The greatest nicknames in football

Mitchell Wilks
May 14, 2021, 5:30 PM GMT+1
Cavani is known as 'El Matador'
Cavani is known as 'El Matador' / Michael Regan/Getty Images

Nicknames are somewhat of an enigma in the sport of football.

You either have one because you're really good, or really bad. Of course there are a few exceptions, but those exceptions only generally come if something extraordinary has occurred to warrant a nickname - unless you're Brazilian, considering most Brazilian footballers play with them by default.

With that in mind, nicknames in football makes for some truly incredible reading. 90min has listed the top 30 that stand out from the rest.

30. Jon Flanagan - Scouse Cafu

Jon Flanagan
The 'Scouse Cafu' never lived up to the hype / Alex Livesey/Getty Images

This one died about as quickly as Flanagan's career did.

Aside from a few Liverpool fans relishing it, nobody ever wants to think about this anymore (apart from himself). Still though, the sheer absurdity of it is pretty hilarious and cannot be ignored.

29. Sergio Aguero - Kun

Sergio Aguero
Aguero's nickname comes from his childhood / Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images

The story behind this one is nice - it comes from his favourite cartoon as a child - and the image of 'Kun Aguero' on a football shirt is now iconic following the career the Argentine has had.

Let's be honest though, it would've been pretty naff had Aguero not been incredible at football.

28. Stuart Pearce - Psycho

Stuart Pearce
Hairdryer treatment / Scott Heavey/Getty Images

Intimidating, straight to the point and does what it says on the tin. Stuart Pearce was a fearless player and there was no controlling him at times.

'Psycho' isn't the most extravagant, but it certainly sells him well and wouldn't look out of place Attitude Era WWE.

27. Javier Hernandez - Chicharito

Javier Hernandez
Hernandez was a fan favourite at United / Alex Livesey/Getty Images

This one is a cool name and one that United fans remember fondly when they're reminded of their Mexican super sub from the end of Sir Alex Ferguson's reign.

The English translation of 'little pea', though, is a touch weak compared to other entries on the list.

26. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer - Baby-Faced Assassin

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Ole has still barely aged / Pool/Getty Images

This one shouldn't really work, but it does.

Solskjaer was the ultimate super sub and will forever be held in high regard for his heroics as a United player. He was baby-faced and he was lethal when it mattered, but it's not exactly the coolest sounding nickname ever.

25. Chris Smalling - Mike

Louis van Gaal, Chris Smalling
'Mike' Smalling thrived under Van Gaal / Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Fans around the world were confused when the ever-eccentric Louis van Gaal mistakenly called Chris Smalling 'Mike' in 2015.

It wasn't a one-off either, as Van Gaal made the mistake again. It stuck around, though, and the birth of Mike Smalling resulted in arguably his best season at United in 2015/16.

24. Harry Maguire - Slabhead

harry maguire
Maguire's nickname has stuck around / Alex Livesey - Danehouse/Getty Images

It doesn't get more straight to the point than nicknaming someone who has a rather large head, 'slabhead'.

Fortunately, Harry Maguire has gone from strength to strength since it cropped up around the 2018 World Cup, so it warrants a spot in here. It's ridiculous, great meme material and quite funny.

23. Dion Dublin - The Shower Clearer

Dion Dublin
Dublin's nickname comes from a rather personal subject matter... / Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

At this point, it's been well documented that there is a cohort within football aware of Dion Dublin's manhood.

Sir Alex Ferguson described it as 'magnificent' and its earned him the following nickname. We'll let you do the thinking and figuring out.

22. Massimo Taibi - The Blind Venetian

Massimo Taibi
Taibi's United career was a bit of an eyesore / ADRIAN DENNIS/Getty Images

United's recruit for a Peter Schmeichel replacement was a difficult process and one that saw Italian goalkeeper Massimo Taibi enjoy a very short-lived Premier League career.

A howler against Southampton saw him drop a tame shot through his legs and into the net. The nickname was given to him for his short but not so sweet spell in England.

21. Vagner Love

Vagner Love
Vagner Love earned his nickname thanks to his lifestyle / Dmitry Korotayev/Getty Images

Brazilian forward Vagner Love isn't actually called Vagner Love, despite it coming so naturally at this point.

Vagner Silva de Souza was actually given the nickname upon moving to CSKA Moscow for his playboy lifestyle. Almost as cool as his rocket shot and his dreadlocks.

20. Roberto Baggio - The Divine Ponytail

Roberto Baggio, Andoni Zubizarreta
That's one helluva ponytail / TIM CLARY/Getty Images

Italian magician Baggio not only had one of the greatest football flash games ever made in honour of him, but boasts a pretty groovy haircut.

Ponytails aren't all that cool. But Baggio is an exception, he is seriously suave and his nickname backs it up.

19. Nicolas Anelka - Le Sulk

Nicolas Anelka of Arsenal
Cheer up Nicolas, mate / Getty Images/Getty Images

Nicolas Anelka was widely considered a serious coup by Arsene Wenger when he was signed for Arsenal in 1997, impressing as a youngster straight off the bat.

But fans were still concerned, more so with his body language which suggested he'd rather be anywhere but Highbury. His apparent lack of interest earned him a rather funny yet concerning nickname.

18. Duncan Ferguson - Duncan Disorderly

Duncan Ferguson
Big Dunc makes the cut / Pool/Getty Images

The Premier League's resident hard nut Duncan Ferguson earned himself a great nickname for his off-field antics.

Also known as 'Big Dunc', Ferguson found himself in trouble and served a three-month prison sentence for assault after headbutting John McStay on the field. Great nickname for an absolutely terrifying bloke.

17. Fernando Torres - El Nino

Fernando Torres
El Nino broke through early / Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Liverpool legend and Premier League gunman Fernando Torres broke onto the scene at a seriously young age in his native Spain for Atletico Madrid.

'El Nino' which translates to 'the kid' reflects the way in which Torres quickly rose through the ranks at Atleti, signing professional terms aged 15 and captaining the club by 19.

16. Diego Maradona - El Pibe de Oro

Diego Maradona
Diego Maradona at the 1990 World Cup / Getty Images/Getty Images

No nicknames do the late, great Diego Maradona any justice, but of course he still had one.

'El Pibe de Oro' translates to 'golden boy' which is probably a pretty fair reflection of what Maradona achieved. Also sounds like a solid name for a luchador.

15. Cesar Azpilicueta - Dave

Cesar Azpilicueta
'Dave' serves as Chelsea captain these days / James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

What do you do when a foreign player arrives to the club with a slightly tricky name to pronounce? You definitely don't just learn it, that's boring.

Upon arriving to Chelsea in 2012, captain John Terry jokingly christened Azpilicueta 'Dave' because it was easier to pronounce. It stuck and now their Spanish full back has achieved cult hero status under the new name.

14. Papa Bouba Diop - The Wardrobe

Papa Bouba Dioup
Diop dominated midfields / Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

Premier League cult hero Papa Bouba Diop earned himself a rather simplistic yet very accurate nickname over the years.

'The Wardrobe' fairly reflects his towering stature and the way he dominated midfield opponents with his size and frame to break down attacks.

13. Fitz Hall - One Size

Fitz Hall
What size is that shirt, Fitz? / Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

You can read this one over and over and it just continues to get funnier.

Hall is the most fortunate and most unfortunate man alive to have a name like that. Absolutely tailor made for the nickname. It's so bad that it's hilarious.

12. Ferenc Puskas - The Galloping Major

Ferenc Puskas
Ferenc Puskas is a legend of the game / Robert Stiggins/Getty Images

As if having an entire award named after him wasn't enough, Ferenc Puskas just had to have a nickname too.

Fortunately, it's a good one. 'The Galloping Major' makes him sound like the major protagonist in a dramatic box office hit.

11. Gerd Muller - Der Bomber

Gerd Muller
Muller has a serious nickname / Dominic Barnardt/Getty Images

Muller remains the most prolific striker Germany has ever produced, and his goalscoring exploits earned him a pretty badass name to commemorate that.

The clinical striker racked up 68 goals in 62 caps for West Germany, including the winner at the 1974 World Cup. He deserves a cool nickname.

10. Andoni Goikoetxea - The Butcher of Bilbao

Andoni Goikoetxea was a tough man / Simon Bruty/Getty Images

Spanish defender Goikoetxea did not muck around. His aggressive, no surrender approach to defending won him 39 caps for Spain and a nickname that makes you think he's a wrestling villain from the 1980s.

I wouldn't say that to him, though, because he's probably still capable of snapping anyone's leg clean in two.

9. Edinson Cavani - El Matador

Edinson Cavani
El Matador's goalscoring exploits have impressed in Manchester / Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Uruguayan forward and ABBA enthusiast Edinson Cavani has made a career out of scoring shed-loads of goals and looking good while doing it.

While his arrow celebration is cool, his nickname is even better, earned during his time at Napoli due to his composure in front of goal.

8. Franz Beckenbauer - Der Kaiser

Beckenbauer is German football royalty / INA FASSBENDER/Getty Images

The ultimate blueprint for what a top defender should resemble, Franz Beckenbauer pairs up one of football's coolest names with one of its coolest nicknames.

'Der Kaiser' was the ball-playing centre back that every top club wants these days, and won just about everything he possibly could with Bayern Munich.

7. Eric Cantona - King

Eric Cantona scores Manchester United v Sunderland 1996
King Eric. / Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Literal royalty. That's how much Cantona means to fans at Manchester United, who still refer to him as 'King Eric' today.

Kung-fu kicking a Crystal Palace fan ought to have changed that to something more martial artsy, but apparently not. It's still a top nickname, though.

6. Givanildo Vieira de Sousa - Hulk

Hulk, Felipe Santana
'Hulk' is one cool nickname / Epsilon/Getty Images

Hearing that Hulk's actual name isn't the one named after the massive fictional character is rather disappointing.

It's actually Givanildo Vieira de Sousa, but that doesn't quite roll off the tongue the same. 'Hulk' is also much, much cooler and is testament to just how ridiculously strong he is.

5. Lev Yashin - The Black Spider

Lev Yashin
Yashin tips a shot around his post / Central Press/Getty Images

Sometimes 'the Black Panther', it's a shame Yashin's career came at a time before us, because he is widely considered to be the greatest goalkeeper ever.

Given his nickname for his blackout kits - which were actually just a very dark blue - Yashin had freakish reflexes which made it supremely difficult to catch him out.

4. Adriano - L'Imperatore

Adriano is one of football's biggest 'what if's' / Luca Ghidoni/Getty Images

Plagued by injuries and personal demons, inconsistency marred what was set to be a stellar career path for Adriano.

Possessing a wicked shot power and relentless pace and skill, Adriano had all the tools and was known as the 'Emperor' despite never reaching his full potential.

3. Cristiano Ronaldo - CR7

Cristiano Ronaldo
CR7 is a huge global brand / Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Admittedly, it's a rather simple formula and actually quite boring compared to the other efforts in this list.

But no other effort in this list has been able to capture the market like the 'CR7' nickname has, solidifying Cristiano Ronaldo as a global superstar. If it was that simple, someone would've done it before him.

2. Ronaldinho

It's wrong to think of him as anything other than Ronaldinho / Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

Brazilians love to get creative with their names.

Plenty of people don't even know that Ronaldinho's real name is actually Ronaldo de Assis Moreira. The tricky Brazilian was given his nickname as a child due to his smaller size, but the fact that he made such a mesmerising career with the name is enough to make it iconic.

1. Ronaldo - Il Fenomeno

Brazilian player Ronaldo Nazario celebra
R9 tops the list / MAURICIO LIMA/Getty Images

Topping the list, who else?

'The phenomenon' in English, Ronaldo was the most complete striker to grace the game. Blessed with technical grace, unrelenting power and the intelligence to piece it all together, the Brazilian had a mightily cool nickname to back up his game.