Footballers with tattoos were once a rare breed, but that’s completely changed over the past couple of decades.
Countless high-profile players are now inked up with weird and wonderful tattoos.
In fact, it’s hard to think of too many world-class footballers who don’t have at least one tattoo. Cristiano Ronaldo is easily the most famous example of a player whose body remains ink-free.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the more unusual tattoos that footballers (current and former) have had done.
Be warned: you’re about to see some shockers!
Nicolas Otamendi’s tattoos
We’ll begin with Nicolas Otamendi, whose back is plastered with tattoos of television characters including Breaking Bad’s Walter White and Peaky Blinders’ Tommy Shelby.
“I started to let the beard grow at Valencia and I just liked it, so since then, it has become a big part of my personality, just like those tattoos,” Otamendi, the former Manchester City defender who moved to Benfica in 2020, told reporters.
“People always ask me about them. I had my first done when I was 14 and each one has some significance to it. My brother and my children are on there, and the face of my grandfather too. Most are personal, but if I see a design which catches my eye, I will go for it.”
Lionel Messi’s tattoo
The most unusual is placed around his upper groin: an image of his wife Antonella’s lips.
Joe Hart’s tattoo
Hopefully Joe Hart still likes his ‘armour tattoo’ because it would be an absolute nightmare to remove.
According to Hart’s tattoo artist, per Lancs Live, the design allows the goalkeeper to “feel empowered and protected as though a layer of tattoo armour is placed upon them, creating a modern day warrior ready for today’s battles.”
Leroy Sane’s tattoo
In terms of terrible footballer tattoos, this is surely right up there among *the* very worst.
Leroy Sane’s massive back tattoo is of him celebrating Man City’s 5-3 victory over AS Monaco in the Champions League from 2017. Fine. But then you remember that City went and lost the tie following a 3-1 defeat in France. Oh dear…
Unsurprisingly, Sane admitted in early 2021 that he now has some regret over his infamous tattoo.
“I was young. Today I would make a different decision. I was someone who first had to run into the wall, especially when I was young, even if it hurt, in order to learn from it,” he told Bild.
Sergio Ramos’ tattoo
Sergio Ramos was voted as having the worst tattoos in sport back in 2019. The Real Madrid superstar has more tattoos than career red cards – and that’s saying something!
The prominent red numbers on his fingers earned him the unwanted title of sportsman with the worst tattoos.
The 35 and 32 represent numbers the defender has worn during his illustrious career, while he was 19 years old when he made his Spain debut. The 90+ might be a reference to his dramatic late equaliser against Atletico Madrid in the 2014 Champions League final.
Alberto Moreno’s tattoo
A monkey with glasses holding a gun to its lips while wearing headphones. What does it mean? Only former Liverpool left-back Alberto Moreno knows the answer to that question…
What’s that behind Ederson’s left ear? It’s a yellow smiley face, of course.
John Stones’ tattoos
It’s pretty safe to assume that no other Premier League footballer has a tattoo of Barnsley legend Norman Rimmington, who passed away aged 93 in December 2016.
The Manchester City defender also had a tattoo of a former girlfriend removed in November 2019.
Neymar has *a lot* of tattoos, including one of his sister Rafaella Santos on his right arm.
The Brazilian has a close relationship with Rafaella and reportedly considers her one of his best friends.
Dele Alli’s tattoo
Is… is that Bamm-Bamm from The Flintstones on Dele Alli’s left arm? Why yes it is.
Mario Balotelli’s tattoo
Mario Balotelli’s Genghis Khan tattoo makes him sound far scarier than he actually is.
Alberto Gilardino’s tattoo
Former Italy international Alberto Gilardino has been retired for a few years now but let’s never forget his Peppa Pig tattoo.
Daniele De Rossi’s tattoo
One of the best defensive midfielders of his generation and now the assistant coach of the Italian national team, Daniele De Rossi has a brilliant tattoo on the back of his right calf: a “tackle hazard” sign that perfectly sums up the type of player he was.
Artur Boruc’s tattoo
Yeah, this is just plain bad. We can only presume that Artur Boruc lost a bet with his mates.
Uros Vitas’ tattoo
There’s absolutely no way that Ramos’s finger-numbers are worse than this monstrosity.
That’s supposed to be Uros Vitas’s wife’s face and it’s positioned slap-bang on his torso. His poor better half can’t be happy with that!
Nile Ranger’s tattoo
Just in case Nile Ranger forgets his surname, all he needs to do is look in a mirror.
Jay Bothroyd’s tattoo
Jay Bothroyd, who earned one cap for England in 2010, has the word ‘Love’ tattooed on the left-hand side of his body. That’s sweet.
Wait, it’s spelt out using images of various weapons including guns and grenades. Yikes.
Memphis Depay’s tattoo
Memphis Depay is one of the most inked-up players in football. Taking centre-stage on the Dutch winger’s back is a massive lion.
Andres D’Alessandro’s tattoo
You have to possess one heck of an ego to get a tattoo of your own face. Well played, Andres D’Alessandro.
Ryan Mason’s tattoo
Ryan Mason, who was sadly forced to retire from football at the age of 26 in 2018, has a tattoo of his mum on his right arm. It turns out he drew the image when he was 16.
This lad thought it was a tattoo of him when he was 12…
Mauro Icardi’s tattoo
Memphis Depay isn’t the only elite footballer with huge lion tattoo on his body. Check out Mauro Icardi’s…
John Carew’s tattoo
Footballers: when getting tattoos of fancy-sounding quotes in a foreign language, always double-check the meaning is correct.
John Carew has the words “Ma Vie, Mes Régles” tattooed on him, which is supposed to mean ‘My Life. My Rules’.
Instead, due to a mistake with the accent on the word Régles, Carew’s tattoo actually says: “My life, My menstruation”.
Mark Clattenburg’s tattoo
Okay, so we’re technically cheating a bit here because Mark Clattenburg is not a footballer, but he was a Premier League referee.
Clattz has tattoos of Euro 2016 and the Champions League to remind him every day that he refereed both finals. Amazing.