The namesake game
© AFP

Sometimes footballers have more in common than the ability to put the ball in the back of the net, set up an attack or execute the perfect tackle. Names are a case in point. The history of the game is littered with players who share the same first name or surname, with some of them even sharing the same dressing room. FIFA.com takes a look at some of the sport's namesakes and makes some fascinating discoveries along the way.

In the mid-90s Brazilian striker Ronaldo was regarded as the best player on the planet, a status that was underlined by the two consecutive FIFA World Player awards he won in 1996 and 1997. At about the same time, a Portuguese boy by the name of Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro was taking his first steps on the football pitches of the island of Madeira. His middle name, given to him by parents out of their admiration for US president Ronald Reagan, appeared only on his passport.

Fast forward to 2002, a year that saw O Fenomeno complete a hat-trick of FIFA World Player titles after helping his country to their fifth FIFA World Cup™ crown. By this time the aspiring youngster from Madeira had broken into the first team at Sporting Lisbon and was building quite a reputation for himself. But despite the fact his shirt bore the same name as that of the Brazilian idol, there was no question as to who the number one Ronaldo was.

Ronaldo follows in Ronaldo's footsteps
It was at this point that Sir Alex Ferguson and cruel fate combined to change all that. While the Manchester United manager brought the exciting Portuguese to Old Trafford, the older Ronaldo's career had been stalled by a series of crippling injuries, causing his influence on the world stage to begin to wane. So much so in fact that the name Ronaldo is now associated more with the Manchester magician than the leading FIFA World Cup finals scorer of all time. And only this week the younger of the two confirmed his pre-eminence by emulating the veteran sharpshooter and collecting the FIFA World Player trophy for the very first time.

Our second namesake story also has a Brazilian flavour to it. Olympique Lyon midfielder Juninho has gained worldwide recognition thanks to seven consecutive French championship wins, a FIFA Confederations Cup triumph in 2005 and his wickedly accurate long-range free kicks. But in the early part of his career in Brazil and Europe he scored his goals under the name of Juninho Pernambucano, in reference to the Brazilian state where he grew up, Pernambouc.

That was because up until only two or three years ago the name Juninho was synonymous with the Sao Paulo, Middlesbrough, Atletico Madrid and Glasgow Celtic player who formed part of the Brazil squad that won the 2002 FIFA World Cup. Now plying his trade in Australia, the elder of the two goes by the name of Juninho Paulista, while his successor continues to rack up the trophies with the unstoppable French champions.

In the shadow of the greats
The hardest name for a modern player to carry is undoubtedly Pele. O Rei may be a unique figure in the history of football but he shares his four-letter surname with a host of other players, among them the Ghanaian Abedi Ayew, who became a legend as Abedi Pele even though the skills he displayed for a string of African and European clubs were far less impressive than those of the famous No 10. France has its own Pele, Yohann of Le Mans, who dedicates his time not to scoring or setting up goals, but to keeping them out as the goalkeeper at the Ligue 1 outfit.

A well-known appellation does always guarantee a place in the limelight, however, as three Brazilian players with experience of club football in Germany can testify. Spare a thought for Schalke 04's Ze Roberto, who plied his trade in the Bundesliga at the same time as his illustrious namesake at Bayern Munich, a Brazil international and multiple trophy winner.

Hertha Berlin midfielder Lucio knows exactly how his overshadowed compatriot felt, playing second fiddle to Bayern's towering central defender of the same name, a huge presence on the Bundesliga scene for the last decade now. Still, at least there is someone in the Hertha dressing room who knows what the lesser-known Lucio is going through - his fellow countryman Claudiano Bezerra da Silva, also known as Kaka.

The three Diarras
Big names do not always play for big clubs. Imagine Sochaux's surprise, then, when they ran out against fifth-division side Lyon-La Duchere in a 2007 French Cup match and discovered that Zidane and Crespo would be lining up against them. There was no need for Les Lionceaux to worry, however. Rather than Zinedine and Hernan, the two "stars" in question were defensive duo Nassim and Thomas. Swiss second division side Locarno went one better when they faced Inter Milan in a pre-season friendly last September, announcing a side that contained the impressively named trio of Reyes, Milosevic and Solari.

Our tour of the football world's namesakes concludes in the Real Madrid dressing room. Malian international Mahamadou Diarra joined the Merengues from Lyon in 2006, his position at l'OL being filled by Frenchman Alou Diarra. And after the Malian picked up a serious injury in December, the Spanish giants turned to another Diarra for cover, French international Lassana.