There are some players who achieve fame and recognition without ever kicking a ball in real life. Who, despite never really having scored the goals or made the tackles to warrant it, still get hero worshipped by football fans around the world.
Below is our list of those seven ‘footballers’ who you can call “the world’s most famous fake footballers”;
1. Alex Hunter
Popularly known as the star of the FIFA video game’s ‘The Journey’ mode for three years now, Hunter played in the Championship, Premier League, MLS and signed with European giants Real Madrid – quite the career for someone who’s never even had to step on to the pitch.
Hunter has been with players following Hunter from the streets of Clapham to the Champions League final, deciding his fate along the way. This season, he replaced Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid, not bad going for someone who doesn’t really exist.
The fictional character, voiced by actor Adetomiwa Edun, faces fierce on-field rivalries as well as off-the-field drama through the discovery of his half-sister Kim and troubling relationships with his father and agent.
2. Karl Fletcher
Over 10 years and 419 episodes, Sky One series Dream Team followed the trials and tribulations of fictional club Harchester United, a team which somehow survived a plane crash, a coach crash, a stadium fire and multiple murders to compete in the Premier League but there was one man who was truly Harchester through and through – Karl Fletcher.
The striker ended up writing himself into United folklore as the club’s top scorer with his 172 fictional goals. As you might expect, ‘Fletch’ was also caught up in a host of off-the-field incidents, such as affairs, surprise children and murder charges.
Somehow Fletcher ended up being killed off in the eighth series by then-manager Don Barker – with a clothes peg at Harchester United’s home ground – The Dragon’s Lair. Of course. Fletcher did return in the final series, wanting to fulfil his dream of winning the Premier League with Harchester. He appeared in spirit form to inspire midfielder Jason Porter as he scored the title-winning goal.
3. Santiago Munez
A movie created in 2005 by Goal.com tells the story of fictional striker Santiago Munez who is told after being spotted by a talent scout: “If you can find a way to England, you can try out for the Newcastle United team”.
From a Mexican cook in Los Angeles, he began to partner Alan Shearer up front at Newcastle United. Santiago Munez is one of the most popular non-footballers around.
The young forward ends up securing Champions League football for the Magpies, as well as proving himself to his disbelieving father. Across the three Goal films, Munez, played by Kuno Becker, represents Tottenham Hotspur, FK Rostov, Al Fateh FC, Real Madrid and Newcastle United – not a bad CV for a cook from LA.
4. Ali Dia
“Ali Dia, he’s a liar, he’s a liar.” So goes the chant sung by Southampton fans in honour of their most infamous player. The story goes that someone – posing as legendary AC Milan striker George Weah – called Saints manager Graeme Souness and convinced him to take on a footballer called Ali Dia.
‘Weah’ reported that the two played together at Paris St-Germain and that Dia had bagged a couple of goals for the Senegal national team. Souness was convinced enough to invite Dia to come and train with Southampton and actually brought him on as a sub in a Premier League game against Leeds.
5. Jesminder Bhamra
She could Bend It Like Beckham. Being team-mates with Keira Knightley, scoring the winning goal for your local team and securing a scholarship to play football in the United States – was there anything Jesminder Bhamra couldn’t do?In the 2002 film,
Knightley’s character, Jules, is also questioned by her parents over her sexuality and physical appearance throughout, with the film successfully tackling a lot of the stereotypes around women’s football. Jess, played by Parminder Nagra, who struggles to win over her traditional parents, who forbid her from playing sport because she’s a girl and would much rather her settle down and find a husband.
Both Jules and Jess end up securing scholarships in America after winning the league with local ladies’ side Hounslow Harriers, but the film’s biggest win was the way in which it thrust women’s football into the public’s conscience.
6. Ivica Strok
Having scored over 800 goals for Celtic, Strok is one of the Hoops’ greatest players of all time… in Football Manager. The regen character performed these heroics for Twitter user Jonny Sharples, who has given the Croat a new lease of life with his own account on the social media platform.
Strok’s achievements are incredible. During his time in Scotland he has surpassed Celtic legend Jimmy McGrory’s goalscoring record (395 goals in 378 games), led the Glasgow side to European glory, won several Ballons d’Or and won Euro 2032 with Croatia.
The player’s online profile has been helping to raise awareness for the charity Calm (Campaign Against Living Miserably) after Jonny’s brother Simon took his own life in 2014.