The Red Devils have recruited a fearsome centre-back whose reputation precedes him…
Nicknames are ubiquitous in sport and football has no shortage of them. Ronaldo Nazario was known as O Fenomeno or ‘The Phenom’, while, in Argentine circles, Lionel Messi is called La Pulga (‘The Flea’). Clubs too, are affectionately referred to by their sobriquets.
Manchester United defender Lisandro Martinez arrived at Old Trafford in 2022 with a brutal-sounding nickname too, with the Red Devils bringing the so-called ‘Butcher of Amsterdam’ to the Premier League.
So, what is the origin and meaning of the nickname? THE KINGS brings you everything you need to know.
Martinez is known as ‘The Butcher’ – or ‘El Carnicero’ to be more precise – because of his aggressive style of defending, which sees him play hard by marking his opponents tightly and making fierce, but fair tackles.
The nickname was bestowed on the Argentina international during his time in Amsterdam by Ajax fans, who were impressed by his physicality, despite standing at five foot nine inches – a relatively small stature for a centre-back.
“Yes, I am called the Carnicero – The Butcher of Amsterdam. We Argentines do everything with passion and when I go out on the pitch, I fight for every ball. If I have to step over dead bodies, I do it,” Martinez was quoted as saying by the Daily Mirror ahead of his transfer to Manchester United.
“I want to win every 50-50 situation because I know that I am fighting for food for every member of my family and for my friends. That is the feeling I have – and every Argentinian has. It is the kind of motivation I cannot explain.”
Lisandro Martinez will take the No.6 shirt previously worn by Paul Pogba at Manchester United 👕 pic.twitter.com/vahpCf8rJG
Of course, a butcher is someone who cuts meat as part of their profession, so the nickname carries connotations of violence, conjuring images of legs being kicked and feet being stamped on.
However, Martinez insists that he is not a dirty player who goes out to hurt opponents.
“I’m not one to make nasty tackles, but I do go after every ball as if it were my last one,” he reflected. So, is the nickname justified? Considering Martinez picked up only four yellow cards in the Eredivisie for Ajax in his final season at the club, maybe not quite.
Martinez’s aggressive approach to defending, along with his nationality and Newell’s connection, have earned him comparisons to Gabriel Heinze, who was known for an uncompromising style of play. The former Ajax centre-back has subsequently revealed that Heinze was “an idol” for him growing up.
The most famous footballer with the nickname ‘Butcher’ is probably former Athletic Club and Atletico Madrid defender Andoni Goikoetxea, who was known as ‘The Butcher of Bilbao’.
‘Goiko’ earned the moniker in 1983 following a particularly bad tackle on Diego Maradona, who was then playing for Barcelona. The Basque centre-back scythed the Argentine down from behind, inflicting a broken ankle on his opponent in the process.
English journalist Edward Owen, who was reporting on the game, is said to have coined the nickname following that incident, but Goikoetxea’s reputation as a tough tackler existed long before and he had previously provoked ire when he injured Barcelona’s Bernd Schuster two seasons earlier.
In what might be considered a case of nominative determinism, Terry Butcher was a fearsome defender for England and Ipswich Town, who was renowned for his bravery. The image of Butcher continuing to play with bloodied bandages wrapped around his head in a 1989 game against Sweden has become iconic, representing his toughness as a competitor.
Interestingly, another Athletic Club defender was tagged with the nickname ‘The Butcher of the Primera Division’. However, he wasn’t keen on the association.
Carlos Gurpegi said in a 2010 interview with Marca: “I know that I am a strong player who challenges for the ball, but it seems now that I am one of the butchers of the first division, when I have only had six fouls in five games. It is not what I am like, I am very calm.”