Over the years, soccer stars have been affectionately renamed by their fans. Some pet names salute on-field expertise, others are a burden to carry, and yet others dip into the animal kingdom for inspiration! Some of the most popular footballers are recognized by diminutive versions of their real names.
And quite a few have been rechristened according to their appearance. Let's take a look at some memorable, bizarre and unique nicknames in the world of soccer.
Brazilian Ronaldo's deadly dribbling and goal striking abilities earned him the title O Fenomeno.
Gabriel Batistuta won recognition as Batigol after becoming Argentina's most prolific goal scorer.
Frenchman Fabien Barthez has gone down in history as the Baldheaded God (Le Divin Chauve)!
Spaniard Ivan de la Pena's nickname, The Little Buddha, has its origin's in his lack of hair!
Simple contractions transformed giant stars into affectionate, approachable guys - Jurgen Klinsmann was Klinsi, Michel Platini became Platoche and Filippo Inzaghi is Pippo!
The famous wearer of the number 10 soccer shirt, Argentinian Diego Maradona was initially stuck with the not so flattering moniker, Fluffy, owing to his scruffy hairstyle! Luckily, he was later graced as the Golden Child (El Pibe de Oro).
One of the most skilled dribbler, finisher and free kick specialist, Brazilian Zico, was so multitalented, he became dubbed the White Pele - a tough title to live up to for any player! Interestingly enough, Pele himself endorsed this comparison, admitting that "throughout the years, the one player that came closest to me was Zico."
Pet names take on such huge proportions, they sometimes replace and erase a players real name! Even their soccer jerseys carry their nickname! And thankfully so, or we wouldn't have known where our favorite players were on field, without looking at the number on their soccer shirts! Pele, the greatest legend of the game, would've had Edson Arantes do Nascimento on the back of his soccer shirt! And our very own Garrincha would be Manuel Francisco dos Santos!
For reasons unknown to us, German goalkeeper Oliver Kahn is known as Der Ausserirdische or The Extra Terrestrial! Is there something we should know here or has ET already gone home?!
If German soccer star, Franz Beckenbauer, was The Emperor (Der Kaiser), his team mate, Gerd Miller, went down in history as The Bomber thanks to his goal scoring prowess!
And now, time to enter the 'soccer zoo' where you'll find Lionel Messi - the Flea, Claudio Lopez - the Louse, Emilio Butragueno - the Vulture, and their illustrious ancestors, Jack Charlton - the Giraffe, Lev Yashin - the Black Spider, Mario Kempes - the Matador, Eusebio - the Panther and Kevin Keegan - the Mouse! It's a full house here, as you can see!
Some players found themselves firmly ensconced on royal ground and sat on the throne with due honors. Ghanaian international, Prince Opoku Bismark Polley Sampene, known as Prince Polley, was a popular player in the Dutch league back in the 90's.
And then a name came along in the 80's that took on spiritual proportions of the highest order - Jesus Zamora! Imagine Jesus playing for Spain at the Soccer World Cup! It doesn't get more surreal than that, does it?!
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