In the high-octane world of football, where every pass, tackle, and goal is scrutinised under the unforgiving lens of global fandom, there's another arena that's rapidly drawing attention: the world of tattoos. If you're not convinced, just take a look at the likes of Sergio Ramos or Neymar. Once upon a time, a footballer's haircut could spark worldwide trends (we're looking at you, David Beckham). But today, it's all about the ink.

From Messi’s tribute to his hometown Rosario to Zlatan's fierce lion symbolising his undying spirit, tattoos have become the new playground for footballers to tell their untold stories. And boy, do they have some tales to spill!

Every tattoo tells a story, and the world of football isn’t short of epic tales. For instance, who would've guessed a couple of decades ago that we'd be dissecting the meaning of Raheem Sterling's winged gun tattoo or discussing the artistic subtleties of Leroy Sané's backpiece that showcases his electrifying pace?

As the beautiful game becomes even more intertwined with pop culture and fashion, footballers are no longer just athletes; they're global icons. The rise of social media has propelled them to new heights of fame, where their style and choices are gobbled up as eagerly as their on-field performances. In this new age of football, tattoos have become statements of intent, expressions of personal journeys, and sometimes, even bold proclamations to rivals.

Take, for example, Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold. His tattoo, which reads "I'll Never Walk Alone," is not just a nod to the Reds' iconic anthem but a powerful statement of his commitment to the club and its fans.

But as with all things football, opinions are split. While many see these tattoos as a window into the souls of these footballing giants, others see them as mere fashion statements. The debates might never end, but one thing's for sure: the inked tales of football are here to stay.

So, whether you're an old-school fan nostalgic for the simpler days of clean-cut players or you're here for all the tattoo drama, the game is evolving. And in this age of GIVEMESPORT, we're all about capturing every inked twist and turn, dissecting the tales behind the tats, and serving them up, fresh and unfiltered.

Stay tuned, folks; the game's just getting inked!

David Raya

David Raya signing for Arsenal.

David Raya's inked date, "13-08-21", might seem ordinary at first glance. But there's more to it than meets the eye. This date marks his inaugural match in the Premier League — a significant milestone for any player. What makes it even more noteworthy is that Raya's first game in the premier division was a 2-0 win against none other than Arsenal, his current team. Talk about a memorable debut!

Read more: What does Arsenal goalkeeper David Raya's neck tattoo mean?

Nicolas Otamendi


We’ll begin with Nicolas Otamendi, whose back is plastered with tattoos of television characters including Breaking Bad’s Walter White and Peaky Blinders’ Tommy Shelby.

“I started to let the beard grow at Valencia and I just liked it, so since then, it has become a big part of my personality, just like those tattoos," Otamendi, the former Manchester City defender who moved to Benfica in 2020, told reporters.

"People always ask me about them. I had my first done when I was 14 and each one has some significance to it. My brother and my children are on there, and the face of my grandfather too. Most are personal, but if I see a design which catches my eye, I will go for it.”

Lionel Messi


People were slightly surprised when the clean-cut Lionel Messi got his first tattoo. Now the legendary Barcelona forward has at least 17 of them on his body. The most unusual is placed around his upper groin: an image of his wife Antonella’s lips.

Joe Hart


Hopefully, Joe Hart still likes his ‘armour tattoo’ because it would be an absolute nightmare to remove. According to Hart’s tattoo artist, per Lancs Live, the design allows the goalkeeper to “feel empowered and protected as though a layer of tattoo armour is placed upon them, creating a modern-day warrior ready for today’s battles."

Leroy Sane


In terms of terrible footballer tattoos, this is indeed right up there among *the* very worst. Leroy Sane’s massive back tattoo is of him celebrating Man City’s 5-3 victory over AS Monaco in the Champions League in 2017. Fine. But then you remember that City went and lost the tie following a 3-1 defeat in France. Oh dear…

Unsurprisingly, Sane admitted in early 2021 that he now has some regret over his infamous tattoo. “I was young. Today I would make a different decision. I was someone who first had to run into the wall, especially when I was young, even if it hurt, to learn from it,” he told Bild.

Sergio Ramos


Sergio Ramos was voted as having the worst tattoos in sport back in 2019. The Real Madrid superstar has more tattoos than career red cards - and that’s saying something!

The prominent red numbers on his fingers earned him the unwanted title of sportsman with the worst tattoos. The 35 and 32 represent numbers the defender has worn during his illustrious career, while he was 19 when he made his Spain debut. The 90+ might be a reference to his dramatic late equaliser against Atletico Madrid in the 2014 Champions League final.

Alberto Moreno


At first glance, the imagery is perplexing: a monkey donning glasses, with a gun pressed to its lips, all the while wearing headphones. Such a unique and thought-provoking tattoo certainly prompts questions about its symbolism and underlying message. What could this intricate design possibly signify?

The enigma behind this tattoo remains firmly with its bearer. Only former Liverpool left-back Alberto Moreno truly understands the depth and meaning of this intriguing piece of art on his skin.

Read more: The 15 worst debuts in football history



Turn your attention to something a tad quirky on the football pitch! Ever noticed that little pop of colour behind Ederson's left ear? Get closer, and you'll catch a glimpse of a vibrant yellow smiley face tattoo. It's not just ink; it's a bold statement that captures the high-stakes intensity of football with an infectious, light-hearted spirit. Proving once again, behind the athlete's game face is a player who knows how to add a cheeky twist to the norm. All in Ederson's unique style!

John Stones


It's a good bet that no other player boasts an inked tribute to Barnsley legend, Norman Rimmington. Rimmington, whose contributions to football left an indelible mark, sadly departed this world at the age of 93 in December 2016. His legacy, however, lives on, at least in ink, on a Manchester City defender's body.

The same player also made headlines in November 2019, opting to erase a tattoo of a former girlfriend. Tattoos, much like memories, can be both indelible and fleeting in the world of football.



Neymar, with his canvas of skin art, has surely raised eyebrows with his ink choices. Among the myriad tattoos adorning the Brazilian superstar's physique, one truly stands out - a detailed portrait of his sister, Rafaella Santos, positioned prominently on his right arm.

The two siblings share a bond thicker than most, with Neymar often citing Rafaella not just as family, but as one of his best friends.

Dele Alli


When you take a moment to closely examine Dele Alli's left arm, an intriguing tattoo catches the eye. Could it really be Bamm-Bamm, the iconic character from the beloved animated series, The Flintstones?

Those familiar with the feisty toddler's signature look might find themselves drawing that exact conclusion. And they wouldn't be mistaken. Yes, it truly is an artistic rendition of Bamm-Bamm, showcasing Dele Alli's appreciation for the classic stone-age character, immortalized on his skin.

Mario Balotelli


Mario Balotelli has always been one to make a statement, both on and off the field. His latest ink - a tattoo of Genghis Khan - certainly grabs attention. At first glance, the fierce image might give an impression that Balotelli is as intimidating as the historic conqueror.

However, while the tattoo may evoke a sense of dread and awe, it's worth noting that Balotelli's persona is far more multifaceted and nuanced than the fearsome ink suggests.

Alberto Gilardino

Alberto Gilardino celebrates scoring a goal for Palermo

Remember former Italy international, Alberto Gilardino? Though his footballing days on the pitch might be behind him, there's one quirky memory we can't shake off – his Peppa Pig tattoo. Yes, you read that right. Amongst the sea of formidable tattoos footballers typically sport, Gilardino took a delightful detour with this beloved children's character. A nod to personal sentiment or just a love for the cheeky piglet? Either way, it's unforgettable footballer ink folklore!

Daniele De Rossi


One of the best defensive midfielders of his generation and now the assistant coach of the Italian national team, Daniele De Rossi has a brilliant tattoo on the back of his right calf: a “tackle hazard” sign that perfectly sums up the type of player he was.

Artur Boruc


Brace yourselves for this eyebrow-raiser! Sometimes there are choices that leave us scratching our heads, and this is surely one of them. It seems Artur Boruc might've taken a wild plunge into the world of questionable decisions.

We're left wondering: did he lose a bet with his pals? The scenario has all the hallmarks of some lighthearted locker-room banter gone a tad too far. Whatever the story, it's a decision that'll have fans chatting for ages!

Uros Vitas


There’s no way that Ramos’s finger numbers are worse than this monstrosity. That’s supposed to be Uros Vitas’s wife’s face and it’s positioned slap-bang on his torso. His poor better half can’t be happy with that!

Nile Ranger


Ever have those moments where you draw a blank on your own name? Well, Nile Ranger doesn't have that problem! In a move that's both audacious and a little bit genius, he's got his surname inked in a spot that's hard to miss. Should he ever have a brain fade about his birthname, a quick glance in the mirror will sort him right out. Talk about wearing your name with pride!

Jay Bothroyd


Jay Bothroyd, who earned one cap for England in 2010, has the word ‘Love’ tattooed on the left-hand side of his body. That’s sweet. Wait, it’s spelt out using images of various weapons including guns and grenades. Yikes.

Memphis Depay


If there was an award for "Most Inked-Up Player in Football", Memphis Depay would be a top contender. While he's flaunted various intriguing designs, the pièce de résistance is undeniably the massive lion roaring across his back. This isn't just any tat; it's a king-of-the-jungle statement piece. Depay's choice suggests he's not just prowling the football pitch, but ruling it with the heart of a lion.

Andres D’Alessandrop1f1qe4610af91pni3u811ik4ku1j.jpg

In a world that constantly tells us to be more humble, to downplay our achievements, and to fit in, D'Alessandro's tattoo decision is a refreshing deviation from the norm.

So, while it might be easy to dismiss it as a mere act of ego, it's perhaps more accurate to see it as an act of self-acceptance, a tribute to resilience, and ultimately, a nod to the sheer audacity of being oneself unapologetically.

Well played, Andrés D'Alessandro. You've once again shown us that the game isn't just about what happens on the field but also about how one chooses to navigate the complex tapestry of identity and self-expression off it.

Ryan Mason

Ryan Mason, who was sadly forced to retire from football at the age of 26 in 2018, has a tattoo of his mum on his right arm. It turns out he drew the image when he was 16.

This lad thought it was a tattoo of him when he was 12…


Mauro Icardi


Depay might be flexing with his lion-themed ink, but he's not the only footballer in the big cat club. Enter Mauro Icardi, stage right. Icardi, not one to be outdone, also sports a majestic lion tattoo that's roaring for attention.

It seems the football world's elite are channeling their inner lion, marking their territory both on the field and in the ink chair. Two lions, one jungle – who wore it better?

John Carew


Footballers: when getting tattoos of fancy-sounding quotes in a foreign language, always double-check the meaning is correct. John Carew has the words “Ma Vie, Mes Régles” tattooed on him, which is supposed to mean ‘My Life. My Rules'.

Instead, due to a mistake with the accent on the word Régles, Carew’s tattoo says: “My life, My menstruation”. Incredible.

Mark Clattenburg


Okay, so we’re technically cheating a bit here because Mark Clattenburg is not a footballer, but he was a Premier League referee. Clattz has tattoos of Euro 2016 and the Champions League to remind him every day that he refereed both finals. Amazing.