Footballer Nicknames РPel̩, Pibe de Oro, Gazza, Becks, Zizou: A Century of Diminutives

Don’t call me Hugo any more. I’m English, don’t you know? So you have to change my name. At school, P.E. teachers insisted on branding me “Steckel”, although I suppose I should just be grateful I escaped that awful nom de plume that is the quintessentially British “Macca”.

It’s 10:30pm, and a day both frustrating and unproductive has truckled obeisantly past. I’ve seen the interview with La Radio” yabbering on about “Berba/The Assassin” and “Keano”. “Curbs” is frustrated — who wouldn’t be? “Stevie G” and “El niño” just won’t stop scoring, and “the Pope” feels a little more secure on his Anfield throne. They once had a cocaine-snorting “God” in Liverpool, you know? They say anything’s possible up north.

As you will have made out from my opening paragraph, this post is going to be about NICKNAMES, and I must extend a note of thanks to my father, who was responsible for informing me about Fitz Hall’s ingenious moniker One size”, and to Hall himself for inspiring this article. A shout out also to former Everton player Neil “Dissa” Pointin and QPR’s on-loan Chelsea midfielder Michael “Haunted” Mancienne.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the I must admit, foreign influence in the Premier League is welcome in my eyes if only because it makes us rethink our sobriquets. The standard Anglican procedure, that of affixing the ‘a’ or ‘y’ sound onto any name whatsoever, nominally the surname — “yes, I thought Stubbsy was mammoth at the back today” — is problematized somewhat by these delicious foreign syllables. Oh, the torments of David Moyes and Alan Curbishley, who are two of the worst culprits. For every Sheva” and “Berba” that we manage to conjure up (the Bulgarian is also known as “The Assassin”), there is an “Ole Gunnar Solskjaer”, the Baby-faced Assassin” whose surnames resist all butchering. Although I dread to think what would’ve happened had he ended up at Arsenal, where some awful Gunnar/Gunner foreplay would surely have emerged.

Juan Sebastián Verón, La Brujita (The Little Witch)And in truth, we have a lot to learn about nicknaming, us Brits. Where is the imagination? In the World Cup of nicknames, we are destined invariably to be knocked out on penalties. Wazza” against The Beast”? “Becks” versus “The Little Witch”? (“Little Witch” i.e. “La Brujita” in Spanish is the name given to Juan Sebastián Verón — whom us Englanders branded simply “Seba”: it is the diminutive form of “La Bruja”, Verón’s father’s nickname back at Estudiantes). For G-d’s sake, as well as playing the best football at the 2006 World Cup, Argentina had by far and away the best set of sobriquets.

Lionel Messi, La Pulga AtómicaAdmit it, as a defender you’d cower at the sight of La pulga atómica”, “El Apache” and either one of “Valdanito” or “El Jardinero” lining up as a united front. It makes me laugh to think of the nomenclatural crisis that would be sparked in Alan Curbishley’s brain when presented with a name like “Messi”. “But it already ends in the “y” sound.” his phrenic cavity would grumble, with furrowed brow, before spitting out the only other sound we seem to know, and “Mezza” he would be forever. Look what’s happened to Rooney. And I much preferred “Roonaldo” to “Wazza”.

And that’s why Mr Hall’s hilarious handle had me in raptures. We can do it, I thought. So I’ve decided to set up a sort of project, if you will. Next time you see a manager refer with desperation to his charge as “Giggsy”, screw up your face, defrost those neurons, and think of something better. Then swing by and let us know what you’ve thought of. And while you’re here, have a vote for your favourite nickname — I’ve provided a long, but no means complete, list below, grouped into countries and continents for ease of browsing and comparison. You could also tell us which country has the best nicknames.

Incidentally, if you’re stuck for inspiration, you could always wham your surname into the Brazilian Nickname Generator and give your alias an aromatic, exotic touch. Now that’s a baptism of fire.

Brazilian Nickname Generator


United KingdomUnited Kingdom / Ireland

Darren Anderton = Shaggy, Sicknote
David Beckham= Becks, Spice Boy, Goldenballs
Jamie Carrager = Carra
John Charles = The Gentle Giant
Jack Charlton = The Giraffe
Ashley Cole= Cashley
IrelandPeter Crouch – Crouchy, The Giraffe, El Esparagus, Two Metre Peter, RoboCrouch, Bean Pole
William Ralph Dean = Dixie Dean
Jermaine Defoe = Danger Defoe
Gary Doherty = Ginger Pele
Nathan Ellington = Duke
Rio Ferdinand = Snoop, Jar-Jar Binks
Duncan Ferguson = Big Dunc, Slam Dunk
Paul Gascoigne = Gazza
Steven Gerrard = Stevie G/Captain Marvellous
Ron Harris = Chopper
Fitz Hall = One size fits all
Emlyn Hughes = Crazy Horse
Paul Ince = The ‘Guv’nor’
Roy/Robbie Keane = Keano
Kevin Keegan = Mighty Mouse (given to him by Hamburg fans)
Frank Lampard = Lamps, Fat Frank
Aaron Lennon = Roadrunner
Gary Lineker = Sir
Stanley Matthews = Wizard of Dribble
Paul McBride = Super Mac, Macca, Bake, Big Mac
Brian McClair — Choccy Éclair
Darren Moore = Big Dave
Gary Neville = The Neviller
Phil Parkes = Lofty
Stuart Pearce = Psycho
Bryan Robson = Captain Marvel
Neil Ruddock = Razor
Alan Shearer = Big Al
Alan Smith = Smithy, Smudger
Tommy Smith = the ‘Anfield Iron’ (As Bill Shankly once said, “Tommy Smith wasn’t born, he was quarried”)
David Unsworth = Rhino
Chris Waddle = Dribbleur fou [Crazy dribbler] (Named this by the Monaco supporters after his spell in the French league)
Theo Walcott = The Kid
Jonathan Woodgate = Woody
Ian Wright = Dr. Jekyll
Shaun Wright-Phillips = SWP


Sergio Agüero = El Kun
Roberto Ayala = El Ratón (the rat)
Gabriel Batistuta = Batigol
Hernán Crespo = Valdanito
Julio Cruz = El Jardinero
Fernando Gago = Pintita, Doctor Gago, Gagoterapia (Gagotherapy)
González Higuaín = Pipita
Mario Kempes = the Matador
Diego Maradona = El Pibe de Oro
Lionel Messi = La Pulga [Atómica] (Atomic Flea), Messiah
Martin Palermo = El loco (the madman)
Daniel Passarella = El Guerrero (‘The Warrior’), El Kaiser
Ariel Ortega = Burrito (the Little Donkey)
Fernando Redondo = Prince
Maxi Rodríguez = La Fiera (The Fierce One/The Shrew)
Javier Saviola – El Conejo (the Rabbit), El Pibito, Tambor


(this list is virtually endless, so I have just provided my favourites/the most famous ones. It is also worth noting that the vast majority of Brazilian players as they are known to us are actually playing under pseudonyms, abbreviations rather than nicknames)

Adriano = O Imperador (the Emperor), The Horse
Alex (Chelsea) = The Tank
Cafu = Cafu, Il Pendolino
Dida = The Black Panther
Edmundo = O Animal (the Animal)
Emerson = El Puma, El señor
Manoel dos Santos = Garrincha (the type of bird dos Santos hunted as a child)
Gilberto da Silva = The Invisible Wall
Julio Baptista = The Beast
Kaká = The Golden Boy
Edson Arantes do Nascimento = Pelé, O Rei (The King)
Roberto Carlos = Thunder Thighs, Dinamite
Robinho = Robishow, O Principe
Romário = Shorty
Ronaldinho = Dinho, Ronnie, The One Man Show
Ronaldo = O Fenômeno (the Phenomenon), Ronie (with one N)


Jean-Alain Boumsong = Un, deux, trois … BOUMSONG!
Marcel Desailly = The Rock
Youri Djorkaeff = The Snake
Ludovic Giuly = Ludo, The Magic Imp
Yohan Gourcuff = Petit Zizou
Thierry Henry = Titi, TH14, Va Va Voom
Philippe Mexès = Philou, Le Laurent Blond
Franck Ribéry = The Magician, Scarface
Mickaël Silvestre = Mickey So-Fine, Tweety, 50p head
Lilian Thuram = The Philosopher
David Trezeguet = Trez, Trezegol
Patrick Vieira = Paddy, Tentacule, La Pieuvre (The Octopus)
Zinedine Zidane = Zizou


Michael Ballack = Balle
Franz Beckenbauer = Der Kaiser, Kaiser Franz
Oliver Kahn = Olli, Titan, Vulkahn
Jürgen Klinsmann = The Golden Bomber
Phillip Lahm = Lahmy, Wireless Lahm, The Magic Dwarf
Jens Lehmann = Mad Jens, John
Gerd Müller = The Fat One, Bomber
Lukas Podolski = Prinz Poldi
Karl-Heinz Riedle = King of the Sky
Bernd Schuster = The Blond Angel, Don Bernardo
Sebastian Schweinsteiger = Basti, Schweini


Dennis Bergkamp = The non-flying Dutchman, Dennis the Menace, Beavis, Bergy
Ruud Gullit = Il Tulipo Nero (The black tulip)
Arjen Robben and Mateja Kezman (Serbian) = together, Batman and Robben
Roy Makaay = the Phantom
Clarence Seedorf = Opa (Grandfather)
Marco Van Basten = The Swan of Utrecht
Ruud Van Nistelrooy = Van the Man, Ruud Boy!, The Flying Dutchman, RVN, La Locomotora, Van Gol, Van Nisterror, The Ruud Devil, Van The Crack, Trivilin, Guffy
Robin Van Persie = RVP
Boudewijn Zenden = Bolo, The Rocket


Roberto Baggio = Roby, Divin Codino (Divine Ponytail)
Gianluigi Buffon = Gigi, Super Gigi
Mauro Camoranesi = Camo
Fabio Cannavaro = Il muro di Berlino (The Berlin wall), Il Capitano, El Bus Humano (The Human Bus), Cannavoro, Il Bello, Il Duce
Antonio Cassano = Peter Pan, Fantantonio, El Pibe de Bari, Il Gioiello di Bari Vecchia (the jewel of Old Bari), Talento di Bari Vecchia, Talentino. Cassano is also the subject of the Italian neologism “Cassanata”, a word invented by Fabio Capello to refer to behaviour against the current of team spirit.
Alessandro Del Piero = Ale, Pinturicchio
Gennaro Gattuso = Rino, Ringhio, Braveheart, Pittbull, The Snarling Dog
Alberto Gilardino = Gila
Filippo Inzaghi = Super Pippo, Inzagol, Alta Tensione
Attilio Lombardo = The Bald Eagle
Massimo Maccarone = Big Mac
Paolo Maldini = Il Capitano, San Paolo
Marco Materazzi = Matrix, Macellazzi
Vincenzo Montella = L’aeroplanino (the little airplane)
Alessandro Nesta = Sandro
Angelo Peruzzi = Ansiano, Pigskin
Gianluca Pessotto = Il Professore (the Professor), Pessottino
Fabrizio Ravanelli = Penna Bianca (white feather)
Salvatore Schillaci = Totò (given to all Italians named Salvatore)
Luca Toni = Tonigol, Bomber
Francesco Totti = Il Capitano, Er Pupone, Gladiatore, Il Bimbo d’Oro, Il Principe
Christian Vieri = Bobo, Bobone, Bobogol
Dino Zoff = Dino Nazionale, The Spider, Il Monumento
Gianfranco Zola = The Italian Maradona, Marazola, Tamburino Sardo


Luís Boa Morte = Good Death, Boa Constrictor
Francisco José da Costa = Costinha
Deco (itself a nickname, as in Art Deco) = Mágico
Nuno Ricardo Oliveira Ribeiro = Maniche
Ricardo Pereira = Mãozinhas (Little Hands)
Pedro Miguel Carreiro Resendes = Pauleta, L’Aigle des Açores (the Eagle from the Azores)
Tiago Cardoso Mendes = Tiago


Emilio Butragueño = El Buitre (The Vulture)
Iker Casillas = El galáctico de Móstoles, San Iker
Andoni Goikoetxea = El Carnicero de Bilbao (‘The Butcher of Bilbao’)
Luis Enrique Martinez = Lucho
Fernando Morientes = El Moro (the Moor)
Carles Puyol = Lionheart, Tarzan, Capità, Capitán,Puyi, Corazón de León, Greñol el Puyol, Superman
González Blanco Raúl = El Niño Raúl
Sergio Ramos = El Comanche, Carapony, El Tarzán de Camas, Rambo, Lobo (Wolf)
Michel Salgado = Il Due (el dos), Míchel, la Abuela (the Grandmother), Malulo, La Cabra Loca (Mad goat)
Roberto Soldado = Gudari
Fernando Torres = El Niño, Nando
David Villa = El Guaje (similar to El Pibe)

European UnionEurope — miscellaneous

Gheorghe Hagi = The Maradona of the Carpathians, Baciul (The Sheperd), The Black Sea Bomber
Thomas Gravesen = Shrek
Vladimir Jugovic = Mezzasquadra (Half the squad), Vinci Tutto (Conquers all)
Jan Koller = The Tall One
Oleg Luzhny = The Horse
Pavel Nedved = Duracell, Crazy Peleloid, MedvÄ›d or Meda (Czech for “bear” or “teddy=bear”), The Czech Cannon, Furia Ceca (at Lazio & Juventus)
Robert Prosinecki = The Big Yellow One (Veliki žuti)
Ferenc Puskás = The Galloping Major, Cañoncito Pum (‘The Booming Cannon’).
Hasan Salihamidzic = Little Brother, Brazzo (at Juventus)
Philippe Senderos = Swiss Tony [Adams], Big Phil
Andriy Shevchenko = Sheva, Shevagol, The Eastern Wind, Wind of Passion
Hristo Stoichkov = the Pitbull
Davor Suker = Sukerman
Hakan Sükür = the Bull of Bosphorus
Nemanja Vidic = Hench, The Serbian Ninja
Lev Yashin = The Black Spider

Confederation of African FootballAfrica — miscellaneous

(see also

Stephen Appiah = Tornado
Henri Camara – Smiling Rabbit with a Rifle
Mahamadou Diarra — The Rock, The Malian Warrier, The Panther
Efan Ekoku = Efan ecuckoo bird
Michael Essien = The Bison
George Weah = King George, Opong, Mister George

South America — miscellaneous

CONMEBOL or CSF (Confederación Sudamericana de Fútbol, South American Football Confederation)Faustino Asprilla = the Black Gazelle
Rafael Márquez = The Kaiser of Michoacán, Prince of Cataluña
Wilson Palacios — The Magician/Harry Potter
Walter Pandiani = El Rifle (‘The Rifle’), then renamed El Firo Blanks and The Walter Pistol at Birmingham
Iván Zamorano = Ivan the Terrible, The Helicopter, Bam Bam, The Warrior
Marcelo Salas = El Matador, El shilenoo Salas

Rest of the world

Tim Cahill = Tiny Tim
Ali Karimi = Asian Maradona , Wizard Of Tehran
Eddie Pope = Benedict XVI
Mark Viduka = V Bomber

See also:

Hugo Steckelmacher is a regular Soccerlens featured author, whose areas of expertise include the Spanish Liga and the English Premier League. Read more of his work here.

Also See: Funny Football Club Names, Funny Football Player Names

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