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Some of the Best Footballers’ Nicknames and Their Origins

If you’re a fan of the beautiful game, you’ll know that a fair few players are known by another name. So, we thought we would find some of the very best footballers’ nicknames and investigate their fascinating origins.

It seems these days that the majority of players and managers alike have been given one kind of nickname or other, however, some are most definitely more catchy and memorable than others.

From a favourite childhood television programme to a strange resemblance to an Austrian Emperor and some infamous on-pitch playing styles, take a look at some of our favourite nicknames from the world of football.

Roberto Baggio – The Divine Ponytail

The Divine Ponytail, or as they say in Italy, Il Divino Codino is a truly fitting nickname for one of the greatest players and ponytails the beautiful game as ever seen.

He played internationally for Italy, mainly as a second striker, or as an attacking midfielder, although he was capable of playing in several offensive positions.

He was a fabulous footballer, with a fabulous ponytail.

Sir Stanley Matthews – The Wizard of Dribble

Stanley Matthews
Source: By NL-HaNA, ANEFO / neg. stroken, 1945-1989, 2.24.01.05, item number 913-7278 – Nationaal Archief Fotocollectie Anefo, CC BY-SA 3.0 nl, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21522231

Often regarded as one of the greatest players of the British game, he is the only player to have been knighted while still playing football, as well as being the first winner of both the European Footballer of the Year and the Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year awards. 

His nickname came from his incredible skill and wizardry with the ball, almost no one could stop him once he got the ball. He also trained at a level of fitness that far surpassed his fellow players, he really was a magical footballer.

Andoni Goikoetxea – The Butcher of Bilbao

One of the scarier footballers’ nicknames and with good reason, The Butcher of Bilbao was renowned for his uncompromising on-pitch style of play.

The Athletico Bilbao and Spain centre-back most famously cut down FC Barcelona’s Diego Maradona with an ankle-severing tackle that nearly ended the Argentinians career in 1983.

Sergio Aguero – Kun

Kun Aguero
Source: By Oleg Bkhambri (Voltmetro) – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=64022945

Having been a fan of the Kum-Kum, a Japanese animated television series as a child, Sergio Aguero decided to nickname himself after it. This was encouraged by his grandparents, who thought he resembled a character from the show.

One of the most potent strikers in the Premier League, he has a tattoo saying ‘Kun’ on his arm, in the script of Tengwar, from the Lord of the Rings Universe.

Givanildo Vieira De Souza – Hulk

Only ever known as Hulk, the muscular Zenit St. Petersburg and Brazil forward was given the name due to his uncanny resemblance to actor Lou Ferrigno, who used to play the comic book superhero in the famous TV series.

After starting out professionally with Vitória and playing three years in Japan, he went on to play several seasons in Portugal with Porto, winning ten major titles – including the 2010–11 UEFA Europa League and three national championships.

In 2012, he joined Russian Premier League side Zenit Saint Petersburg for €60 million, winning all three domestic honours and being named the competition’s best player and top scorer once each.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – The Baby-Faced Assassin

Baby Faced Assassin
Source: By Stig Ove Voll from Rælingen, Norway – Molde – Lillestrøm, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2806942

Former Manchester and Norwegian forward, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer received his footballers’ nickname due to his baby face, but killer in-the-box instincts.

He played 366 times for United and scored 126 goals during a successful period for the club. He was regarded as a “super sub” for his trait of coming off the substitute bench to score late goals.

Solskjær’s defining moment in football came in injury time of the 1999 UEFA Champions League Final, where he scored the winning last-minute goal against Bayern Munich, completing a remarkable comeback and winning The Treble for United.

Lionel Messi – La Pulga

Messi
Source: By Wael Mogherbi, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12631890

Next in our list of the best footballers’ nicknames is arguably the greatest player in the current game.

Translating to ‘The Flea’ in the Argentinian’s native tongue, it’s an entirely fitting way to describe the world’s best player, whose small stature allows him to escape the rugged attentions of opposition defenders, while also getting on their nerves.

Pele (Edson Arantes do Nascimento) – O Rei, The King

No explanation needed really. Pele is regarded by many in the sport, including football writers, players, and fans, as the greatest football player of all time.

In 1999, he was voted World Player of the Century by the International Federation of Football History & Statistics. That same year, Pelé was elected Athlete of the Century by the International Olympic Committee.

According to the IFFHS, Pelé is the most successful league goal-scorer in the world, scoring 1281 goals in 1363 games, which included unofficial friendlies and tour games.

Javier Hernandez – Chicharito

Chicharito
Source: By https://www.flickr.com/photos/gordonflood/ – https://www.flickr.com/photos/gordonflood/5090069815/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14688670

Being comparatively short at 1.75m, it does seem apt that Hernandez should be called ‘Chicharito’, which means ‘little pea’. However, there is a deeper story behind his nickname.

Hernandez’s father, Javier Guttierez, a football player of his own, was fondly called ‘Chicharo’, which meant ‘pea’ for his vividly green eyes. And as Gutierrez’s son, the name transferred to Javier Hernandez, who came to be known as ‘little pea’.

Fernando Torres – El Nino

Fernando Torres

One of a kind and extraordinarily talented, Torres broke into the Atletico Madrid first team at the tender age of 16. And without much surprise, he was called El Nino, which essentially means ‘the kid’.

He would go on to captain the team just three years later, and famously, ahead of his current manager, Diego Simeone.

However, on more than one occasion, Torres stated that he hated the fact that he was stuck with that nickname. But, he must have just got used to it in the end.

Franz Beckenbauer – Der Kaiser

fooballers' nicknames Franz Beckenbauer
Source: By Bert Verhoeff / Anefo – http://proxy.handle.net/10648/ac4fb17c-d0b4-102d-bcf8-003048976d84, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=67901257

Next in our fascinating look at footballers’ nicknames and their origins is a legendary German footballer.

The only person in history to win the FIFA World Cup as a player and a manager, Franz Beckenbauer is one of the greatest players to have played the game and perhaps, the best sweeper in history. He is aptly nicknamed ‘Der Kaiser’, which means ‘The Emperor’.

Although it is believed that he was called so for his elegant style of play and leadership skills as ‘Kaiser’, it is in fact because he closely resembled a former Austrian Emperor.

Fitz Hall – One Size

Surely, the award for the man with the greatest of footballers’ nicknames of all time goes to Fitz Hall.

The six-foot-four defender had a decent career with clubs including Crystal Palace, Wigan, QPR and Watford, but he is undoubtedly known, ingeniously as “One Size”. Yep, “One Size Fitz Hall”.

William Ralph Dean – Dixie Dean

Dixie Dean - footballers' nicknames

Last in our list of the best footballers’ nicknames is of course, our very own, William Ralph ‘Dixie’ Dean.

There are a few different stories as to how this Evertonian legend first came to be known as Dixie.  The popular theory is that he did so in his youth, perhaps due to his dark complexion and hair, which bore a resemblance to people from the Southern United States.

In Dean’s obituary in The Times, Geoffrey Green suggested that the nickname was taken from a “Dixie” song that was popular during Dean’s childhood; there was “something of the Uncle Tom about his features”.

However, Tranmere Rovers club historian Gilbert Upton uncovered evidence, verified by Dean’s late Godmother, that the name “Dixie” was a corruption of his childhood nickname, Digsy. He was known by this nickname because of his approach to the children’s game of tag, where Dean would dig his fist into a girl’s back— hence “Digsy”.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our guide to the best footballers’ nicknames, if you think we’ve missed any, let us know on Facebook!

To learn more about the soon to be open Dixie Dean Hotel, check out our Facebook page for regular updates. 

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