Footballers may not have the hardhitting nicknames of the boxing fraternity such as Tommy 'The Hitman' Hearns or 'Smoking' Joe Frazier but there are many who will perform at Euro 2008 who have interesting ones to say the least.
The world of the arts and showbusiness are well represented in diverse forms as Italian striker Alessandro del Piero earned the monniker of Renaissance artist of “Pinturicchio” (Bernardino di Betto) from Juventus' late owner Giovanni Agnelli, himself known as 'The lawyer', a man not unknown for handing down great artists names to his best players as Roberto Baggio – also known as the 'Pony-tailed Buddha' – was branded 'Raphael'.
Hollywood gets a look in as well as Greece's Euro 2004 goalkeeping hero Antonis Nikopolidis has earned the nickname 'Clooney' after hearthrob George because of his prematurely greying hair, while in a less complimentary fashion Spanish defender Sergio Ramos has become known as 'Tarzan' on account of his long hair and muscular body – quite what swimming legend and distinctly short haired Johnny Weismuller, the best known of the many Tarzan screen portrayals, would make of that comparison is best left to the imagination.
France's footballer of the year Karim Benzema has acquired the nickname of 'the nightmare of French football' which sounds like a backhanded compliment – well it could come true if he has an appalling Euro – but in fact is a title conferred on him by his favourite French rap artist Rohff, and is a play on the latter's album 'the nightmare of French rap. Even, though, he is barely out of his teens and has had one good season with Lyon, the youngster has also acquired other less imaginative nicknames such as 'BigBenz'.
Mind you its a fair bit more imaginative than the majority of nicknames for the French players with captain Patrick Vieira and Patrice Evra known as 'Pat' – wow – or Florent Malouda must be overcome at the originality of his nickname of 'Flo' though there are a fair few Chelsea fans who wouldn't mind if he flo the nest this summer.
As for the bete noir of French football, hardman Italian defender Marco Materazzi, the man who depending on how one sees it was the victim or the deserving recipient of Zinedine Zidane's headbutt – well it only got him in the chest – at the World Cup final, is either known by his fans as 'Matrix' or by his detractors as Macellazi – a play on words of macellaio 'The butcher'.
There are of course those who are simply known by nicknames signifying their stature in the sport as Swedish veteran – even almost pensioner – Henrik Larsson is called 'The Gold Pearl', Spanish 'keeper Iker Casillas is 'Saint Iker' for his remarkable saves and one time Chelsea badboy Adrian Mutu is 'Dynamite' – exactly what the revelations of his positive test for cocaine while at Chelsea came as – whilst his compatriot Marius Niculae is simply known as 'the arrow'.
Having said all that perhaps the really great players aren't in need of such dressing up for certainly the best player going into the tournament Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro hasn't got one.
Save that the Ronaldo part of his name is in homage to former actor and late President of the United States Ronald Reagan. Whilst some would suggest that Ronaldo has as much acting skills on the pitch when tackled in terms of tumbling to the ground, many others will hope he earns his stars and stripes on a truly international team stage.
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