In his playing days, Ruud Gullit was known by AC Milan fans as Il Tulipe Nero (the black tulip). Franz Beckenbauer was Der Kaiser. Eusebio was the Black Pearl, and Hungary’s Ferenc Puskas the Galloping Major. Most poetic of all, Marco Van Basten, arguably the greatest striker in the world at the time, was known as the Swan of Utrecht.
All of these are wonderfully evocative names, adopted by fans as the monikers by which their heroes should be referred to in reverential tones.
The nicknames we’ve given our heroes in the English game are much less colourful and tell you everything you need to know about the aspects of the game that we value in our heroes. There was Ron “Chopper” Harris. Stuart “Psycho” Pearce may shortly become Wigan manager. And no one would argue that Paul “The Guv’nor” Ince was inappropriately named (especially not Paul). Robbie Fowler went by “The Toxteth Terror”, Emlyn Hughes was known as “Crazy Horse”, and as for “Razor” Ruddock… Need we go on?
Can’t we think of some more creative – dare we say cultured – nicknames for this generation of football stars? Or do we get the names we deserve?
(Image: From raindog's flickr stream)