Real Madrid have four nicknames.
Two of them are self-explanatory, one is slightly confusing and one is shrouded in mystery.
So why are Real Madrid called Los Vikingos?
That is the question we will be trying to answer today.
So without further ado, let’s get started…
Why Are Real Madrid Called Los Vikingos?
The Times newspaper likened Real Madrid to marauding Vikings as they won their fifth successive European Cup Final in emphatic fashion in 1960 beating Eintracht Frankfurt 7-3. The nickname gained more prominence a couple of decades later when Madrid signed a number of players from Northern Europe with Viking-esque features, ie pale skin, fair hair and blue eyes.
THEORY 1: It Came Into Use After the All Conquering 1950s
It is widely believed that it was the British newspaper The Times that effectively introduced the nickname of ‘Los Vikingos’ (the Vikings) following the 1960 European Cup Final.
Not only did Real Madrid win the match, in doing so they claimed the club’s fifth successive European Cup win in what is widely regarded as one of the greatest performances ever.
In the newspaper’s report for the game they declared, “Real Madrid roam Europe as the Vikings did years ago, flattening everything in their path.”
The Final itself saw Real Madrid beat Eintracht Frankfurt 7-3. Over 127,000 people crammed into Glasgow’s Hampden Park stadium to watch the game.
It remains the highest-scoring final in the history of the competition and the highest attendance for a European Cup Final.
Also only three players have ever scored a hat-trick in a European Cup Final and two of them did it in this game!
Alfredo di Stefano scored 3 against Eintracht Frankfurt and Puskas scored 4. Puskas would go on to score three in the 1962 Final as well when Real Madrid lost 5-3 to Benfica.
The match itself nearly didn’t go ahead. In 1954 Ferenc Puskas had alleged the West German team had used drugs in a game against Hungary.
He had to make a formal written apology before the match could take place!
As it was Eintracht Frankfurt probably wished it didn’t.
The German team actually took the lead in the 18th minute, but that riled Madrid and they stormed into a 6-1 lead before the game ended 7-3.
That was Real’s fifth successive European Cup win, in fact at that point they were the only team to win the trophy!
The first European Cup took place in the 1955-56 season, with Madrid beating Reims in the Final. They then went on to beat Fiorentina, Milan, Reims again and then Eintracht Frankfurt.
Eventually in 1960-61 they were knocked out of the tournament at the quarter-final stage by Barcelona, who went on to lose to Benfica in the Final.
Real would only win the European Cup once more, in 1966.
They have gone on to claim the Champions League eight times to give them the trophy 14 times in total, twice as many as the next most successful club on the list, AC Milan, who have won the European Cup/Champions League seven times.
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THEORY 2: They Gained the Nickname in the 1970s After Signing a Number of German and Danish Players
The alternative claim for the Los Vikingos nickname goes back to the 1970s.
During this period Real Madrid brought in Henning Jensen, who became the first ever Dane to play for Real Madrid and the Germans Günter Netzer, Paul Breitner and Uli Stielike.
With their pale skin and fair hair and Germany’s relative proximity to Scandinavia, the club earned the nickname the Vikings.
Apparently, fans of their city rivals Atletico Madrid were particularly vociferous in using this name.
In response, it is said Real Madrid began calling Atletico Los Indios (The Indians), for their largely South American-based squad.
These imports from Northern Europe had the desired effect, Real Madrid won La Liga for five seasons out of six from 1974 to 1980.
Rather bizarrely the one season in that period when Real Madrid didn’t win the league they finished 9th, only four points above relegated Zaragoza.
THEORY 3: It Comes From the Madrid Basketball Team
The one other possible (and less likely) explanation is that the Los Vikingos nickname actually comes from Real Madrid’s basketball team.
Real Madrid Basketball was founded in 1931, as a division of the Real Madrid sports club.
Historically they have a fierce rivalry with Estudiantes, the other basketball team in Madrid.
The theory goes that Estudiantes fans began calling their rivals Vikings, with viking horns said to represent the fact their wives had been unfaithful to them.
A less likely explanation, but an interesting one nonetheless!
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Why Are Real Madrid Called Los Merengues?
The other slightly confusing nickname for Real Madrid is Los Merengues.
Although both the translation and the reason behind the nickname are fairly straightforward when you think about it.
Los Merengues translates as ‘the Meringues’.
Just in case you don’t know, meringues are a french dessert made mainly from eggs and sugar and resultingly white in colour.
Also white in colour is Real Madrid’s kit, and that explains the reason for the nickname.
Apparently, it was made popular by Matis Prats Canete a popular Spanish journalist known for his football commentaries in the 1940s, 50s and 60s.
At that time being descriptive was much more important as very few games were covered on the TV, with the majority of commentaries being radio-based.
Canete regularly made reference to the ‘meringue white kits’ of Real Madrid and the name stuck.
As far as why Real Madrid are called Los Vikingos, it was introduced by the British newspaper The Times in 1960 as Real Madrid won their fifth successive European Cup.
The nickname then seemed to gain prominence in the 1970s as Real Madrid signed a number of pale-skinned, fair-haired players from Northern Europe.
The players fitted all the typical stereotypes associated with Vikings and the nickname became more widely used, first by Atletico Madrid fans and then by fans across Spain.
As for why Madrid are called Los Merengues, that is much more simple, after the club’s iconic all-white strip.
For the sake of completion, the other two nicknames given to Real Madrid are the Whites and the White House.