Lionel Messi’s extends well beyond the football field. In an analysis of lyrics throughout music history, the Argentinian attacker tops the list. In fact, Messi accumulated about twice as many mentions (3,428) than his forever rival, Cristiano Ronaldo (1,664). Fellow Argentinian Diego Maradona completed the top-3.
Maradona is far from the only classic football player, with honorable mentions for Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldinho, David Beckham, and George Best. Other players still have plenty of career left to accumulate even more mentions in music history: Neymar, Mbappé, Pogba, and Lukaku can further climb this list.
Some footballers get more than just a mention. George Best inspired the entire song Belfast Boy, although his full name never appears in the song’s lyrics. Diego Maradona, never afraid to cheat his way up a chart, used his divine hand to get a few more mentions by participating in the song ‘La Vida Tombola’, a song where he speaks a few lines.
Ruud Gullit found himself tributed in quite a number of songs, but managed to get some hits, too. In 1984, he entered the Dutch top 10 as a relative rookie playing for Feyenoord, but his AC Milan status gave him even a top-3 music chart finish with the song South Africa.
Another example is Johan Cruijff, who tried to turn his popularity into a musical success. The song sold more copies in Spain than in the Netherlands, which shows it’s probably better not to understand the lyrics.
Modern players in this list are following the example from these Dutch icons. Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku have published their own tracks, while Karim Benzema features in a rap video by his friend Booba. As he’s learned from Maradona, it’s a great way to get higher in this chart.