10 Best Nicknames in World Football

Michael CummingsWorld Football Lead WriterDecember 10, 2012

10 Best Nicknames in World Football

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    Not every player has the instant name recognition of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo or even David Beckham.

    No matter. That's why God invented the nickname.

    Like the footballers they describe, nicknames come in all shapes, sizes and degrees of colorful language. Here are 10 of our favorites in all of world football, from the funny to the sad to the appropriate and the simple.

    Have another? Add it to the comments below.

Lionel Messi

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    With Lionel Messi fresh off another scoring record, this Monday has turned into Messi Day around here at Set Piece. We're getting into the festive spirit by starting our nickname countdown with The Flea himself.

    What's that? The Flea?

    Yeah, Messi's nickname is "La Pulga," and that's Spanish for "the flea."

    To us, it doesn't get much better than that. He's little. He harasses defenders. He never goes away and gets under your skin. It fits.

    And anyway, if you can turn a wimpy-sounding nickname like "The Flea" into a descriptor of the best player in the world, you've clearly done something right.

Ray Parlour

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    Hailing from the Romford neighborhood of London, Ray Parlour became a fan favorite during his long spell at Arsenal from 1992 to 2004. Because of his, erm, unfashionable image, fans jokingly started calling the midfielder "The Romford Pelé," and the name eventually stuck.

    Of course, Tottenham fans dubbed Gary Doherty "The Ginger Pelé," and there are several ways to appropriate Pelé's name for ironic nicknaming purposes. As an Arsenal fan, I just like The Romford Pelé best.

Ji-Sung Park

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    Bear with me for a moment.

    When we were growing up, my older brother could eat at least twice as much food as anyone else in the house. He would finish his food, take second servings of everything, scrape dad's plate (OK, not really) and ask for more as we all left the dinner table.

    To this day, the guy is as skinny as a pole. He just doesn't gain weight, no matter how much chow he puts away. Naturally, we nicknamed him Second Stomach (well, something like that, but just play along).

    But, honestly, Second Stomach comes nowhere close to the coolness of Third Lung. That's the nickname of QPR midfielder Ji-Sung Park, for obvious reasons.

    Sweet as it is, it would be cooler if Park could use that third lung to breathe underwater or something. As it stands, he'll just have to settle for being a tireless midfield worker.

David James

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    Calamity Jane was a wild-west frontierswoman who built a legend for herself for her toughness and an association with the equally cool-nicknamed Wild Bill Hickok.

    Calamity James is an English keeper who has built a legend for himself by repeatedly making high-profile errors.

    Ouch.

Stuart Pearce

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    While David James had to deal with a demeaning nickname throughout his career, Stuart Pearce enjoyed a sweet nickname that came with a hard-boiled reputation.

    For real, though, who's going to mess with a guy nicknamed "Psycho"?

Andoni Goikoetxea

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    Forget Psycho. We're terrified of any guy who's called the "Butcher from Bilbao."

    How does one earn that nickname? Oh, right.

Guylain Ndumbu-Nsungu

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    Not sure how to pronounce the name? Join the club.

    Frustrated fans of Sheffield Wednesday and others started calling Zaire-born striker Guylain Ndumbu-Nsungu simply "Dave."

    And why not?

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

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    Now retired and in the management game, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer still looks about 12 years old. During a glorious playing career with Manchester United and others, however, he was a cold-hearted killer who could pop up with crucial goals at crucial times.

    Evidence here.

    Thus, the entirely awesome and entirely appropriate nickname: "The Baby-Faced Assassin."

Jonathan Woodgate

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    At first glance, the nickname Village might not make much sense for former England defender Jonathan Woodgate.

    Then you realize that the unspoken second half of the nickname is "Idiot" (via The Guardian). Then you read his explanation about all the nickname-related confusion from his time with Leeds United:

    Ask David Batty, ask anyone, it wasn't my nickname, it was Nigel Martyn's. We used to call him the Village Idiot. I was called The Llama—me, Alan Smith and Dominic Matteo were called The Three Llamas, I don't know why. But I wasn't the Village Idiot, Nigel was the Village Idiot. Nigel was 35 and we were all 18, 19 and he wanted to be like us. Which is fair enough.

    And then it all makes sense.

    Llama. Village. Same difference.

Roberto Baggio

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    Il Divino Codino. The Divine Ponytail.

    The standard for all footballers' nicknames.

    It has everything: pomposity, cheekiness, a touch of the supernatural. Finally, it's literally true. That ponytail is simply divine, just like Roberto Baggio was as a player.

    Well played, Bob.