Martinez, Ronaldo, Dybala: What are the best nicknames in football?

Martinez for Argentina

Manchester United have officially confirmed the signing of Lisandro Martinez from Ajax on a contract until June 2027.

Martinez’s signing had been agreed in principle while United were away on a pre-season tour of Thailand and Australia, but has now been confirmed with the squad back at Carrington in preparation for their final stretch of pre-season.

The Argentine defender arrives with a reputation as a fine passer of the ball and Erik ten Hag’s answer to making his side more progressive from deeper positions, but also arrives with a mean nickname of ‘The Butcher’.

Why is Martinez called ‘The Butcher’?

Despite rival fans ridiculing United’s latest recruit whenever they can due to his size – he stands at 5 foot 9 inches – Martinez has developed such a ruthless sounding nickname due to his traits.

While Martinez possesses excellent vision and composure in possession of the ball, he also isn’t afraid to get stuck into his opponents.

It’s exactly that tenacity and aggressive style of play that earned him his nickname, ‘The Butcher’ or sometimes even ‘The Butcher of Amsterdam’. His qualities were on display in a YouTube compilation that did the rounds following the initial announcement. Take a look below.

That is seriously cool. Of course, Martinez now needs to help United fans out and live up to the nickname in the Premier League. But even if he doesn’t, at least they’ll have a central defender that sounds intimidating if nothing else. It’s a win-win, really.

The greatest nicknames in football

So, with ‘The Butcher’ heading to Old Trafford, we at GIVEMESPORT have been thinking about some of the best nicknames that have blessed the beautiful game through the years.

Nicknames in football are a funny old thing, in truth. A general rule of thumb is that someone has a nickname because they’re really good at something, or really bad at something.

And then there’s the select few that have been blessed with one for a strange exceptional circumstance, be it a personality trait or a strange mishap that they haven’t been able to shake from their reputation.

Martinez for Argentina
PAMPLONA, SPAIN – JUNE 05: Lisandro Martinez of Argentina looks on during the international friendly match between Argentina and Estonia at Estadio El Sadar on June 05, 2022 in Pamplona, Spain. (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)

They’re harmless, and mean very little, but they are good fun. And they certainly don’t get enough credit in English football. So, with a butcher ready to come in and chop the Premier League to bits for United this season, we find it as good a time as ever to count down some of the best nicknames in football.

12. Roberto Baggio – The Divine Ponytail

Points for being unique, and the fact that it was Baggio. A truly magnificent footballer in his pomp and a man with an endearing look.

Very few people could pull off his hairdo – a ponytail, if you didn’t know – and it’s what makes his nickname so iconic. It’s one of a kind, sort of like him.

11. Fernando Torres – El Nino

Torres doesn’t get to the very top of the mountain merely because his nickname lacks that extra layer of creativity. It’s still very cool, though, and highlights just how unbelievably good he was at his best.

‘El Nino’ translates to ‘the kid’ and refers to the fact that the Spanish striker broke through at Atletico Madrid at the age of just 16. He was captain by 19, and was ripping up the Premier League in his early 20s. Nice.

Torres for Liverpool
LIVERPOOL, UNITED KINGDOM – MARCH 10: Fernando Torres of Liverpool celebrates scoring the opening goal during the UEFA Champions League Round of Sixteen, Second Leg match between Liverpool and Real Madrid at Anfield on March 10, 2009 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

10. Paulo Dybala – La Joya

Meaning ‘the jewel’ Dybala has always been considered a diamond of the player, but hasn’t always been quite so perfectly polished. But that’s what makes him brilliant.

A magical creator and ruthless finisher in full stride, a move to Jose Mourinho’s Roma side for 2022/23 could go a long way in making him shine once again. Bonus points for also sounding like WWE’s next up-and-coming luchador.

9. Andoni Goikoetxea – The Butcher of Bilbao

Before Martinez and ‘The Butcher of Amsterdam’, there was Goikoetxea. He earned himself the ‘butcher’ moniker back in the 1980s for his uncompromising and aggressive approach.

In fact, one of the most remembered moments of his career was him committing what is largely considered one of the most brutal tackles in Spanish football history on Diego Maradona in 1983, breaking his ankle in the process. Absolute menace.

Andoni Goikoetxea in action

8. Edinson Cavani – El Matador

Helped along by a very good chant that developed during his time at United, fans loved to sing and dance about ‘El Matador’. Understandably so, too, because he loved a goal.

Cavani earned the nickname while plying his trade at Napoli, developing a reputation for being a composed finisher. Here’s hoping Martinez gets a catchy chant, too.

7. Cristiano Ronaldo – CR7

In and among all the cool, gritty nicknames that make footballers sound mysterious and fierce, ‘CR7’ doesn’t really follow the same style. Nobody can deny just how influential it has been on pop culture, though.

Ronaldo has created an entire worldwide brand for himself using the nickname, and has inspired an entire generation of footballers to brand themselves in a similar way as a result. It’s short, sleek, recognisable and now iconic.

Ronaldo celebrates
NORWICH, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 11: Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United celebrates after scoring his sides first goal from the penalty spot during the Premier League match between Norwich City and Manchester United at Carrow Road on December 11, 2021 in Norwich, England. (Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images)

6. Gerd Muller – Der Bomber

What does 68 goals in 62 caps for West Germany, and the reputation of being one of the game’s most prolific forwards get you? One hell of a nickname, that’s for sure.

Muller was football’s original goal poacher and still holds the record for the most goals scored in the Bundesliga. It was his firing rate that earned him the ‘Der Bomber’ nickname and it remains one of the coolest in the game.

5. Lev Yashin – The Black Spider

Regarded by many as the greatest goalkeeper in the history of the game, it’s a genuine shame that Yashin’s years as a professional came before we could all witness his brilliance properly.

The Soviet shot stopper spent his entire career playing for Dynamo Moscow and earned his nickname for the striking, all black kits he’d wear when keeping goal, as well as his unworldly reflexes. No keeper has been able to earn a nickname this cool ever since.

Yashin saves
Lev Yashin (1929 – 1990), Goalkeeper for the Soviet Union reaches to make a save during the FIFA World Cup Semi Final match against West Germany on 25th July 1966 at the Goodison Park stadium in Liverpool, England. West Germany won the match 2- 1. (Photo by BIPPA/Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

4. Eric Cantona – King

Simple, but effective. It does exactly as it says on the tin, and is perfect for Cantona. Footballing royalty.

You’ve got to be one serious player to not just earn a nickname like that, but to keep it and do it justice. United fans will never not refer to the Frenchman as ‘King Eric’ and understandably so. When not kicking lumps out of fans, the man was a joy to watch.

3. Franz Beckenbauer – Der Kaiser

Beckenbauer is still considered one of the most complete defenders ever. United can be happy if their new, ball-playing, nicknamed central defender is anywhere near half as good as this guy was.

Supremely ahead of his time, the German was a complete Rolls Royce – or should we say Mercedes-Benz – when it came to sweeping up and playing with the ball at his feet.

Beckenbauer poses
ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA – FEBRUARY 18: Franz Beckenbauer poses with a Laureus trophy at the Laureus World Sports Awards at the Mariinsky Concert Hall on February 18, 2008 in St.Petersburg, Russia. (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images for Laureus)

2. Adriano – L’Imperatore

The potential within Adriano that was unfortunately never unlocked is a real shame. The Brazilian forward was touted by many as the successor to Ronaldo, and genuinely looked capable of reaching such heights.

That’s exactly why he was known as the ‘Emperor’ for so long. Unfortunately, injuries, inconsistency and personal demons stopped us from seeing the ‘Emperor’ at his ruthless peak.

1.Ronaldo – Il Fenomeno

Imagine missing almost three years of your professional career due to endless, horrific knee injuries, and still managing to forge a legacy as one of the game’s greatest ever players? Yeah, that was R9.

Nicknamed ‘the phenomenon’, Ronaldo was exactly that. A complete footballing freak who could do everything, score from anywhere and get past whoever he liked. A player as special as him deserved the greatest football nickname ever, and he got it.

Ronaldo for Brazil
Foot : Final, Germany – Brazil, Wc 2002 /Joie But Ronaldo, Goal, Celebration, Goal /Allemagne, Duitsland, Bresil, Brasil, (Photo by Tim De Waele/Getty Images)
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