Eleven racehorses named after legendary footballers - Van Dijk, Zidane, Yashin and more

The 2022 Grand National is almost upon us. Football and racing rarely go hand-in-hand, unless it comes to horses named after football legends. Planet Sport serves up our our starting XI.

Footballers can often be seen in the stands at big meetings like Cheltenham and Epsom, while the bars are often serenaded with football chants from supporters on a jolly.

Planet Sport assembles a team of 11 horses, named after legendary football players, most of whom scored on the pitch but not necessarily on race day!

1. Yashin - Jessica Harrington (Lev Yashin)

Lev Yashin is the legendary Soviet goalkeeper nicknamed "The Black Spider" who appeared in four World Cups from 1958-1970 and is considered to be the best stopper of all time, known for his athleticism and reflexes.

Trainer Jessica Harrington's is hoping that young jumper Yashin will be similarly spring heeled. The three-year-old has contested a couple of maidens in Ireland.

Lev Yashin

2. Garincha - Neil Mullholland (Garrincha)

The Brazilian Garrincha was born with deformed legs but that didn't stop the "little bird" from flying for the Selecao down the right wing and winning World Cups in 1958 and 1962.

Although not quite the same spelling, Garincha looks a good hurdling prospect for trainer Neil Mullholland but obviously has a penchant for jinking right like his namesake, unseating his rider at Fontwell in one of his early races.

3. Beattie Is Back - Richard Fahey (Kevin Beattie)

Kevin Beattie was an Ipswich Town legend, described by the late Sir Bobby Robson as "the best England player he had seen". Beattie also starred in the film "Escape To Victory" which only increased his cult status.

Sadly, Beattie died in 2018 but the Kevin Beattie Foundation bought a horse in his honour named Beattie Is Back to raise money for local Suffolk causes. The horse, trained by Richard Fahey has already won at Newcastle.

4. Koeman - Mick Channon (Ronald Koeman)

The footballing links are strong with this one with Koeman, named after the legendary Dutchman Ronald Koeman, trained by the ex-England football Mick Channon.

Koeman was a class act as a player for Barcelona and Holland but broke English hearts with a free-kick goal in a 1993 World Cup qualifier when he should have been off the pitch from bringing down David Platt.

The equine Koeman has eight wins to his name but will always be a reminder of the orange nightmare in Rotterdam.

5. Van Dijk - Anthony Brittain (Virgil Van Dijk)

Another Dutch legend, Virgil Van Dijk has put in some scintillating performances since joining Liverpool.

His namesake horse isn't too shabby either, winning several times for Antony Brittain, including a game two lengths win at Southwell in April 2022.

That's not the end to Liverpool related runners with horses named Klopp and Mosala, all running on the same day as Van Dijk!

6. Jay Jay Okocha - James Moffatt (Jay-Jay Okocha)

Jay-Jay Okocha is considered one of the most skilful players ever in the Premier League and he did it for Bolton Wanderers of all clubs.

The Nigerian left Wanderers fans spellbound with his nonchalant skill and even got the Trotters into Europe.

The horse Jay Jay Okocha was into a different king of trotting, finishing last in both races he ran for James Moffatt.

7. Le Tissier - Andrew Balding (Matthew Le Tissier)

Matthew Le Tissier aka "Le God" needs no introduction for fans of Southampton FC, almost single handedly keeping the Saints in the Premier League over the years and scoring some absolute net-busters along the way.

No better trainer of the equine Le Tissier then, than Southampton FC fanatic and racehorse trainer Andrew Balding.

The horse named Le Tissier never won a race but the dedication to the Southampton legend was there for all to see.

A different version call Le Tiss, trained by Channon, faired slightly better, winning three races.

8. Zidane - James Fanshawe (Zinedine Zidane)

Holding one of the best first touches in football history, "Zizou" was the star of the France 1998 Wold Cup winning side and also had bite with his game, infamously being sent off for head-butting Marco Materazzi in 2006.

James Fanshawe's Zidane was no slouch himself, a capable sprinter who took the prestigious Stewards' Cup at Goodwood in 2007.

In 2008, Zidane took on Captain Gerrard, named after the Liverpool and Three Lions legend Steven Gerrard, at Newmarket but it was 1-0 to England that day with Captain Gerrard scoring for Bryan Smart.

9. Asprilla - Brian Ellison (Faustino Asprilla)

The sublimely talented loose cannon of a Colombian Faustino Asprilla turned Newcastle upside down after signing in 1996.

A one man show against Metz saw Asprilla put his Newcastle shirt on the corner flag to be raised aloft, a celebration that has gone down in Toon folklore.

Proud Geordie trainer Brian Ellison has had various horses named after Newcastle players, including one called Gazza but the equine Asprilla failed to score as often as the mad as a box of frogs Colombian.

10. Kempes - Willie Mullins (Mario Kempes)

The long-locked Mario Kempes was a goal machine for Valencia and Argentina. His goal-scoring exploits saw the prolific Kempes gain the Golden Boot in the 1978 World Cup, scoring twice in the final as Argentina took the trophy.

Natural then that football fan and leading national hunt owner JP McManus would name a horse after the Argentinian.

Kempes the horse, amassed a cool £277,539 in prize money and won the Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown but nothing is cooler than the footballer he was named after.

11. Feed The Goater - Richard Hannon (Shaun Goater)

"Feed the goat and he will score", the ultimate cult terrace chant in honour of former Man City striker Shaun Goater.

This was before the mega-money Sheikh Mansour era when Maine Road's unlikely hero was the Bermudan bagsman nicknamed "the goat".

Ownership Syndicate Middleham Park named one of their horses after Goater and the gelding's career was short but sweet. He did score on his final outing at Chelmsford however, in command at the winning post much like his namesake ruled the penalty box.

Manager: Bielsa (Marcelo Bielsa)

There's been plenty of horses named after managers (not forgetting the aforementioned Klopp) including Fergie Time (Sir Alex Ferguson), Sir Bobby (Sir Bobby Robson), Shankly (Bill Shankly) and El Tel (Terry Venables).

But we're giving the job to Marcelo Bielsa the hugely popular ex-Leeds gaffer whose namesake animal Bielsa isn't bad at all, winning the Ayr Gold Cup for Kevin Ryan.

Subs:

Baggio - Niall Madden (Roberto Baggio)

King Kevin - Ed Dunlop (Kevin Keegan)

Bremner - Hugo Palmer (Billy Bremner)

The Romford Pele - Tom George (Ray Parlour)

Bergkamp - Patrick Kelly (Dennis Bergkamp)

Shearer - Paul Nicholls (Alan Shearer)

Anderton - Richard Fahey (Darren Anderton)

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