Football: Easier to reach Pope than recruit United's Januzaj - Albania coach

TIRANA (REUTERS) - Albania's Italian football coach says he has an easier time getting hold of Pope Francis than reaching the father of Adnan Januzaj in the hope of recruiting the Manchester United winger to the Balkan country's national team.

Born in Belgium to ethnic Albanians originally from Kosovo, Januzaj is being wooed by a number of national teams including Belgium and Albania.

Kosovo, too, hopes to lure the talented 18-year-old, having been granted the right by Fifa to play friendly matches six years after declaring independence from Serbia.

"We're stuck. We just don't know," Gianni de Biasi said on Thursday.

"I and the heads of the federation have made every effort to contact him but the problem is his father, who does not give us even a normal answer," he told an Albanian morning television show.

As much as his talent, the close patronage of his father, Abedin, has been credited for Januzaj's early success.

"By the way, I find it easier to get in touch with Pope Francis than Abedin Januzaj," de Biasi lamented. He said the next three years would be crucial for the player's career and that Turkey, Belgium and England were all in the hunt to recruit him.

Several national football teams in Europe, including Switzerland and Albania, count players born in Kosovo or of Kosovo origin in their ranks, a result of a high level of migration from the Balkans to escape poverty and a decade of war and upheaval in the 1990s.

They include Bayern Munich's Xherdan Shaqiri, an ethnic Albanian born in Kosovo but who grew up in Switzerland and plays for the Swiss national side.