The name of the game

Recent decades saw Premier League football transformed from a sport for the working man to a branch of the global entertainment industry. The hype, glamour, wealth, rows, tears, ridiculous diamond-cross earrings…one could as well be enjoying a Bette Davis melodrama as watching 22 athletes kicking a ball.

And with the influx of foreigners to the English game, we had exotic names to match. No longer were all players called Tommy Robson or Ronnie Smith or Ronnie Robson. Now the Premier League is a footballing Tower of (Ryan) Babel, with all nationalities and languages represented.

Many names have been so colourful, unusual and cool-sounding that they make you think less of a sweaty, dull-witted ball-player, and more of a character in some yet-to-be-produced movie…

 

Juan Sebastian Veron: moody first lieutenant of Man from Del Monte-style agricultural tycoon

Gustavo Poyet: dashing South American Marxist guerrilla who smokes big cheroots

Mark Viduka: loose cannon cop played by Kurt Russell in so-so actioner

Mart Poom: weedy warm-up comedian in Vegas nightclub with “connections”

Nikos Dabizas: playboy son of Greek shipping magnate; dating horse-faced minor British royal

Emerson Thome: mediocre mid-nineteenth century American novelist

Mark Fish: cheesy sports reporter on little-watched cable TV station

Alpay: semi-mythical freedom fighter based in upper Himalayan region permanently wreathed in cloud

Fabrizio Ravanelli: arrogant, annoyingly handsome Milanese racing-driver

Darius Vassell: Star Trek android with idiosyncratic technological innovation in front cortex

Finidi George: unnecessary sidekick introduced to boost merchandise tie-ins on Barney movie

Uwe Rosler: 1970s East German professional assassin who wears horrible tinted glasses

Claus Lundekvam: 1970s East German skier stripped of world title after drugs scandal. Also wears tinted glasses

Boudewijn Zenden: Jedi master in one of those dreadful Star Wars prequels

Junior Lewis: token black character in Guy Ritchie flick

Stig Inge Bjornebye: Norwegian whaler with giant white beard rivalling the original Cap’n Bird’s Eye

Ugo Ehiogu: cannibal tribal chief from xenophobic Tarzan movies of 1930s

Lauren: international supermodel of either gender, famous for a studied sort of chic indifference

Alessandro Pistone: scion of Cosa Nostra family, holed up in Sicilian mountains

Sami Hyypia: shot-putter fondly remembered for hilarious 1980s incident when he accidentally brained an official

Daniele Dichio: Fabio-style model of amazing pecs and flowing Samson-esque hair

Bernt Haas: mayor of Cologne 1982-86, involved in monumentally dull rezoning scandal

Rufus Brevett: village parson in dreary adaptation of George Elliot novel about ruinous effects of Industrial Revolution

Titus Bramble: contemporary of Rufus Brevett

Christian Ziege: avant garde Berlin dance guru creating soundscapes so impenetrable they make Aphex Twin sound like Aqua

Rio Ferdinand: sexually ambiguous Portuguese crooner with permatan and hideous frizzy hair

Shaka Hislop: Emperor of Fifth Quadrant and Overlord of Known Multiverse in daft fantasy/sci-fi epic

Martijn Reuser: mousy Brussels bureaucrat who discovers unknown inner steel in claustrophobic spy thriller

Frédéric Kanouté: despotic ruler of Central African country; loves Mercedes, child soldiers and aid money

Jürgen Macho: villainous star of unintentionally homoerotic bodybuilding-themed Bavarian drama

Vedran Ćorluka: thinly veiled Aragorn rip-off in thinly veiled Lord of the Rings rip-off, probably played by Adrian Paul

Regi Blinker: vicious East End gangster with incongruously cutesy nickname in latest Danny Dyer abomination

Nicolas Anelka: underfed maths genius who inadvertently creates world-destroying super-weapon

Nigel Quashie: hyperactive, possibly bipolar commercial radio DJ with huge joke spectacles and puppet sidekick

Jacopo Sala: Everyman main character in whimsical but profound drama about the existential struggle of quitting smoking

Zoltán Gera: metaphorically and literally faceless intergalactic assassin in Iain M Banks adaptation

Carlo Nash: grizzled, hard-drinking bounty hunter with giant moustache, working Tex-Mex border

Tony Cascarino: low-level mob bagman so fat he wheezes loudly every time he takes a breath

Sylvan Ebanks-Blake: dissolute young aristocrat cultivating opium habit in 1920s Istanbul

Tal Ben-Haim: prosperous Nazarene merchant in indescribably hokey Bible picture

Ruud van Nistelrooy: urbane Rotterdam-based fence of stolen artwork in breezy but implausible crime caper

Bosko Balaban: title character of avant-garde 1970s cartoon much-loved by Croatians and incomprehensible to everyone else

Gianfranco Zola: Renaissance artist’s apprentice who becomes favourite of one of the more saturnine Popes

Ramon Vega: sociopathic Florida hitman with fondness for lime-green shirts and keeping fingers as keepsakes

Wilson Palacios: soul legend who literally took a shot at James Brown in heated royalties row

Igor Biscan: terrifyingly enormous KGB killing machine who tries to crush Bond’s head with his steel teeth

Abel Xavier: Messianic leader of hemp-wearing commune in sandblasted post-apocalyptic desert

Marco Boogers: bin-dwelling, snot-infatuated hero of scatological Roald Dahl-style children’s story

Francisco de Pedro: ancient Cuban band leader; still plays every day outside same barrio café

Brett Angell: lead singer in poodle-metal band Harley’z Angelz, best known for cowboy ballad Love Shot Down

Savo Milosevic: veteran of Balkans war, now obnoxious grenade-toting mercenary in Predator/Aliens/Expendables mash-up

Attilio Lombardo: doughty right-hand man to Garibaldi during Italian unification wars; wore giant feather in hat

Winston Bogarde: anthropomorphised rapping biro, almost certainly played by Will Smith, in manipulative kids’ flick

Tony Vidmar: ace fighter pilot in Battlestar Galactica-type hokum, bedevilled by useless special effects

Cobi Jones: neutered, unthreatening lead in tweenie phenomenon about school-kid with secret life as pop-star

Shola Ameobi: charismatic but violently unstable leader of Black Power faction in Oz-style max-security prison

Stephane Guivarc’h: Parisian academic dying of self-loathing in intense, geologically slow-moving drama

Mixu Paatelainen: short-lived and frankly inexplicable Finnish Pokemon, introduced to boost waning popularity

Gunnar Nielsen: leather-faced, cigar-chomping drill sergeant in vaguely fascist but fun boot-camp drama

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