Whilst it is convention for a footballer to have their surname on the back of their shirt, it is not actually a rule. You do need both a shirt name and a shirt number in most football competitions, but the name itself can sometimes be a first name, a surname or even a nickname, so long as it is approved by the relevant board of the competition you are playing in, then it is fine.

This was the top comment on one of my videos last week, hence why I’m doing it, so as always leave your video ideas in the comments and I’ll be sure to see the most popular ones at least. I should point out that we are not going to include certain South American player like Fernandinho, who do indeed have their first name rather than their surname on the back of their shirt, but are so well-known by their first name only that it isn’t really particularly interesting that that is the name on the back of their shirt. Or I didn’t think so at least.

The players are in no particular order, although I have tried to pick out seven of the most talented and notable examples worldwide.

Here are 7 footballers who have their first name on the back of their shirt:

7. Memphis Depay

Lyon star Memphis Depay has always chosen to just have his first name ‘Memphis’ branded on his shirts, a decision which stems from the deeply unhappy relationship he had with his father before he was left with his Mum at the age of four. The former Manchester United man, who is closing in on 50 caps for the Netherlands still aged only 25, has scored 39 goals in 115 games for his current club Lyon.

6. Saul Niguez

Saul Niguez of Atletico Madrid during the La Liga Santander match between Atletico Madrid v Eibar at the Estadio Wanda Metropolitano on September 1, 2019 in Madrid Spain

One of the most well-rounded and complete football players in the world game, Atletico Madrid star Saul Niguez just has his first name Saul on the back of his shirt, and is often referred to solely by his first name – although not exclusively enough to rule him out as with the example used in the introduction. Aged 24, Saul has been a key man for Atletico since the age of 19, and he will most likely have played his 250th game for the club by the time this video comes out. He has also been capped 16 times by Spain and is likely to be a key man during Spain’s upcoming era.

5. Dele Alli

Dele Alli is a player I’ve stuck up for a little in the past despite his difficulties to live up to the form he produced in the 2016-17 season since then, and the impressive performances of James Maddison and Mason Mount undoubtedly put pressure on his place in the England team. However, it is worth remembering that Dele Alli scored 18 goals in his best Premier League campaign and five in his worst (which he missed over a third of through injury), whilst James Maddison scored 7 goals in his only Premier League campaign despite being only one year younger than Alli and Mason Mount is only playing his first top flight campaign now. Alli has his first name ‘Dele’ on the back of his shirt since his dad left his family when they were a week old and he didn’t have the best relationship with his mother either, being brought up by a different family in Milton Keynes from the age of 13.

4. James Rodriguez

James Rodriguez of Real Madrid looks on during the La Liga match between Real Madrid and Real Valladolid at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on August 24, 2019 in Madrid, Spain.

Colombian superstar James Rodriguez appears to have always had his first name rather than his surname on the back of his shirt, unlike someone like Dele Alli who switched midway through his career. Why Rodriguez has James rather than Rodriguez on the back of his shirt I must admit I’m not quite sure, although possible explanations could be that ‘James’ is a less common shirt name than ‘Rodriguez’, and the midfielder is often referred to only by his first name. Following two seasons on-loan at Bayern Munich, Rodriguez is back at Real Madrid at the time of this recording, although he has been linked with moves elsewhere.

3. Alexis Sanchez

Staying in South America, we head 1,400 miles south from Colombia to Chile to arrive at Alexis Sanchez. He may have been a total flop at Manchester United, but Alexis Sanchez is one of the greatest Chilean footballers of all time. Brilliant at Udinese, Barcelona and Arsenal, and inspired for the national team, Sanchez has won 130 caps and is his country’s most capped player and all time top scorer at the age of 30. Sanchez had Sanchez on his shirt in the early parts of his career, including at the 2010 World Cup, but switched to Alexis following his 2011 move to Barcelona. Why? I’m not quite sure. Victor Sanchez had already left the club, so I can’t think that it would be to do with any kind of clash.

2. Virgil van Dijk

Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk during the Premier League match between Burnley FC and Liverpool FC at Turf Moor on August 31, 2019 in Burnley, United Kingdom.

The world’s most expensive defender up until old slabhead Harry Maguire joined Manchester United, Virgil van Dijk has been a sensation since his £75 million transfer to Liverpool. The Dutchman, many of you will have noticed, just has his first name ‘Virgil’ on the back of his Liverpool shirt, as he does with the Netherlands and did at both Southampton and Celtic. He did previously have ‘Van Dijk’ on his shirt at Groningen, but never since. Van Dijk’s reasonings also reportedly stem from a troubled relationship with his father, who wasn’t around for much of his upbringing.

1. Sergio Busquets

This list is in no particular order, as I mentioned, but that won’t stop me putting Sergio Busquets in first place. Long-time subscribers will be perfectly aware of the high regard in which I hold the great Barcelona pivot, and he has played over 500 games for Barcelona and has won 113 caps for Spain at the age of 31. Busquets full name is actually Sergio Busquets Burgos, but he apparently prefers to go by Sergio, and that’s why it is the name on the back of his shirt.

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