The greatest names in football

Kevin Lasagna of Hellas Verona, 2023
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Whether you're a player, manager or something else, if you're involved in professional football, your name is going to become pretty well-known one way or another.

Some are born with noteworthy surnames; others can thank (or berate) their parents for choosing some of the weird and wonderful first monikers on show here.

These are the greatest names in football...

32. Danny Drinkwater

Danny Drinkwater

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Drinkwater by name but not necessarily by nature, Danny Drinkwater was charged with drink-driving during his disastrous spell at Chelsea.

A key member of Leicester City’s 2015/16 Premier League title-winning team, the former England midfielder retired in 2023, having not played for than 12 months – a drought, if you will…

31. Siphiwe Tshabalala

Siphiwe Tshabalala

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Some names are just really satisfying to say, and this is one of them. Who could forget Peter Drury’s iconic commentary when Siphiwe “TSHABALALAAAAA” opened the scoring for South Africa at their home World Cup in 2010?

Capped 90 times by Bafana Bafana, the dreadlocked winger’s thumping strike against Mexico was nominated for the Puskas Award.

30. Somália

Somália

(Image credit: Getty Images)

We’re used to Brazilian footballers being known mononymously – but they don’t usually share their name with a country.

Meet Somália (ok, the accent on the first ‘a’ means it’s not exactly the name of the war-torn African state, but still…), a multiple Hungarian title winner with Ferencvaros who has also featured for Toulouse.

29. Taribo West

Taribo West

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Taribo West: not a real place but should be – a tranquil Caribbean island with white sand beaches and crystal-clear waters, perhaps?

Back to reality… Nigeria defender West was a bit of a cult hero, standing out with his quirky and colourful hairstyles during a career which took him to – among other countries – France, England and, er, Iran.

28. Neeskens Kebano

Neeskens Kebano

(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you’re going to name your son after a legendary footballer, make sure you go for slightly less than obvious one like Johan Neeskens – the great midfield foil of Johan Cruyff for Ajax, Barcelona and the Netherlands.

That’s exactly what Nestor Kebano did when his son was born in 1992. Neeskens Kebano went on to win three promotions to the Premier League with Fulham, and represent DR Congo internationally.

27. Vágner Love

Vagner Love

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Born Vágner Silva de Souza – which is satisfying enough – ex-Brazil striker Vágner Love earned his stage name, so to speak, after developing a reputation for a playboy lifestyle at his first club, Palmeiras.

Instantly recognisable for the bright blue braids in his hair, Love spent the majority of his career with CSKA Moscow – who quite literally travelled to the 2005 UEFA Cup final in Lisbon from Russia with Love, who helped them win it.

26. Linvoy Primus

Linvoy Primus

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Obscure Roman emperor or lesser-known Transformer? Former Portsmouth and Reading defender Linvoy Primus is, in fact, neither.

Known for his Christian charity work, in 2005, Primus – who has a stand named after him at Pompey’s Fratton Park – raised £100,000 by walking the length of the Great Wall of China (wow).

25. Ricky van Wolfswinkel

Ricky van Wolfswinkel

(Image credit: Getty Images)

He sounds like a character from a children’s fairytale; he’s actually a striker who’s played for the likes of Sporting Lisbon and Norwich City – where, unfortunately, he became one of the biggest flops in Premier League history.

Capped twice by the Netherlands, Van Wolfswinkel has won the Dutch Cup with Vitesse Arnhem and the Swiss Cup with Basel.

24. Fitz Hall

Fitz Hall

(Image credit: Getty Images)

It’s got to be one of the greatest nicknames in the history of football, hasn’t it? ‘One Size’ Fitz Hall. It’s truly inspired stuff; it really is.

And the towering ex-QPR and Newcastle defender leaned right into the moniker, going so far as to launch a clothing line with the same name.

Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Johannes Vennegoor of Hesselink shortened his first name. Staff responsible for printing in the shops of the clubs he played for probably wish he’d done likewise with his surname: it barely fitted on the back of his shirt .

‘Of’ actually means ‘or’ in the regal-sounding, giant Dutch frontman’s native language – so he could have just picked one name…?

22. Yeltsin Tejeda

Yeltsin Tejeda

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Be honest, who hasn’t been inclined to name their newborn son after the first president of post-Soviet Russia, Boris Yeltsin?

Born in the city of Limón (yes, that translates from Spanish as ‘Lemon’), Costa Rica, defensive midfielder Yeltsin Tejeda scored his first international goal against Germany at the 2022 World Cup.

21. Peter Pander

Peter Pander

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Previously director of football at Bundesliga clubs Wolfsburg and Borussia Monchengladbach, Peter Pander went into the wrong line of work…

Come on, that is clearly the real name of a youthful Marvel superhero (or an unlicensed adaptation of a beloved children’s literary character that’s trying to get around copyright laws).

20. Danny Invincibile

Danny Invincibile

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Signed by Scottish outfit Kilmarnock from Swindon Town in 2003, Danny Invincibile did not live up to his name: the Australian forward was plagued by injuries during his first campaign north of the border.

He went on to enjoy a solid eight-year stay with Killie, but he should have played for Arsene Wenger’s 2003/04 Arsenal side…

19. Marvelous Nakamba

Marvelous Nakamba

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Stick a simple ‘The’ in front of Marvelous Nakamba’s name and you get a mysterious-sounding travelling magician (oooh).

Luton Town and Zimbabwe fans would say there’s no need, though: the former Aston Villa defensive midfielder is magical enough as it is, regularly making the ball disappear from the opposition’s possession.

18. Tunji Banjo

Tunji Banjo

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Probably the only person ever to play for Leyton Orient, AEL Limassol and Nigeria, Tunji Banjo (pictured back row, far left above) wasn’t quite as instrumental to his various teams’ fortunes as his name ought to suggest.

That said, the London-born midfielder did feature for Orient in their 1977/78 FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal.

17. Arsene Wenger

Arsene Wenger

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Nominative determinism is a wonderful thing, and it should have been obvious that Arsene Wenger and Arsenal would be a match made in heaven (the Frenchman’s 1996 arrival at Highbury was greeted with some scepticism).

During a 22-year stint in charge of the Gunners, Wenger lifted three Premier League titles – most famously with his 2003/04 ‘Invincibles’ side – and seven FA Cups.

16. Toby Savin

Toby Savin

(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you want to succeed as a goalkeeper, you’ve got to be saving plenty of shots – and here’s just the man for the job (you can’t beat a good pun, can you?).

Having come through the youth ranks at Accrington Stanley, Toby Savin was a first-team regular from the age of just 19.

15. Banana Yaya

Banana Yaya

(Image credit: Getty Images)

You could probably fool quite a few bartenders by walking in and ordering a Banana Yaya – but you’d find yourself rumbled if they were clued up on their Cameroonian defenders.

Included in the 2011 CAF (Confederation of African Football) Team of the Year, Yaya’s club career has taken him from Tunisia to India via Greece and Jordan.

14. Nortei Nortey

Nortei Nortey

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Once in Chelsea’s academy, Nortei Nortey’s senior career has seen him turn out for the likes of Wrexham, Queen of the South and the similarly brilliantly named Northern Colorado Hailstorm.

As far as we can tell, the midfielder, who was born in London to Ghanaian parents, actually has a pretty good disciplinary record.

13. Manny Panther

Manny Panther

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The son of Nigerian boxer Cyril Panther, Emmanuel Ugochukwu Ezenwa ‘Manny’ Panther was born in Glasgow and spent most of his career in the English lower leagues, playing for the likes of Exeter City and Aldershot Town.

A reliable midfielder rather than an apex predator, Panther captained York City and represented Scotland at youth level.

12. Jim Morrison Varela

Jim Morrison Varela

(Image credit: Getty Images)

It’s actually unclear whether Jim Morrison Varela’s middle name pays homage to the legendary, leather trousers-wearing frontman of the Doors, but we’d like to assume that’s the case.

Operating as a defensive midfielder, it’s in the Uruguayan’s remit not to let the other team break on through to the other side.

11. Jermaine McSporran

Jermaine McSporran

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The Scottish international that never was, Jermaine McSporran was the ultimate man for the job (and, while he was born south of the border, you’ll be relieved to hear he was eligible for Scotland).

A pacey striker, McSporran made most of his career appearances for Wycombe Wanderers – where, in 2000, he helped set a world record, scoring Wycombe’s second of two goals in nine seconds against Peterborough.

10. Fabian Nurnberger

Fabian Nurnberger

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Between 2019 and 2023, left-back Fabian Nurnberger (pictured above right) made over 100 appearances for Nurnberg. It just had to be, really.

But wait, it gets even better: in Germany, it’s customary for shirts to bear the name of both the player and the club – resulting in this work of art.

 

9. Vincenzo Italiano

Vincenzo Italiano

(Image credit: Getty Images)

A two-time Serie B champion as a player, Vincenzo Italiano played exclusively for Italian clubs – obviously – and went on to coach Spezia to promotion to Serie A, before taking over as manager of Fiorentina.

So far, so good – but it will be an utter travesty if Italiano never gets the chance to manage Italy.

8. Yago Pikachu

Yago Pikachu

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Glaybson Yago Souza Lisboa aka Yago Pikachu got his name for his short stature and great speed – and we reckon the Brazilian has the edge on Pokémon’s poster boy.

Put it this way: is the actual Pikachu versatile enough to line up at right-back or on the wing? We think not.

7. Climax Lawrence

Climax Lawrence

(Image credit: Getty Images)

A midfielder who won 72 caps for India, Climax Lawrence didn’t score many goals – but when he did find the net, it was probably with an exciting finish late in the game.

Curiously, his middle name is Lourenço – the Portuguese equivalent of Lawrence. There’s quite a lot to unpack here.

6. Kevin Lasagna

Kevin Lasagna

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Kevin isn’t a very common name in Italy; lasagna is a pretty popular dish in Italy – and by combining the two, Kevin Lasagna’s parents ensured their son would stand out.

A seven-time Italian international, Lasagna is best-known for his time at Udinese (who – probably just as well for Kevin – didn’t have a tubby orange cat as their mascot).

5. Toaster Nsabata

Toaster Tsabata

(Image credit: Getty Images)

A regular between the sticks for Zambia, we’re sure Toaster Nsabata likes to pop up for corners when his team are losing late on.

Often seen spreading himself to deny opponents, making saves is Nsabata’s bread and butter, and he’s helped get various clubs out of a jam in his homeland and South Africa.

4. Norman Conquest

Norman Conquest

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Sometimes, first name and surname match up so impossibly perfectly that you think you’re being had on – but we can assure you that 11-cap Australian goalkeeper Norman Conquest was quite real.

In 1951, Conquest was on the end of quite a beating himself, as the Aussies were eviscerated 17-0 in Sydney by an English FA representative 11.

3. Mark De Man

Mark De Man

(Image credit: Getty Images)

‘What do you want me to do at set-pieces, boss?’ [Points to Belgian defender whose name doubles up as a straightforward defensive instruction]

When a manager wanted his team to mark zonally, however… Yeah, Mark De Man – who represented his country on five occasions – probably caused a bit of confusion there.

2. Wolfgang Wolf

Wolfgang Wolf

(Image credit: Getty Images)

With a name straight out of a kids’ animated TV show, the only way Wolfgang Wolf could become even more of a legend would be if he’d managed Wolfsburg.

Oh wait, he did – for five years, in fact. Rumour has it he’s still waiting for the call from Wolves and Wolfsberger…

1. Creedence Clearwater Couto

Creedence Clearwater Revival

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Oh come on, that is outrageous! Some classic band names would make a half-decent baby name; Creedence Clearwater Revival is not one of them – but Creedence Clearwater Couto’s parents went for it anyway (you have to respect the boldness).

The Coutos’ unfortunate son played as a striker for a whole host of clubs in Brazil, where he spent his whole career apart from a brief loan stint with Lierse of Belgium.

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1