As a footballer, you’re almost certain to pick up some nicknames along the way, and no matter how hard you try to shake them off, soccer nicknames are forever.
Soon, you will go from shaking your head and rolling your eyes to introducing yourself to others as Pepito instead of Peter or like me, A-Rod or Adri instead of Adriana.
As a result, in soccer, the name you see on the back of a player’s jersey might have absolutely nothing to do with the player’s real name.
However, before a nickname goes on the back of the jersey, there is always a backstory. Let’s back up and find out the origin of these famous soccer nicknames.
Famous soccer nicknames and the story behind them:
Here’s a list of soccer nicknames, answered by many famous soccer players. You might recognize a few of these names, or at least agree with their witty nature.
1. Javier Hernandez – Chicharito
A striker for West Ham United F.C., Javier Hernandez is a Mexican sensation that has made his mark in Europe.
His short stature is seemingly the cause of the origin of his soccer nickname, Chicharito, but his 1.75m height (5 ft. 7 in.) is not the reason behind his nickname, “Little Pea.”
His father was also a soccer player, Javier Guttierez, and was nicknamed Chicharo because he had incredibly vivid green eyes, resembling, of course, peas.
His son was therefore passed on the name Little Pea, or Chicharito because he was a mini-version of his father.
2. Givanildo Vieira de Sousa – Hulk
Though he is big and powerful, Hulk didn’t get his name from his appearance.
It first started when he was a child, and his father referred to him as the strong, green persona, because of his immense liking for comic book characters.
He began shouting it at games when he was cheering for his son, and it stuck ever since.
Then as he began filling out when he got older, the name Hulk became a perfect fit because of his bulky body frame.
3. Alex Morgan – Baby Horse
Although she’s more of a stallion now, Alex got the nickname because of her long legs and the way she ran and galloped around the pitch.
She was the youngest member of the U.S. team in the finals of the 2011 Women’s World Cup when she got deemed the nickname, so that’s where the “baby” part comes from.
4. Amy Rodriguez – A-Rod
One of my personal favorites because of personal reasons.
Amy comes from a family of A-names. Her family is made of Alisa, Amy, Adam, Alex, Ashley, and Amanda, all possible A-Rods.
She didn’t go by the nickname – A-Rod until she was 16 because her older brother Adam, who played baseball went by that nickname.
However, when she was moving up in the national teams, her coaches and other people at the USWNT program referred to her as “A-Rod,” and the name stuck with her.
Since Amy was the only one in her family that became a professional athlete, she got the right to keep the nickname by default and she decided to use the nickname on the back of her jersey.
5. Cesar Azpilicueta – Dave
Cesar Azpilicueta’s soccer nickname comes from the sheer “difficulty” of pronouncing his surname.
The story goes as follows: Cesar accidentally answered to one of his teammates when he was calling for the bus driver, whose name was Dave.
Chelsea fans picked up on the mishap rather quickly, seeing as they couldn’t pronounce his name either, so Dave stuck.
Though Azpilicueta accepts the nickname, he still would like to acknowledge that he hopes his fans know his real name.
6. Roberto Baggio – Il Divino Codino, The Divine Ponytail
The Italian attacker was famous for his set pieces and goal-scoring prowess.
7. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – The Baby-Faced Assassin
Former Manchester and Norweigan forward, known for his baby face but killer in-the-box instincts.
8. Lionel Messi – La Pulga, The Flea, G.O.A.T
Winner of the world’s best player, this Argentinian gets on the nerves of the opposing defines as easy as he maneuvers around the field.
9. Ji Sung Park – Three Lungs
The South Korean player once described as the first “nuclear-powered South Korean” had extreme endurance on the pitch.
10. Hans Jeppson – The Bank of Naples
A Swedish football striker, who was also one of the most expensive transfers in the history of football.
11. Guylain Ndumbu-Nsungu – Dave
Just like Cesar Azpilicueta, his name was deemed too complicated. As a result, the Congolese footballer was renamed, Dave.
12. Andoni Goikoetxea – The Butcher of Bilbao
This Spanish footballer attempted to assassinate Maradona’s career.
13. Carles Puyol – Tarzan, Braveheart, Caveman, etc.
Spain center back who was given his nickname because of his appearance and style of play. Wild.
14. Fitz Hall – One Size
(One size fits all). English defender who was six-foot-four.
15. Keith Stevens – Rhino
He earned this nickname either because of his fearless tackling or the size of his nose.
16. Andrea Pirlo – The Metronome, The Architect, Maestro, Mozart, The Professor
Italian midfielder who set the team’s rhythm and built plays.
17. Ronaldo – Il Fenomeno (The Phenomenon), Real Ronaldo, Fat Ronaldo
The Brazilian forward was famous for his ability to score impeccable goals.
19. Franz Beckenbauer – The Kaiser, The Emperor
The German player was famous for his inspirational leadership, and statesman-like figure.
19. Pele (Edson Arantes do Nascimento) – O Rei, The King
No explanation needed.
20. Gilberto Silva – The Invisible Wall
Gilberto Silva was famous for his superb ability to play the holding role – right in front of the defense; he was also called – The Invincible Wall.
21. Juan Riquelme – The Lazy Wizard
The Argentine was often labeled as lazy, un-athletic, and moody, yet he was extremely deadly on the field.
22. Ronaldinho – The One Man Show
This Brazilian mastermind was a magical player. He entertained the fans with his brilliance and embarrassed opposing players with his mesmerizing skills.
23. Ashley Cole – Cashley or Ca$hley Cole
Not the best nickname for a soccer player to be called. The English left-back got this nickname because he said he was insulted by the meager 55 grand per week salary that Arsenal offered him. He eventually joined Arsenal’s newly-rich arch-rivals, Chelsea.
24. Fernando Jose Torres Sanz – El Niño (The Kid)
This Spanish footballer became captain of Atletico Madrid at an extremely young age.
25. Cristiano Ronaldo – CR7, O Robo (The Robot)
World-famous Ronaldo gets known by his own brand name, CR7, or The Robot because he plays so stiffly.
26. Diego Maradona – El Pibe de Oro (The Golden Boy), Hand of God
Maradona earned this nickname because of his brilliant wizardry on the field, and the impact he made for Argentina.
27. Darren Anderton – Shaggy, Sicknote
Mainly for his appearance, he received the name Shaggy, this English former soccer player who played for Tottenham Hotspur. He also seemed to be always injured, therefore earning the title, Sicknote.
28. John Charles – The Gentle Giant
Britain’s first international superstar was given his nickname for his tall stature and respectful nature. He was never booked or sent off throughout his professional career.
29. Lev Yashin – The Black Spider, Black Panther
The Russian first-class goalkeeper was the only Soviet soccer player to be awarded the Golden Ball.
30. Gerd Müller – The Fat One, Bomber
Müller was one of Germany’s greatest soccer players. He was called Bomber because of the way he shot to goal, and he earned the nickname “the fat one” from his coach.
31. Ferenc Puskas – The Galloping Major
Puskas is famous for scoring the most goals for any national team, (Hungary): 83 goals in 84 games. He was a war veteran and Mighty Magyar.
32. Francesco Totti – Er Pupone – The Big Baby
Named after the incident of provocation that landed him a three-match ban; when he spat on another player. He was also a young player when he began playing for Rome.
33. Iker Casillas – El Gato (The Cat), El galáctico de Móstoles, San Iker, Capi, Culote
His most famous soccer nickname is The Saint, because of his exceptional performances. He made saves that were almost miraculous and impossible to comprehend.
34. Stuart Pearce – Psycho
The English player Stuart Pearce, the Psycho, was nicknamed for his style of play, which was unforgivable and aggressive.
35. Nicolas Anelka – Le Sulk
The French striker was dubbed the name by fans because he never seemed to smile on the field.
36. Paul Scholes – The Ginger Prince, The Ginger Ninja
The Manchester United player was given the nickname for his hair color and excellent passing abilities.
37. Dennis Bergkamp – The Menace, The Iceman, God, The Non-Flying Dutchman, Bergy
The Dutchman has a fear of flying yet he accumulated a significant amount of awards in his football career.
38. Javier Zanetti – El Tractor (The Tractor)
The Argentine winger was known for his excellent stamina and tireless runs.
39. Gennaro Gattuso – The Pit Bull, Rino
The nickname was given to the Italian player for his ability to hunt down the opposition. He is a World Cup winner and two-time Champions League winner.
40. David Beckham – Golden Balls, Spice Boy, Becks
Given the spotlight that Beckham has had as a player, and the nicknames that come along with being married to Spice Girl Victoria Beckham.
41. Esteban Granero – El Pirata (The Pirate)
Spanish footballer who was given this nickname because of his curly hair and beard.
42. Gabriel Batistuta – The Lion, Batigol, El Angel Gabriel
Argentinian striker remains one of Argentina’s leading goal scorers.
43. Eric Cantona – The King
Man United fans gave Cantona this nickname because let’s face it; the guy was the king on the pitch. He remains one of Man United’s greatest players ever.
44. Marta Vieira da Silva (Marta) – Raina (The Queen), Pele in Skirts, Lady Pele
She won the FIFA Female Player of the Year 5 years in a row, which earned her nicknames. She’s an incredible Brazilian player, and she is arguably the most celebrated female footballer of all time.
45. Sisleide Lima do Amor – Sissi
She Joined the Brazil team at just 16 years old; she received the Golden Boot at the World Cup.
46. Sebastiano Rossi – L’Ascensore Umano (The Human Lift)
The famous Italian goalkeeper was renowned for his remarkable height and athleticism.
47. Romário – O Baixinho – The Shorty
A Brazilian striker stood at 1.67 tall (5 ft. 4 in.), yet he was incredibly agile and a thorn in the feet of opposing defenders.
48. Dida – A Muralha Azul (The Blue Wall)
Goalkeeper whose real name is Nelson de Jesus Silva, but of course, in Brasil you have a nickname for your nickname.
49. Arjen Robben – Der Mann aus Glas (The Man of Glass), R2
Because of his susceptibility to injury, the Dutch midfielder was given this name.
50. Hernán Crespo – El Polaco (The Pole), Valdanito
The Argentine striker received these nicknames because of Jorge Valdano, and because his grandmother was Polish.
51. Pavel Nedvěd – Czech Fury, The Czech Cannon
Italian fans named Pavel the Blind Fury as well because of his accurate set-pieces delivery and excellent penalty kicks.
52. Patrick Vieira – Paddy, Le Long (The Long One), La Grande Saucisse (The Big Sausage), Paddy Long Legs
Arsenal midfielder and former player from Senegal known for his huge physique, yet fantastic footballing abilities.
53. Juan Sebastián Verón – La Brujita (The Little Witch)
The Argentine player took the nickname from his father, Juan Ramon (The Witch).
54. Philipp Lahm – Magic Dwarf
The retired German defender stands 5 ft 7 in tall, he was known for his intelligence on the pitch.
55. George Best – The Fifth Beatle
The Northern Irish Winger was named so because he was stylish, handsome and one of the only men at the time to rival the fame of the music group.
56. Ron Harris – Chopper
The ex-Chelsea player was known for his aggressive tackle that you could see coming from 5 meters out.
57. Paolo Rossi – Pablito, El Torero (The Bull Fighter)
Italian national icon, thanks to his 1982 World Cup goalscoring exploits.
58. Zbigniew Boniek – Zibi, Bello di Notte (Beauty at Night)
Polish player who, when playing in Italy European club tournament matches, which took place in the evening, was a creative warlord on the ball.
59. Jack Charleton – The Giraffe
The ex-Leeds United defender was known for his long neck and legs.
60. Edgar Davids – Piranha, Pitbull, Shark, Mayor of the Street
The former Juventus and Tottenham midfielder was renowned for his fierce style of play. He was from Suriname, a tiny state in South Africa.
61. Marcello Gallardo – El Muñeco (The Doll)
An Argentine former player, who is now a football coach stands at 5 ft 7 in. (168 cm.)
62. Jimmy Johnstone – Jinky, The Flying Flea
A Scottish winger played with trickery and was most known for his time at Celtic.
63. Wilhelmus van de Kerkhof – Willy, Stofzuiger (The Vacuum Cleaner)
Dutch midfielder known for his incredible defensive attributes.
64. Velimir Zajec – Zeko (Rabbit)
Panathinaikos fans dubbed the Croatian player Rabbit because of his small physique.
65. Iván Zamorano – Bam Bam, Ivan el Terrible (Ivan the Terrible)
Chile’s third-highest goalscorer of all time is known for his extreme commitment to the number 9. He even wore jersey number 18, as a reference to 9 (1+8).
66. Manoel Francisco dos Santos (Garrincha) – Passaro (Bird), Alegria do Povo (The People’s Joy), Garrincha, Anjo de Pernas Tortas (Bent-Legged Angel)
The Brazilian winger is one of the best dribblers in the history of soccer; many young footballers still struggle to replicate some of his incredible moves.
67. Ivan de la Peña – Pequeño Buda (Little Buddha)
Former Spanish central midfielder and his famous bald head, which was said to be great at “summoning miracles.”
68. Fabien Barthez – Le Divin Chauve (The Baldheaded God)
The ex-french international goalkeeper got this name because of the famous ritual by him and his teammate Laurent Blanc, who always kissed Barthez‘s bald head before matches.
69. Zico – The White Pelé
A great free-kick taker and midfielder for Brazil, who also served as the country‘s national team coach.
70. Oliver Kahn – Der Ausserirdische – The Extraterrestrial, Der Titan (The Titan), Volcano
German goalkeeper, one of the most successful German players of all time.
71. Emilio Butragueño – El Buitre (The Vulture)
The legendary Spanish striker had an excellent partnership in Real Madrid with the legendary Hugo Sánchez.
72. Kevin Keegan – Mächtig Maus (The Mighty Mouse)
HSV fans christened him the nickname to the English striker and also released a single, “Head Over Heels in Love.”
73. Eusébio – The Black Panther, Magagaga (The Guy Who Climbed)
The legendary Portuguese player was known for his strength and speed.
74. Mario Kempes – El Matador, El Toro
Argentine forward, winner of the Golden Ball and Golden Boot in the 1978 World Cup.
75. Prince Opoku – Prince Polley
The Ghanian striker was famous for his exploits at FC Twente.
76. Julio Cruz – Jardinero (Gardener), Poncharello
An Argentine forward received his nickname because he was working as a groundskeeper for a team in Banfield when he was called to fill in for a missing player.
77. Daniel Bravo – Petit Prince (Little Prince)
French midfielder began his career at 19 and scored two goals on his national debut.
78. Mario Basler – Super Mario
German Winger was famous for his excellent set-pieces and creativity.
79. Tony Adams – Donkey, Mr. Arsenal
England captain and center back known for captaining a title-winning in three different decades and even has a statue outside the Emirates Stadium.
80. Alessandro Altobelli – Spillo (Needle)
Former Italian forward, 1982 World Cup Winner and given his nickname because of his slender build.
81. Adriano Leite Ribeiro – Adriano, Imperatore (Emperor)
An inconsistent, yet deadly, powerful Brazilian striker who played in Brazil and Italy, and most recently in Miami.
82. Marcel Desailly – The Rock, Beast
French center-back and defensive midfielder, known for his consistency, strength, and hard-tackling style.
83. Stan Collymore – Stan the Man
English former striker who was at the time the most expensive player in England. He was signed for £8.5 million.
84. Eduardo Hurtado – El Tanque (The Tank)
The Ecuadorian striker was known for his massive, towering frame.
85. Gunnar Gren – Profesore (Professor)
Swedish football player, known for his superb tactical awareness and high school professor look. Part of the trio GRE-NO-LI.
86. Ruud Gullit – Tulipano Nero (Black Tulip)
Dutch captain midfielder was named for his sleekness and elegance on the field.
87. Julen Guerrero – La Perla (The Pearl)
The Spanish attacking midfielder was known for his ambidexterity.
88. Richard Wright – Richard Wrong
England goalkeeper famous for his blunders and playing 0 games for Man City despite making £350,000 a year.
89. Massimo Taibi – The Blind Venetian
Another goalkeeper known for his poor performances, Taibi played for Man United.
90. Cristián González – Speedy Gonzalez, Killy
Argentine left winger known for his speed and part of the 2002 World Cup team.
91. Éric Gerets – Leeuw (Lion), Lion de Rekem
The Belgian defender was famous for a combination of his warrior heart, beard, and dark, long hair.
92. Carlos Bilardo – El Narizón (The Big Nose)
The Argentine player, with an abnormally large nose.
93. Marco Van Basten – The Swan of Utrecht
The legendary Dutch striker was strong in the air, tall, flexible, and he was a maestro on the ball.
94. Paulo Futre – La Joya (The Jewel)
Portuguese left-winger, World Cup appearance, and played for numerous clubs in Spain, France, Italy, Japan, and Portugal.
95. Marco Etcheverry – Diablo (Devil)
The retired Bolivian player is considered one of the greatest national players in his country of all time. Led the way by heading to the U.S. to play for D.C. United.
96. Giorgos Donis – The Train
Former Greek midfielder, known for his astounding acceleration.
97. Dmitrij Alenichev – Olen (Deer)
Former player, politician, and Russian football coach played in Russia, Portugal, and Italy.
98. Sonny Anderson – Pistolero (Gunslinger)
Brazilian striker dubbed the nickname during his time at Barcelona.
99. Said Al-Owaeran – Desert Maradona
Saudi Arabian player, known to have scored one of the greatest World Cup goals of all time.
100. Alessandro Costacurta – Billy
Italian international defender, known for possibly his love of old Westerns or his support of the Olympia Milano basketball team.
101. Sergio Aguero – Kun
The Argentine was given the nickname by his grandparents from a popular cartoon series because he looked like the main character.
102. Ronald Koeman – Flout de Neu (Little Snowflake), Tintin
The Dutchman was given the name by Barcelona fans because of his complexion and also a resemblance to the character.
103. Duncan Ferguson – Disorderly, Big Dunc
Standing at 6 ft. 4 in., the Scottish player scored more goals than any other player of his country in the Premier League but was known for his red cards and antics on the field.
104. Jonathan Woodgate – Village, Village at Elland Road, The Llama
U.K. defender who is most famous for the best responses to a routine questionnaire.
105. Frank Lampard – Fat Frank, Super Frank
Possibly the greatest player in the history of Chelsea, he went from Fat Frank to Super Frank.
106. Saed Kolasinac – Tank
The Bosnian International, Arsenal left-back is built like a war tank.
107. Alexis Sanchez – El Niño Maravilla (Squirrel)
He got this name because as a kid, he was always restless and loved climbing buildings in his hometown.
There are plenty of other football nicknames, such as:
- Zizou for Zinedine Zidane,
- CR7 for Cristiano Ronaldo,
- Diablo for Marco Etcheverry,
- Deuce for Clint Dempsey,
- The Atomic Flea for Lionel Messi (which is a pretty epic nickname),
- El Niño for Fernando Torres and
- Il Phenomeno for Ronaldo (the original Ronaldo).
- Special One for Jose Mourinho
- Le Prof for Arsene Wenger
Brazilians are most known for having one name on the back of their jerseys, and a majority of them have nicknames instead of their actual full names.
The use of nicknames is ingrained in the Brazilian culture, but the phenomenon has also spread to the entire world.
Soccer players from around the world have taken pride in their nicknames. Not only do they answer these nicknames, but they also spot these nicknames on the backs of their jerseys.
Whether their nickname defines them, was dubbed by others, or makes them the players they are today, having a soccer nickname is just one of the factors that make the sport of soccer even more enjoyable.
Obviously, we have committed an Escobar-esque error by missing some great soccer nicknames.
Please don’t kill us for our mistake, instead, be a dear and share the wonderful soccer names we might have missed, in the comment section.