This article is dedicated a todos los fans del fútbol (to all soccer fans) because today you’re going to discover how to pronounce the names of some of the greatest Spanish (or Latin American) soccer players!
Even though la Copa Mundial de 2020 (the 2020 FIFA World Cup) has been rescheduled until February 2021, it is never too soon to start learning how to pronounce these names correctly… so pay your respect to their skills properly!
1. Lionel Messi, “La pulga”
Considered by many to be the best football player in the world, Lionel owes his name to a known musician, Lionel Richie. Still, como él es argentino (since he’s Argentinian), we will pronounce his name with all the vowels.
It is well known that he had growth problems when he was young. Those issues earned him the nickname La Pulga (The Flea), together with the fact that he was pequeño, rápido y con una técnica asombrosa (small, fast and with an amazing technique), always jumping around his opponents, like… well… a flea!
2. Javier Hernández, “Chicharito”
This Mexican soccer player’s name might sound como un trabalenguas (like a tongue twister) —watch the video to learn how to pronounce it properly.
Remember the H in Spanish is silent. Y su apodo (and his nickname) Chicharito means “little pea”, and it is somehow a nickname inherited from his father, Javier Hernández, El Chícharo (the Pea), also a football player.
He was named pea because of his ojos verdes (green eyes) and well, Chicharito is like saying “Pea junior”.
3. Diego Maradona, “La mano de Dios”
Si no conocés a Maradona, no sabés nada de fútbol (If you don't know Maradona, you don't know anything about soccer), or at least that's what his muchos hinchas (many fans) might tell you.
Known as “La Mano de Dios” (God’s hand), the Argentinian Diego Maradona was nicknamed after statements he made following La Copa Mundial de Fútbol de 1986 (the 1986 Soccer World Cup), where he acknowledged that the first goal had been scored un poco con su cabeza y un poco con la mano de Dios (a little with his head and a little with the hand of God), and from there on, the world press baptized him with that name.
And by the way, he even has his own song!
4. Luis Suárez, “El Tiburón”
I’ve heard people pronouncing Suárez as Sorez, stressing the U in Luis instead of the I, which would be the correct pronunciation.
Este jugador urugayo (this Uruguayan player) has the nickname El Tiburón (the shark)… I think we all know why, but he's also known as El Pistolero (the Gunman) because of his way to celebrate cuando marca un gol (when scoring a goal) simulating shooting into the air with both hands, aunque yo le hubiera puesto “el mordelón” (I would have nicknamed him the nibbler).
5. Iker Casillas, “El Santo”
This is another name that is completely mispronounced.
In Spanish —or in Catalán—, the I is pronounced as I, so we start the name like that: I-ker, and Casillas has a double L, which in Spanish sounds like a soft J: Iker Casillas.
His nickname, El Santo (The Saint), is quite easy to understand and it refers to all the times he has anotado milagrosamente un gol (miraculously scored a goal) or saved the game.
6. Sergio Ramos, “El faraón de camas”
Este es mi apodo favorito hasta ahora (this may be my favorite nickname so far), and it's also a tricky one.
Comencemos con su nombre (let's start with his name): again, roll those Rs!
As a side note, his last name means bouquets, as in flower bouquet. Su apodo (his nickname) could be translated as “Pharaoh of Beds”; however, Camas doesn’t refer to “beds”, but to the city of Camas, Sevilla, where Sergio is from.
7. Emilio Butragueño, “El buitre”
Otro trabalenguas (another tongue twister)… this player’s name is Castilian and with one of those letters that only exists in our alphabet, the “Ñ”. I’ve heard this pronounced as “butragüeno”, but the U is silent.
His nickname means “The Vulture”, and it is clear that it comes from his surname in Spanish (Buitragueño / Buitre), but if we go further, he receives it from an animal que se aprovecha de los desprotegidos (that takes advantage of the defenseless), the same as he did with the defenders and goalkeepers… always like a vulture waiting for the opponent's failure.
8. Carles “Tarzán” Puyol
La mejor cabellera del fútbol si me preguntas (the best hair in soccer if you ask me), Carles “Tarzán” Puyol is a Catalan player who stood out not only for being the captain of FC Barcelona, but also for his ímpetu, carácter, personalidad y rudeza (impetus, character, personality and rudeness) with which he stood on the playing field to defend his team.
It can be confused with the name Carl, but the pronunciation is different, and it would be the Catalan version of the name Charles. The Spanish version is Carlos.
9. Sergio Agüero, “El Agüero Kum”
This is an interesting name!
In this case, la U no es silenciosa (the U is not silent), and it seems like a smiling face. The little dots on the U are called diéresis (umlaut) and they are placed on the U of the syllables gue and gui when the vowel U must be pronounced.
Kum was the name of a cartoon character he used to watch as a child, ¡qué ternura!, ¿verdad? (so cute, right?).
FREE Spanish Chunking Training
¡Muy bien! ¿Qué te pareció este artículo? (What do you think about this article?) Do you have any other soccer player name in mind and want to know how to pronounce it? Let me know in the comments!
We have a free, more in-depth Spanish training on our website where you'll discover the method we use in our Spring Spanish Academy to teach students to speak fluent Spanish. You also get some free sample Spanish lessons there that come straight from our Academy!