Laurent Ciman “The General”
Since his arrival in Montreal, Laurent Ciman has taken the MLS by storm, becoming the Bleu-blanc-noir’s anchor in defence. The 2015 MLS Defender of the Year did not waste any time becoming a crowd favourite at Stade Saputo, earning the nickname “General” only a few weeks after he landed at YUL.
Dennis Bergkamp “The Non-Flying Dutchman”
It’s weird to think the Dutch master was not bought by Arsène Wenger. His transfer to Arsenal from Inter Milan in 1995 did, however, pave the way for the French manager’s beautiful game. Bergkamp’s nickname comes from his fear of flying; Arsenal’s most famous #10 had to miss many Champions League games because of this phobia – which you couldn’t tell when he was flying at Highbury and across the Premier League stadia.
Franz Beckenbauer “Der Kaiser”
An iconic player from a bygone era, the German centre back was called “the emperor” thanks to his gracious style and his influence on the field. Acting as a sweeper, Beckenbauer often tried to go coast to coast and found himself next to his forwards on the field. A total of 64 goals in 439 games for Bayern Munich shows his leanings toward the offensive, without neglecting his defensive responsibilities.
Gerd Müller “Der Bomber”
Fourteen World Cup goals, a record until Ronaldo had something to say about it. 68 goals in 62 caps with West Germany, 398 goals in 453 games with Bayern Munich. The bomber is one, if not the best goalscorer in history. His speed and agility were his biggest weapons to torture defences. Boom.
Zinédine Zidane “Zizou”
France’s beloved Zizou, revealed at the 1998 World Cup, has lightened up his sport before ending his playing career as the villain. With his unmatched technical ability, his unique vision, his capacity to control the rhythm of a game and to make his teammates better, we understand why Real Madrid broke the transfer record at the time (75 million euros) to get their hands on the French maestro.
Ryan Giggs “Welsh Wizard”
It’s possible that Giggs is a real wizard and found the recipe to the youth elixir. In his 24 years at Manchester United, he was always a major influence in the Red Devils’ setup. From 1990 to 2014, he lifted the Premier League trophy 13 times and the Champions League twice, scoring 114 goals in 672 games on the way.
René Higuita “El Loco”
The legend says goalies in all sports are kind of different. This hat definitely fits this Colombian keeper. “The crazy one,” as they called him because of his penchant for taking risks, scored three goals with his national team and a staggering 41 goals for his clubs. Between the goalposts, Higuita is well known for his spectacular “scorpion” save against England. Supporters rave, coaches rage.
Eusébio “Pantera Negra”
The black panther scored 580 goals in 575 games and won 11 Portuguese titles and one European Cup with Benfica. This Portuguese striker was in fact born in Mozambique, making him one of the first African soccer stars. People on this side of the Atlantic may remember he crossed the ocean after his Benfica career and played for Boston, Toronto, Las Vegas and New Jersey.
Sebastian Giovinco “Formica Atomica”
The diminutive Italian striker tortured MLS defences last year: Sebastian Giovinco, the atomic ant, has broken the record for most goals and assists in one season, earning the MVP title along the way. With Juventus, before his arrival on the Lake Ontario shore, he won two Serie A titles in nine seasons in Torino, interrupted by two loans to Empoli and Parma.
Givanildo Vieira De Souza “Hulk”
This universally known nickname has been attributed to the Brazilian striker as much for his stocky physique as for his likeness to Lou Ferrigno, who played David Banner on TV in the ‘70s. Hulk, the soccer player, wreaked havoc at his former club, Zenit St-Petersburg. Watch here.
Ferenc Puskás “Száguldó Őrnagy”
The Hungarian striker, incarnating all by himself Hungary’s golden generation, is a European football legend: some even place him on the same level as Johan Cruijff. The galloping major name came from his first club, Budapest Honvéd, which was property of the Hungarian army. Puskás was given the military rank of Major, an officer rank, along with all his teammates, to avoid mandatory military service. Through his career, the player whose name is now used to reward the best goal of the year by FIFA scored no fewer than 625 goals in 631 games with Budapest and Real Madrid.
Sergio Agüero “Kun”
Manchester City’s Argentine striker has suffered his lot of injuries since he crossed the ocean, starting with Atlético Madrid and now with the Citizens. Agüero’s grandparents found a similarity between Japanese cartoon character Kum Kum and the former U-20 World Cup winner in Canada in 2007. We tend to agree.
Eiður Guðjohnsen “Ice Man”
Before Iceland became the cool kid in the football world, there was the ice man. Guðjohnsen, now at Molde after spells at Chelsea and Barcelona, has travelled across Europe during his 22-season career: Iceland, of course, but also the Netherlands, England, Spain, France, Greece, Belgium, China and, in the end, Norway. His travels were fruitful, as he brought back with him four championships (Eredivisie, two Premier Leagues and La Liga) and two national cups.
Peter Schmeichel “Great Dane”
The Great Dane built his reputation at Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson’s orders. From 1991 to 1999, the Red Devils, with Schmeichel between the goalposts, won five Premier League titles, three FA Cups and the Champions League. The Danish keeper’s stardom was even felt in the BBC’s soaps: Coronation Street had a dog – a Great Dane, of course – named Schmeichel.
Carles Puyol “Tiburón”
Captain, emblem, leader. Word is that Carles Puyol bleeds blaugrana. The shark is dubbed this way because of his determination and his biting tackles, having won everything he could with the Barcelona armband. A one-club man, the Catalan centre back also won the World Cup and the Euro with La Roja.
Harry Kewell “Wizard of Oz”
A nickname coming from the striker’s home country and his capacity to create magic, Australian striker Kewell played with Leeds, Liverpool, Galatasaray, both Melbourne clubs – the Victory and the Heart – and for a few games with Qatari club Al-Gharafa, scoring 90 times.