This year’s World Cup is set to be the most heavily inked of all time, but which footballers boast the best tattoos? Christian Stadil, owner of Danish sportswear brand Hummel and tattoo aficionado, rounds up the 10 best.
Christian Stadil is the owner of Hummel, the Danish sport and fashion brand with the bumblebee logo, and a tattoo addict. Since we last spoke in October he has upped the ink and now sports over 20 tattoos, including two of “the epitome of cool”, Leonard Cohen, who presides over his biceps.
Last week Stadil celebrated the success of his tattoo website tattoodo.com, a social marketplace for tattoo designs, with – what else? – a tattoo, this time of a snake. He launched tattoodo.com last year with the heavily inked Denmark and Liverpool footballer Daniel Agger and the Miami tattoo artist Ami James. After nine months it is now the top destination for tattoo searches on the web.
Tattoodo.com forms a chapter in his new book, In the Shower with Picasso, in which Stadil and Professor Lene Tanggaard Pedersen explore the need for creativity in business models. “It’s based on the Danish model of creativity,” he explains. “In one chapter Ingolf Gabold, who was the head of drama production in the Danish Broadcasting Corporation [DR], and produced Borgen and The Killing, explains how Denmark, such a little country, became more or less the most successful drama producer in the world.” Other contributors include the Danish music producer Søren Raasted (one quarter of Aqua, the nineties pop group) and the Danish film-maker Lars von Trier.
More pressing, however, is the World Cup, otherwise known as the most comprehensive showcase of tattoos the universe has ever seen. We asked Stadil to combine his two great loves – ink and soccer – and compile a top ten of the greatest tattooed footballers in the world. Such a pity some of them won’t be on show in Brazil.
1 Daniel Agger
“Obviously I have to go with the hometown hero here. He is Danish, one of the top defenders in the world, and is covered in ink. Besides several emblematic Viking tattoos and Danish scriptures, he has a Latin scripture reading ‘Death is certain, its hour is not’ on his neck, and his most recent addition of YNWA (You’ll never walk alone – a Liverpool motto) on his knuckles shows his loyalty to the Liverpool fans. He’s my partner on tattoodo.com – we’re striving to create the world’s biggest site for tattoo design.”
2 David Beckham
“Football’s pretty boy! His tattoos celebrate his professional and personal achievements – championships, finding love, having children, all depicted in ink.”
3 Zlatan Ibrahimovic
“He’s Swedish but we have to give him a shout-out. He has it all going on – a red dragon on his back, a Japanese Koi fish (chosen because it swims against the grain, like Zlatan), a Native American feather on his back, ‘Only God Can Judge Me’ on his rib cage, an ace of hearts playing card on his belly…Apparently he’s addicted to tattoos. I get it. We all are.”
“He’s a young gun and rising star but his collection of tattoos is impressive. A crown for his son, his sister’s name, and several Portuguese sayings to symbolise his youthful joy. Maybe he’ll add a World Champion tattoo this summer with his pal Dani Alves.”
5 Daniel Alves
“Alves plays for Barcelona and Brazil, so he’s experienced a lot of success, but because he’s a man of few words, he lets the tattoos do the talking. His arms are adorned with Catholic images and dedications to his family, and the odd mess up: mainly his ink of his ex-wife Dina on his shoulder. They split in 2011. The real masterpiece, though, is his son’s name emblazoned in giant script across his chest.”
6 Sergio Ramos
“The midfielder’s set of tattoos compose a more humble image than the relentless wins with Spain and Real Madrid might suggest. Dedications to his parents and siblings are alongside an eagle, Japanese characters, the World Cup 2010 and a ghoul holding a football. But most significantly, he dedicated each of his biceps to those killed in the terrorist attacks in the USA on 11 September 2001 and in Spain on 11 March 2004.”
7 Ezequiel Lavezzi
“Lavezzi takes his work and his tattoos seriously, sporting a collection of portraits of Catholic symbols, including the Virgin Mary on his forearm and Jesus on his chest. The most prominent is a dedicated on his ribs to his fellow Argentinean and football idol, Diego Maradona, heading a ball, but a colourful ink of an evil clown on his shoulder is difficult to overlook. Then there’s the hand-cuffed pocket-watch he had inked on his back in December…”
8 Kevin-Prince Boateng
“I love it when footballers get tattoos in honour of their team! Prince has an AC Milan tattoo on one arm and a map of Africa with Ghana inscribed inside on the other. He also has an unusual tribute to his recurring knee injuries, a spider’s web inked on his left knee. He told a German newspaper it had a certain symbolism, because a spider web always comes back – and so it is with the knee.”
9 Aleksandar Kolarov
“Have to respect the observance of the traditional Japanese style on this man’s sleeve. The Koi fish tattoo is a symbol of luck and fortune – certainly he had some of that, with Manchester City winning the Premier League twice in the last three years.”
10 Nigel de Jong
“An underrated player who sports a serious set of tribal tattoos. These are amazingly intricate patterns – it’s great to see commitment to the traditional.”