The EU is planning to field a team at this summer’s World Cup in a shock move to mark solidarity against Russia’s recent geopolitical provocations.
Belgium, the home of the EU, has offered to sacrifice its place to allow the move, with Brussels drawing up secret plans to form a squad made up of players selected from each of the member states, HuffPost has learned.
It is believed that Jean-Claude Juncker has offered to manage the team, claiming his experience of negotiating with the UK government over Brexit puts him in the best position to deal with 11 overpaid egos desperately to avoid own-goals.
But as Belgium and England are in the same qualifying group, there is a possibility players such as Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Raheem Sterling could be selected for the EU team, meaning they could be the ones to knock out England out of the tournament.
The move is the latest in a series of escalating measures taken by the UK and its allies against Russia in recent weeks, including the expulsion of diplomats.
A government source told HuffPost UK: “What I’m clear about is we clearly need to be clear in our approach to clearly showing Russia that we clearly won’t stand for this sort of nonsense.”
In a statement to HuffPost UK, the Kremlin said: “Nyet.”
The plan was believed to have been circulated to officials advising Theresa May at last month’s EU summit. Insiders says the Prime Minister feels that accepting the agreement may provide leverage in the ongoing Brexit talks.