25 Footballers With Pretty Ridiculous Nicknames – Onions, Lamp Posts, Hobbits & Smiling Rabbits

Chris Wright

18th, June 2013


By Chris Wright

In the absence of anything else happening, here’s a cheeky l’il look at some of the most ridiculous nicknames ever bestowed to the footballing fraternity…

Chile Uruguay WCup Soccer

1. Cristian “El Cebolla/The Onion” Rodriguez: So called because his fancy feet made defenders cry back in his Penarol days.

2. Ariel “El Burrito” Ortega: Not that Ortega is named after a sloppy Mexican sandwich of course, as burrito actually translates at “Little Donkey” – which makes far more sense.

3. Philipp “Wireless” Lahm: First coined by former Bayern Munich teammate Mehmet Scholl because Lahm (who also acquired the nickname “The Magic Dwarf” at Bayern) could play anywhere on the pitch, rather than it having anything to do with him being 3G enabled.

4. Javier “The Little Pea” Hernandez: So called as his father, former Mexico striker Javier Hernandez Snr, was nicknamed “Chicharo/The Pea” on account of his bright green eyes. Doesn’t make it any less strange though!


5. Julio “El Jardinero/The Gardener” Cruz: The story goes that Cruz was working as a groundskeeper for his local team Banfield in 1993 when he was summoned over by coach Oscar Lopez to play as a ringer in a practice match. Lopez was so impressed by Cruz that he signed him shortly after and the nickname stuck.

6. Cristian “Chucho” Benitez: Former Birmingham City forward Benitez is known as ‘Chucho’, a nickname given to him by his mother back in Ecuador which apparently translates as “pesky dog” or “mongrel”.

7. Hasse “The Bank of Naples” Jeppson: So called as Napoli broke the world transfer record by paying 105 million lira (around £50,000) for the prolific Swedish striker (who was referred to as “Hasse Goldenfoot” in his native land) when they purchased him from Atlanta in 1952.

8. Lionel “The Atomic Flea” Messi: Yes, we can see the logic, but Messi’s nickname has always rankled with Pies. It’s just that “La Pulga Atomica” sounds more like a 4’10” luchador wrestler to us.


9. Diego “The Cosmic Kite” Maradona: This very “Haight-Ashbury” nickname was given to El Diego by legendary Uruguayan radio commentator Victor Hugo Morales, who bellowed “Cosmic Kite. What planet have you come from?” down the mike after Maradona scored that goal (no, not that one, the other one…) against England at the ’86 World Cup. This was presumably before the smoking of jazz cigarettes was banned in the gantry.

10. Christian “Bobo” Vieri: Most would agree that Vieiri was called Bobo in reference to his father, Bob – though some still think it’s because the former Inter, Juve and Italy striker is a little, well, “intellectually stunted”. Feel free to ask him to his face if that’s the case or not.

11. Henri “Smiling Rabbit with a Rifle” Camara: The former Wigan and West Ham striker is Senegal’s record goalscorer and also the proud owner of what just might be the most clumsy, nonsensical nickname in sporting history.

12. Ernest “Paper Clip” Faber: The former PSV stalwart centre-back was so called because he was always the first to offer his teammates tips on word processing.


13. Andriy “The Wind of Passion” Shevchenko: More commonly known as “The Eastern Wind”, Italian commentator Carlo Pellegatti came up with an altogether more “Mills & Boon” pet name for his favourite Milan player. This is a man who also used to refer to Andrea Pirlo as “Tinkerbell” during his time at the Rossoneri.

14. Pablo “Vitamins” Sanchez: The former Rosario Central midfielder was known as “Vitamins” due to his high work rate, at least we think that’s why.

15. Willy “Stofzuiger/The Vacuum Cleaner” Van de Kerkhof: Along with twin brother Rene, Willy the Vacuum was a staple of the Dutch team throughout the 1970s – so called as he made light work of sweeping up behind Johan Cruyff.

16. Kiki “Chris” Musampa: Once in a while football fans really do produce gold. If you haven’t twigged yet try saying it out loud to yourself.

17. Michel “Il Due/The Number Two” Salgado: Bit shitty, no?


18. Ronald “Floquet de Neu/Little Snowflake) Koeman: Upon arriving at the Camp Nou, Koeman was instantly named after the famous albino gorilla at Barcelona Zoo by Barca fans due to his fair complexion.

19. Servet “Ayibogan/The Bear Strangler” Cetin: One look at the monstrous Turkish centre-half and you can tell he’s seen off his fair share of grizzlies in his time. The man’s a brute.

20. Jupp “Hauptling Silberlocke/Chief Silver Curl” Derwall: The World Cup-winning Germany assistant coach was so called due to his slick waves of titanium-coloured hair.


21. Christian “El Hobbit” Bermudez: Well, just look at him. All 5’4″ of him. Apparently the Tolkien-esque Club America midfielder even plays with his nickname on the back of his extra, extra, extra small shirt.

22. Chris “The Rash” Perry: Because he was all over you like the proverbial dermatological complaint.

23. Zbigniew “Bello di Notte/Beauty of the Night” Boniek: Given to the jinky Polish midfielder by Juventus fans. Blimey O’Reilly, these Italians are suckers for a ridiculously overly-romantic nickname!

24. John “De Lantaarnpaal/The Lamp Post” van Loen: The 6’4″ former Ajax and Feyenoord target man was dubbed both The Lamp Post and The Lighthouse by Dutch fans for obvious reasons.

25. Neil “Dissa” Pointon: Cracking stuff and so thoroughly, thoroughly apt.

Any more for any more?

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  1. CheeseDog says:

    Loving this! Chris Musampa took me far longer than it should have. One Size Fitz Hall will be disappointed to be left out of the squad…

  2. […] 12. Ernest “Paper Clip” Faber: The former PSV stalwart centre-back …read more […]

  3. sirreg says:

    Couple of Rams’ classics: Fabrizio “The White Feather” Ravanelli, and Horacio “Bubaloo/Bazooka” Carbonari.

    • SpuradicSuccess says:

      “Plæneklipperen”, The Lawnmower Tøfting, what a player. Used to play for my favorite danish team too, although I seem to recall his nickname being given because of his aggressive tackling style and haircut (very short hair being referred to as “run over with a lawnmower” in danish).

  4. Bentekkers says:

    What about Stig “The Lawnmower” Tofting who played for Bolton a while back? So called because he covered every blade of grass… Interesting back story as well regarding Hells Angels, murders etc.

  5. upthearse says:

    You really think a burrito is a mexican sandwich?

  6. L7argouss says:

    Actually, the nickname is “La Pulga”, it was his grandmother who called him that after seeing young Messi playing and making fools out of his elder opponents, when he was just five.

    “The Atomic Ant” (Formica Atomica) is Juventus’ offesive midfielder, Sebastian Giovinco, nicknamed after an old cartoon character.

    Also, i like the Juan Sebastian Veron a.k.a. “La Brujita” (The little witch). His father was named “La Bruja” and was part of the first ever Estudiantes team to win both Libertadores and intercontinental Cup, in the 60’s. Some Magic, huh?!

  7. One of the most famous in Italy is Alessandro “Billy” Costacurta, a nickname dating back to the late ’80s. The city’s basketball team (of which the Milan defender was a fan) were sponsored by Billy (a brand of fruit juice) at the time.

    Carlo Pellagatti is the commentator for Milan Channel, so he doesn’t need to hide his allegiance and his nicknames are legendary:

    ABBIATI: L’Amico delle Nuvole (Friend to the Clouds)
    ALBERTINI: Il Metronomo (The Metronome)
    BAGGIO: Zucchero Filato (Candyfloss)
    BARESI: Eliot Ness
    BECKHAM: Il Principe di Cachemire (The Prince of Cashmere)
    BIERHOFF: Gravita’ Zero (Zero Gravity)
    BOBAN: Zorro
    CAPELLO: Windows 95
    DIDA: Baghera La Pantera (Jungle Book reference)
    GILARDINO: Aladino (Aladdin)
    HATELY: Collo d’Acciaio (Neck of Steel)
    KAKA: Smoking Bianco (White Tuxedo)
    MALDINI: Cuore di Drago (Dragonheart)
    NESTA: Tempesta Perfetta (Perfect Storm)
    ODDO: Vicks Vaporub
    RIVALDO: Apollo 11
    ROSSI: L’Ascensore Umano (The Human Elevator)
    RUI COSTA: Harry Potter
    PANUCCI: Christian Dior
    SEEDORF: Effetto Serra (Greenhouse Effect)
    VAN BASTEN: Il Cigno d’Utrecht (The Swan from Utrecht)
    VIRDIS: Indiana Jones
    WILKINS: Razor
    ZACCHERONI: L’Uomo che sussurrava ai cavalli (The Horse Whisperer)
    ZAMBROTTA: Mojito

  8. G. Ortiz says:

    There’s a few that come to mind….
    Alvaro “El chino” Recoba: because of his eyes I’m guessing.
    Alberto “el violinista/the violinist” Gilardino: Because of his goal celebration.
    Pablo Aimar “el payasito/the little clown”: I think this had to do with his hair, or that fact that he was always smiling.
    Javier “Pupi” Zanetti: No clue as to why, if anyone knows please share.
    Jefferson “la foca/the seal” Farfan: Again, another weird one that I couldn’t find where it came from.

  9. Joe says:

    Nice list, but you missed my all-time favourite: Duncan ‘Disorderly’ Ferguson. Rarely has a nickname been so clever and yet suited its subject so well. Also David ‘Wash’ N’gog, Alfred ‘Curl Up’ Ndiaye, Jason ‘Trigger’ McAteer…

  10. smrc says:

    Jupp Derwall wasn’t “The World Cup-winning Germany coach”. Well, at least he wasn’t the first coach during their winning campaign in ’74. However he won Euro ’80 with West Germany as a first coach

    • Chris says:

      @smrc: Do beg your pudding. We should really have differentiated. He was assistant coach under Helmut Schon when West Germany won the 1974 World Cup.

  11. Dennis says:

    @G. Ortiz
    Farfans uncle used to cheer his goals in a way that resembled a seal (foca). Therefore Jefferson became ‘La Focita’.

  12. JJ says:

    El Cebolla is not because he makes defenders cry (although many people think it is), it’s because his head is the shape of an onion. In Uruguay we also have “el mono” (the monkey) Pereira because he looks like a monkey.

  13. chris says:

    luis “the mosquito” suarez

  14. Anthony says:

    Lee Hughes, former West Brom, Coventry, Kidderminster and Notts County striker was often nicknamed ‘The Balti Boy’ due to his frequenting of Birmingham’s finest Indian dining establishments during his career in the midlands.

  15. akárki says:

    surely No7 was signed from Atalanta and not Atlanta, unless they had soccer in the 50s in the US :)

  16. human.gps says:

    Javier Saviola is ‘el conejo’ (rabbit)
    Roberto Ayala is ‘el raton’ (mouse)
    Clint Dempsey is ‘deuce’
    Jorge Gonzalez is ‘el magico’ (magician)

  17. Maria Babbin says:

    I don’t get the Chris Musampa one. Can someone help?

  18. Ozwald says:

    Some from LFC:
    Mauricio ‘El flaco’ Pellegrino
    Mauricio ‘El longanizas’ Pellegrino
    Didi ‘Keiser’ Hamann
    Steve ‘Shaggy’ McManaman
    Robbie ‘God’ Fowler
    Jan ‘Rambo’ Molby
    Emlyn ‘Crazy Horse’ Hughes
    Allan ‘Barney Rubble’ Kennedy
    John ‘Digger’ Barnes
    Steve ‘Chopsy’ and/or ‘Chico’ Nicol
    Kenny ‘King’ Dalglish
    Ryan ‘Twitter’ Babbel

    Neil ‘Razor’ Ruddock

  19. Jezza says:

    Van Loen was known as ‘The Lighthouse’ both for his length and his flowing ginger locks. At the other end of the size spectrum, Wes Sneijder is known in some quarters as ‘The Keyring’ due to both his diminutive stature and his “key” position on the pitch.

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