What's the story behind top football stars' celebrations?

What footballer’s iconic celebrations really mean: From Cristiano Ronaldo’s infamous SUI to Marcus Rashford’s finger to the head

  • Many footballers have become known for trademark celebrations after scoring 
  • But what is the story behind the moves that top stars display time and time again
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There’s nothing quite like a goal celebration when players and fans share a moment of unbridled joy in the seconds after the ball ripples in the back of the net.

Several players have become renowned for particular antics after scoring, none more so than Cristiano Ronaldo and his infamous SUI celebration.

Marcus Rashford has also hit the headlines in recent years by pointing his finger to his head when he scores, while Kylian Mbappe is known for crossing his arms and posing. 

But what is the story behind the celebrations of several top stars. 

Mail Sport takes a look and rates each one.

Several football stars have become known for their trademark celebrations after they score

Son Heung-Min

Age: 31 Club: Tottenham Value: £43.5m (Transfermarkt), Celebration: The Camera Rating: 7.5/10

Tottenham star Son Heung-Min is known for shaping his fingers into the motion of taking a photo with a camera when he scores.

This celebration was on show during Sunday’s north London derby when the South Korean forward netted his fifth goal of what is turning out to be a highly-profitable season.

Speaking in 2021 to Sky Sports, Son explained all about his trademark routine. ‘Maybe a year ago, I was thinking about what could be a special celebration,’ he said.

‘And then I tried to find one. The camera celebration is because if I score a goal, it’s a good memory. It’s like, I take a picture so I have good memories in my mind [of it]. 

‘I don’t know if the people get it, but I think it’s a good celebration. I don’t know if I’ll keep doing it, but we’ll see!’

He most certainly has kept doing it and Son is now synonymous with the move whenever he scores. 

Son Heung-Min celebrates his goals by pretending to take a photo by using his fingers

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Marcus Rashford 

Age: 25 Club: Man United Value: £69.6m (Transfermarkt), Celebration: Mentality Rating: 9.5/10 

Towards the end of 2022, Rashford began to point his finger to his head after he scored and the new celebration quickly gained traction around the world.

It was replicated by stars across sports, including Erling Haaland, Novak Djokovic and England cricketer Jofra Archer to name a few.

The launch of it coincided with a sensational run of form for the Man United forward as he went onto net 30 times in all competitions last season.

Although many felt it was due to the fact he struggled with his mental health the previous year, Rashford hinted how it was an ode to the clear head space he found himself in under Erik ten Hag.

Speaking in October 2022, Rashford said: ‘It’s a complete different energy around the club and the training ground. That puts me in a better headspace and I just feel really motivated now. That’s the area I was struggling in.

‘I was struggling at times with more mental things. It wasn’t really my own performance but other things off the pitch. That’s the biggest difference from last season.

‘Too often last season, I wasn’t in the right headspace for games. I wasn’t surprised by some of the stuff that was happening.’

Marcus Rashford’s celebration is all about ‘mentality’ and sees him put his finger to his temple

Kylian Mbappe 

Age: 24 Club: PSG Value: £156.5m (Transfermarkt), Celebration: Arm Cross Rating: 8.5/10

The French forward continues to set the world alight in Paris and beyond, with the 24-year-old having already netted eight goals in just six games this season.

Every time he scores, Mbappe is renowned for tucking his hands beneath his armpits and crossing his arms.

It turns out his motivation for the celebration comes from his younger brother Ethan – who is also on the books at PSG despite being just 16 – scoring against him on FIFA.

‘He scored a goal and celebrated by crossing his arms,’ Mbappe revealed in his autobiography.

‘Five minutes later, he stopped and said, “Kylian, you could do that in a match.” So, I did it.’

Kylian Mbappe was inspired by his brother Ethan scoring against him on FIFA and celebrating

James Maddison 

Age: 26 Club: Tottenham Value: £52.2m (Transfermarkt), Celebration: Dart Throw Rating: 8.5/10

Maddison has not only transformed his stunning form from Leicester to Tottenham since his summer move, but also his trademark ‘dart throw’ celebration.

Whenever the attacking midfielder scores, he will always take a moment to pause and imitate the throwing of a dart.

And it turns out this is because the 26-year-old is an avid player and fan of the sport.

‘The first time I did it was Newcastle away and it was during the Worlds (Championship),’ he told Sky Sports in 2022 when he was still with the Foxes.

‘It was very much a topic of conversation and me and a few of the lads; Jamie Vardy, Luke Thomas and Harvey Barnes, we play darts all the time.

‘Every away trip we get the board up when we’ve got time to kill and we play. I’ve got a board at home and I practice all the time!’

James Maddison’s darts-themed routine is due to his love of playing and watching the sport

Cristiano Ronaldo 

Age: 38 Club: Al-Nassr Value: £13m (Transfermarkt), Celebration: SIU Rating: 10/10

There are few figures who have more iconic celebrations than Cristiano Ronaldo, with the Portuguese superstar boasting several different routines down the years.

However, there is none more famous than his SUI celebration when Ronaldo jumps up and flings his arms back, before roaring out that three-letter word.

Speaking in 2019, he said: ‘I started to say “si”, it’s like “yes”, when I was in Real Madrid. When we would win, everyone would say “siiiii” and so I started to say it. I don’t know why, it was natural.

‘I was in the USA and we played against Chelsea and I don’t know where this is coming from, the celebration. I just scored the goal and it just came out. It was just natural, to be honest.

‘Since that, I started to do it more often and I feel like the supporters and the fans see it and they’re like “Cristiano, siiiiiiuuuu”. I’m like “wow!” People are reminded of me because of it! So it’s good, and I’ll continue doing it like that.’

There are few celebrations that are more iconic than Cristiano Ronaldo’s infamous SUI move

Lionel Messi 

Age: 36 Club: Inter Miami Value: £30.4m (Transfermarkt), Celebration: Hands to the Sky Rating: 8/10

Ronaldo’s great rival is another to have several infamous celebrations down the years, but one seen more than most is Messi’s trademark point to the sky with both fingers, which is accompanied by a look upwards.

We’ve seen it on plenty of occasions given the Argentine has netted more than 700 career goals but the meaning behind it is all about dedicating his success to his late grandmother, Celia Olivera Cuccittini, who passed away in 1998.

Cuccittini was the one who encouraged Messi to play in his youth and would take him to several of his matches.

Speaking in 2010, Messi said: ‘I think about her a lot, I would have loved that she was here in the stadium, watching me, enjoying it. She gave us everything, myself and my cousins would fight to sleep in her house, she cared for all of us.

‘I can’t say something in particular, it was everything about her, her character, how she treated us, how she loved us.

‘I dedicate my goals and my triumphs to her, I want her to be here but she left us before she could see me succeed. I would have brought her to Barcelona.’

Lionel Messi’s trademark fingers pointed towards the sky is in dedication to his grandmother

Erling Haaland 

Age: 23 Club: Man City Value: £156.5m (Transfermarkt), Celebration: Meditation Rating: 9/10

The Man City star is a man familiar with scoring and often varies his celebrations, but he is most renowned for one in particular.

This is when Haaland he sits down with his legs crossed and imitates a meditation position after scoring.

Speaking in 2020, the Norwegian explained how it was an ode to his pre-match routine.

He said: ‘I really enjoy meditation. It makes me feel calm and gives me tranquillity. This is why I sometimes celebrate like that when I score.

‘I train a lot, and I meditate a lot. I always listen to a song called “Keep Dreaming” – and I also meditate.’ 

Erling Haaland’s meditation celebration is an ode to his pre-match routine and love of yoga

Jesse Lingard

Age: 30 Club: Unattached Value: £7m (Transfermarkt), Celebration: JLINGZ Rating: 7.5/10

The former Man United, West Ham and Nottingham Forest midfielder may not have a club right now, but his celebration remains well-remembered in the footballing world.

His famous JL or ‘JLingz’ celebration sees Lingard spell out the letters J and L with his hands after he scores.

So popular did it become that Lingard even launched a clothing label, called ‘JLINGZ’. And it turns out a conversation with a team-mate is the motivation behind the move. 

Speaking in 2019, Lingard said: ‘Before a match against West Brom away, me and Marcus [Rashford] were in the room the night before just thinking of what sort of hand celebrations we could do. 

‘We were trying loads of things and I was trying to make a J and an L. I said if I score, I’ll do it and obviously I scored that day and I did it but people were kind of like: “What’s he doing?”‘

Jesse Lingard imitates a J and an L with his fingers, which is known as the JLINGZ celebration

Jude Bellingham 

Age: 20 Club: Real Madrid Value: £104m (Transfermarkt), Celebration: Open Chest Rating: 8/10

The English midfielder can barely do anything wrong at the minute after a storming start to his career at Real Madrid.

He’s already netted six times since his move from Borussia Dortmund for a fee rising to £113m, meaning he has had plenty of time to celebrate.

And Bellingham’s antics after scoring have been one of the trends of Spain this season. The midfielder’s classic pose sees him lean back with his head-high and chest-out, while his arms are also outstretched.

Even Wimbledon champion and Spanish tennis star Carlos Alcaraz pulled it out after a quarter-final victory at the US Open, before he tweeted a shot of his celebration and said: ‘Hey Jude! @BellinghamJude.’

Bellingham’s celebration originates from his breakthrough at Birmingham. The midfielder began the trend when he scored his second senior goal at the age of 16 and stood in front of the Blues supporters with his arms thrust wide open.

Jude Bellingham’s celebration of thrusting his arms wide open is fast gaining traction in Spain

It was copied by Wimbledon champion Carlos Alcaraz after he won a game at the US Open 

Arnaut Danjuma 

Age: 26 Club: Everton Value: £21.7m (Transfermarkt), Celebration: The Cobra Rating: 8.5/10

The Dutch forward has scored twice for Everton in all competitions since his summer move, meaning we have already seen his trademark ‘Cobra’ celebration.

When he nets, Danjuma mimics a cobra with his arms and has often been copied by his Everton colleagues, much to hilarious effect. 

But it turns out there is heartwarming meaning to the routine, which is inspired by a childhood friend during his days growing up in Nigeria.

‘Whenever I was a kid, I would always play five-a-side with some friends of mine, he told the Bournemouth Echo in 2021. ‘It was a particular friend who used to do that celebration whenever he scored

‘It was tough when I was a kid and he did a lot for me when I was young. It’s just to show to him that I will remember him always when I score and it’s just a little dedication to him. He watches every game as well. He is one of my best friends.

‘He himself, he’s a very skinny guy. When he used to dribble he would always go past defenders like a cobra, so that’s why. We always call him a cobra, so that’s where it comes from.’

Arnaut Danjuma’s iconic cobra celebration is inspired by a childhood friend from Nigeria


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