If 2018 proved anything, it’s that football tattoos can unite or divide a nation. These are the most absurd inkings in the game.
Tattoos define the current generation of footballers. Where once players were the picture of normalcy — side parting, shorts pulled high, appearing to have come straight from the greengrocer — today’s crop are anything but.
Some have tattooed knuckles. Some — maybe most? — have full sleeves. Some, young lads barely into their 20s, have self-portraits covering their entire back.
In other words, today’s footballers would look equally at home playing drums in Blink-182 as they would on the pitch.
But how to navigate the world of footballing tattoos? Where to start with a phenomenon that now dominates the arms, legs and torsos of seemingly every player in the game? How to approach a subject that has caused wonder, debate and even stigmatisation on an unprecedented scale?
Search no further, because the following is a guide to the most ridiculous (but arguably most important) tattoos in the world of football.
Mauro Icardi comparing his lion tattoo to a real lion pic.twitter.com/bK6yIGi8ip
— Footballers with animals (@ftbllrswanimals) June 17, 2018
Goal machine Mauro Icardi is known for two things: captaining Inter Milan and cuckolding former Sampdoria team-mate Maxi Lopez.
Now happily married to Lopez’s ex-wife Wanda Nara, weird stepdad Icardi actually has the names of Nara and Lopez’s three children tattooed on his arm.
Oh, and a massive lion face on his torso.
Happy 35th Birthday to Daniele De Rossi, the man with the best tattoo in football 👏 pic.twitter.com/lDggtjkw7p
— UNILAD Sport (@UNILADFooty) July 24, 2018
A more loveable Serie A captain is Roma’s Daniele De Rossi, who also has some eye-catching tattoos.
The pick of the bunch? A triangular ‘caution’ sign depicting one stickman (presumably De Rossi) aggressively slide tackling another.
— Standard Sport (@standardsport) July 13, 2015
Trying too hard? Maybe.
This would obviously feature higher were it drawn on Wenger himself.
— Brad Renwick (@braadrenwick4) July 31, 2017
No hyphen. No sense.
The weird thing is that this would still be a bad tattoo even if ‘Trent Alexander Arnold’ was, say, your brother who died at war, and not just a decent full-back with five caps.
Artur Boruc has a tattoo of a monkey's arse on his belly button.
Pass it on. pic.twitter.com/tzpEDwqZOZ
— TheFootballRepublic (@TheFootballRep) September 9, 2018
Polish keeper Artur Boruc hasn’t made a league appearance for Bournemouth since the 2016-17 season, after which the club brought in Asmir Begovic.
Begovic is the better stopper, but does he have a mooning monkey on his belly? Does he balls.
Boruc’s horrendous tat is even positioned so that his belly button becomes the monkey’s arsehole.
In case you missed it. Alberto Gilardino's Peppa Pig tattoo.. pic.twitter.com/Zs44GadTSu
— Gabriele Marcotti (@Marcotti) September 9, 2013
Alberto Gilardino is one of those Italian strikers of the 2000s whose name you know well but who, after making little impression in European competition, might have been good, rubbish or, for all you know, in prison for mafia-related activities.
Here’s an indisputable fact, though: World Cup winner Gilardino has Peppa Pig tattooed on his arm.
The striker said it was for his daughters, but it stands on its own merits, too.
— WELT (@welt) September 17, 2016
When Gilardino went to the tattoo parlour, he asked for a pig who, according to Wikipedia, enjoys jumping in puddles.
When fellow Italian forward Paolo Di Canio went to the tattoo parlour, he asked for Dux, referring to Benito Mussolini.
“I got the tattoo in 2000, in Bologna,” Di Canio explained. “I was playing in England and I was recovering from an injury.
“For me, Mussolini represented the idea of a society with rules which everyone respects: love and patriotic pride.”
Chile striker Mauricio Pinilla has a tattoo of a shot he had against Brazil in the 2014 World Cup that hit the bar with the score at 1-1 in the final minute of extra time. The text reads "one centimetre from glory" 😳 pic.twitter.com/7EKxIkVZKf
— UNILAD Sport (@UNILADFooty) December 6, 2017
And yet this is somehow worse than Mussolini.
At the 2014 World Cup, Chile were eliminated by hosts Brazil in the round of 16.
But things could have been different: with the scores level in extra time, Chile striker Mauricio Pinilla smacked a shot against the crossbar in the 119th minute.
After missing his penalty in the subsequent shootout, Pinilla decided to ink the crossbar moment on his back, captioned with the words ‘One centimetre from glory’.
Another striker with a penchant for cuckolding and shite body art, Pinilla was, in 2007, caught sleeping with the wife of Chile’s then-captain, Luis Antonio Jiménez.
Jiménez later put his team-mate in hospital.
"@PhilMaxwellMCFC: Best place for tattoo's in Leeds?"
The face? pic.twitter.com/bCDvq3ske3
— Chris Taylor (@the_itch1980) November 14, 2013
This Leeds fan — a good, good mate of Planet Football’s own Rob Conlon — has some of the most distinctive tattoos in the country.
He’s been spotted at England games, too.
Damian Delaney's clown with gun in mouth tattoo. No front page news.. Almost like it's targeted. pic.twitter.com/KbHxKQLv03
— Matt Thorne (@AscotMatt) May 29, 2018
Two annoying things about Damien Delaney:
1) Was, along with Joel Ward and Martin Kelly, one of the rubbish defenders who forced Frank De Boer out of Crystal Palace.
2) Has a stupid f*cking clown on his arm.
What the fuck is Materazzi thinking here like? Nike dunk tattoos and that. pic.twitter.com/7hz0yxCghT
— Josh Parkin (@JoshParkin) November 20, 2013
Just some trainers.
— Time4Foot (@time4foot) September 4, 2015
This Liverpool fan’s tattoo depicts Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard leading a forlorn-looking Nasser Hussain into battle.
The birdlike face of Jan Kromkamp peers down from above.
can we stop for a moment to remember the city fan and his kaka tattoo pic.twitter.com/FDfzLSVgFE
— Keir (@Kingkeir) August 6, 2013
In a way, this is the most credible football tattoo of the lot, since the fan is (surely?) just having a laugh.
Robinho. Kaka. Goater.
Just a reminder that Alberto Moreno also has a tattoo of a gun-wielding monkey wearing headphones.
I don't know why either, but it's 100% Moreno behaviour 😂 pic.twitter.com/6cIPYBrSWm
— UNILAD Sport (@UNILADFooty) May 29, 2018
This isn’t a Liverpool witch hunt, but there seems to be something in the Mersey water that makes people want to stab themselves in the arm in the most aesthetically troubling way possible.
This is your standard monkey-in-headphones-with-gun fare, but it’s the sheer size of Alberto Moreno’s tattoo that’s most upsetting.
Maybe he lost a bet with Artur Boruc.
Mark Clattenburg has been named the world's best referee.
Wonder if he'll get a tattoo to commemorate the achievement… pic.twitter.com/PZnJiPkofO
— UNILAD Sport (@UNILADFooty) December 28, 2016
Now we’re talking.
Mark Clattenburg always seemed like he wanted to be a footballer. There was the hair transplant, the banter with Adam Lallana, the overall comfort in the limelight.
Then there were these tattoos.
Sorry, we’re down with Respect and all that, but being a referee is nothing to brag about. If you were given some kind of honorary document for officiating the Champions League final, you’d probably keep it in a drawer, somewhere between your 2:1 in Geography and your swimming certificates.
You wouldn’t do this. Nobody would do this.
— Myles (@MylesOlivier) September 29, 2012
Despite the needy and attention-seeking efforts of Damien Delaney and co, this fan effort remains probably the most iconic tattoo in football.
It belongs to a Newcastle fan who, in the year 1995, had a celebrating Andy Cole tattooed on his left thigh.
Just a few days later, the striker was sold to Man United.
That wasn’t the end of the tale, though: the fan later had his artwork modified to resemble Les Ferdinand, which seems a bit like cheating.
And there we have it. Ending the list with a chuckle. Nothing too serious, too grand or too…
Germany look like they could do with someone like Leroy Sane coming on to inject some pace 👀 as that’s not possible, here’s a reminder of the German youngster’s tattoo #WorldCup2018 #GERMEX pic.twitter.com/XAjUAuQ8Pf
— Sam Joiner (@samjoiner) June 17, 2018
The only logical starting place here is to acknowledge just how sad this makes you.
Is it funny? No, it is not.
It’s not funny because Leroy Sane is probably the most beautiful man in the Premier League. And not in the sense of, say, Andrea Pirlo’s an ‘andsome lad, isn’t he? Oi Oi! Hide yer daughters! We mean that Leroy Sane could actually be, like, an angel.
Just an actual angel, somehow both cherubic and masculine, descended from heaven to pick up big ol’ cheques from the Middle East.
If you looked at Leroy Sane’s back and there was a tiny pair of white wings, you wouldn’t be that surprised. You might look twice, yes, but would you be surprised? No.
But Leroy Sane’s back, in reality, just depicts a shit version of Leroy Sane’s front.
A massive, massive Leroy Sane, on the back of Leroy Sane.
He’s even taken a leaf out of Mauricio Pinilla’s book by depicting a moment — permanently, we should add — from a game in which he lost.
“It’s also the pose in which I often celebrate my goals,” Sane clarified. “That’s why I chose that picture.”
Fucking hell, Leroy.
There are 34 to get in seven minutes.
Wonder why some of the players weren’t happy?
What if Man Utd had the old master back in charge?
One of the wildest ever League Cup games.
It’s about time Marco Reus had some good fortune.
Sixteen to get. It’s not as easy as you think.
A number have appeared in the first team.
“It’s difficult for me to explain why I left.”
Clyne isn’t the first to return from the abyss.
Twenty-six to get.