European football has a distinctly Retro feel to it these days. In any given week of Champions and European League action, one is more than likely to read about the exploits of Diego, Michel Platini, Falcao and possibly even Pele.
If Juventus’s Diego plays, they look a quality team, Falcao is part of a powerful strike force at Porto, and just ask Fulham about the goal-scoring exploits of CSKA Sofia’s Michel Platini. Confused?
The players in question are of course not Argentine legend Diego Maradona, Brazilian free-kick wizard Falcao and French captain-turned-UEFA president Michel Platini, all of whom dazzled the world nearly 20 years ago. Instead, they are Brazilian attacking midfielder Diego Ribas da Cunha, known simply as Diego, Colombian striker Radamel Falcao Garcia Zarate and Brazilian striker Michel Platini Ferreira Mesquita, who turned out for Sofia this week.
The “Pele” mentioned earlier, is a Portuguese midfielder whose full name is Vitor Hugo Gomes Passos, but who goes by the name of the world’s most famous footballer. He is, of course, just the latest in a long line of players to carry on the “Pele” nickname made famous by Edson Arantes do Nascimento.
Among them are Ghana’s greatest football export before Michael Essien, the brilliant Marseille striker Abedi Pele and Pedro Pele, a Cape Verde Islands defender who played for West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League last season. It’s no coincidence that Brazil supplies the bulk of the world's footballers who have “recycled” names, as it were. Some are named after musicians, politicians and even philosophers (Socrates, Cicero), but most relate to stars of yesteryear — hence CSKA Sofia’s Michel Platini (who once played for the South China club in Hong Kong by the way).
The problem with this custom is that it leads to repetition and confusion, particularly in European football.
The most accomplished trio of name-sharers have to be the three Ronaldos. The somewhat hefty one who is still scoring goals in Brazil for Corinthians is Ronaldo Luis Nazario de Lima and first came to worldwide prominence during his time at PSV Eindhoven.
The next time you hear a set of supporters at a game chanting, “One (apply name here)! There's only one (apply name here)!” perhaps it would be best to stop and ask yourself, “now, are we absolutely sure about that?”