Since its rebranding in 1992 there have been 160 teams compete in the UEFA Champions League. In the first two seasons since changing its name the Champions League contained knockout rounds before a group stage, meaning teams from the smaller countries have officially entered the competition. This includes Glentoran, FK Žalgiris and Union Luxembourg (who have since gone out of business).
Manchester City are the favourites for this season’s tournament and the best Champions League odds you can find on the runaway Premier League leaders appear to be over at Paddy Power. The Citizens don’t make our list of unusual football team nicknames but we’ve compiled a list of 11 who do have rather unusual nicknames:
Ajax – Sons of the Gods
The record champions of the Netherlands and the champions of Europe in 1971, 1972, 1973 and 1995, Ajax had a reputation for producing Dutch talent after Dutch talent over the years, and one of the greatest sides of all time in the early 1970s.
Ajax are named after the legendary Greek hero whose face is on their crest.
ÍA Akranes – Yellow and Happy
ÍA Akranes are the only Icelandic team to have competed in the Champions League during the modern era. They were involved in the first round in 1993-94, beating Feyenoord 1-0 at home in the first leg before being dumped out 3-0 at De Kuip.
They play in yellow and their nickname is “Yellow and happy”, which based on the friendliness of Iceland fans at Euro 2016, we can believe they’re often happy. They have won the Icelandic Championship 18 times, but not since 2001.
Atlético Madrid – The Mattressmakers
Atlético Madrid hold the unwanted record of having appeared in the most Champions League finals without ever winning the competition. The Spanish side were beaten in a replay against Bayern Munich in 1974 and then twice by local rivals Real Madrid over the past four years.
Formed in 1903, they played in red and white, which was the colour of mattresses in Spain at the time. This soon earned Atléti the nickname of the Mattressmakers.
AZ Alkmaar – Cheeseheads
AZ Alkmaar won the Dutch Eredivisie for the second time in the 2008-09 season, qualifying for their sole Champions League campaign to date the following season. The Dutch side finished bottom of a group that consisted of Arsenal, Olympiacos and Standard Liège.
The Netherlands has been known for its cheese over the years and the people of Alkmaar are commonly known as Cheeseheads. The local football club picked this up too.
Bayer 04 Leverkusen – The Company XI
Despite never winning the German Bundesliga, Bayer 04 Leverkusen made a mamouth run to the 2001-02 Champions League final in their debut campaign, only to come up short against Real Madrid on the big stage. Bayern Munich would snap up their star players the following summer and the club wouldn’t come closer to winning the Bundesliga title again.
The club’s nickname, Die Werkself, translates to The Factory Workers’ Team, which reflects its Bayer roots – the multinational pharmaceutical company. The company’s brand is reflected in the football club’s crest.
Bursaspor – Green Crocodiles
The Turkish side competed in their sole Champions League campaign back in 2010-11, collecting just one point in a group that contained Manchester United, Valencia and Rangers.
Bursaspor’s nickname dates back to the club’s manager who saw a crocodile eating a bull and used this as a symbol of the team. The crocodile symbol is now all over the city and there are even crocodile sculptures in the city centre. Their relatively new stadium also has a crocodile head built onto the roof.
Hamburger SV – The Old Dinosaur
The 1983 European Cup winners have won six German League titles – three in the modern era and three times before the Bundesliga was formed. They were successful domestically in the late 1970s and early 80s.
Hamburger SV have adopted the nickname of the Old Dinosaur for being the only club to have played in every single season of the German Bundesliga. Though they’ve had some narrow escapes in recent seasons!
Málaga – The Anchovies
When Málaga had a little bit of money for a short time it helped them qualify for the 2012-13 Champions League. Manuel Pellegrini’s side won a group that consisted of AC Milan, Zenit St Petersburg and Anderlecht, then eliminated FC Porto in the second round. They would go out thanks to two dramatic late goals against Borussia Dortmund in the quarter-final.
Málaga is one of the most touristic cities in Spain, thanks to its weather and beaches. One thing that distinguishes this Andalucian city is their love of anchovies, which has proven to be a big attraction and a cultural identity. The football club have adopted this as their nickname.
Rosenborg BK – The Troll Children
Rosenborg first competed in the modern era version of the Champions League during the 1993-94 season in which they were eliminated by Austria Vienna in the first group. They have gone on to reach the group stage on 11 occasions, but not since 2007-08.
Legendary Rosenborg goalkeeper Sverre Forres was in the 12th of his 17 seasons at the club when they adopted their nickname of the Troll Children. Ahead of the first of two cup final matches against Odd in 1960, the goalkeeper received a present from fans by way of a toy troll. Fornes brought the toy troll to Oslo and hung it in the net at the stadium. As the Rosenborg players were mostly youngsters at the time and the troll brought them luck, the team quickly earned the nickname.
Unirea Urziceni – Chelsea of Urziceni
The surprise champions of Romania in 2008 went on to reach the Champions League group stages the following season, finishing third in a group that consisted of Sevilla, VfB Stuttgart and Rangers.
A peculiar nickname was given to the club by former-Chelsea right-back and manager at the time, Dan Petrescu. They haven’t won the top flight since.
Villarreal – The Yellow Submarines
Villarreal first qualified for the Champions League for the 2005-06 season, reaching the semi-finals only to lose 1-0 on aggregate to Arsenal. They have reached the group stage a further two times and have also had successful runs in the Europa League.
The club’s Yellow Submarine nickname is mostly based upon their bright yellow homekit. Though also reflects being a low-profile team in comparison to the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Valencia. They are based on the east coast of Spain.