Official government figures from Spain and elsewhere clearly show that names chosen by LaLiga’s stars for their babies often immediately explode in popularity among the general public.
This was clearly shown when Barcelona star Lionel Messi’s first son Thiago was born to partner Antonella Roccuzzo in November 2012. That year the name Thiago did not appear in the Top 100 boys names given to babies in Spain, according to Spain’s National Statistics Agency [INE].
In the ensuing years Thiago steadily grew in popularity – 81st on the list in 2013, 74th in 2014, 65th in 2015. By 2016, the most recent year for which data is available, Thiago was the 46th most popular name given to newborn boys in Spain.
Something similar happened when Mateo Messi was born in Sep 2015. In just 12 months Mateo climbed from 14th to 9th most popular name among Spanish parents. Ciro Messi, born in March this year, will surely see the originally Persian name break into the top 100.
Further back in time, the name Leo was not in the top 50 most popular baby names in Spain in any decade from the 1930s to the 2000s. Between 2010 and 2015, it was the 29th most popular. In 2016 it is number 14 – 2,452 little Leos were born in Spain that year.
Barça defender Gerard Pique and his partner Shakira, the Colombian popstar, have called their two boys Milan and Sasha. Neither name has yet made it into the most popular list, although that could still change given they both remain only toddlers.
Over at Real Madrid, the fashion in recent years has been for fathers to call their first-born sons after themselves, among them Sergio Ramos Jr, Francisco Alarcon Jr [ ‘Isquito’] and Jose Ignacio Fernandez Jr [ ‘Nachito’]. Cristiano Ronaldo Jr now has three younger siblings – twins Mateo and Eva arrived in July 2017, and Alana Martina was born to the two-time LaLiga winner’s current partner Georgina Rodriguez last November.
Neither ‘Cristiano’ nor ‘Ronaldo’ are among the top 50 first names in Spain. But there are currently 351 males named ‘Cristiano’ living in Spain. Their average age is 32, just a year younger than the Portugal captain who was himself famously named after his own father’s favourite actor, then US president Ronald Reagan. Anecdotal evidence also shows many more Ronaldos being born – from Africa to Asia – in recent years.
An interesting case is former Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas, whose first son with partner Sara Carbonero, Martin, was born in 2014. That name immediately went from 20th to eighth to third on the list by 2016. The numbers are even more dramatic for Iker – an originally Basque name which didn’t even feature in Spain’s top 50 during the 1990s. But by the time the Bernabeu legend won his fifth LaLiga title in 2012, it was the 15th most popular in the country. It also seems unlikely to be a coincidence that there are currently 42 adults named Zinedine living in Spain, with almost all born since the former Real Madrid coach Zidane joined the club in 2001.
The influence of LaLiga outside Spain is also clear in official statistics from the UK – in 2014 there were 11 newborn babies called ‘Ronaldo’ in England and Wales, and four given the first name ‘Messi’.
Better news for the Barça star came in April 2017 when former Liverpool player Steven Gerrard named his baby boy Lio. Clearly it is not just ordinary supporters who think of their LaLiga heroes when naming their children!
– With inputs from La Liga press release