before being sold to Marseille where he stayed for four years. In July 2009 he was signed by Steve Bruce for £5million. He was immediately handed the captaincy although it was just as swiftly taken away from him as his manager made an official statement saying that a captain hadn’t been selected. Finally, before the start of the 09/10 season, he was appointed captain of the Black Cats. He was on a four-year contract and had a solid season in the CDM role, making 31 league appearances overall. However he was snapped up by Galatasaray in the summer of 2010 for a deal worth just under £4million. There’s not really a lot more to say about the first Albanian to play in the Premier League as he just did a job on Tyneside, without finding the net or making any headlines.
We are very honoured to have Cana appear in this list as, like Danilevičius, he holds the most caps for his respective country with 93. He also made 41 appearances as Albanian captain, another record in its own right. He retired from international football in 2016 following Albania’s departure from Euro 2016 in the group stages. He scored just one international during a friendly against Azerbaijan.
Join me next week as I touch down on a brand new continent, maybe Asia, maybe South America, maybe Antarctica! I’ll let the darts decide.