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Neymar Jr and Leo Messi, seen here with their own sons, have had a huge influence on baby-naming trends around the world

As the world falls in love with FC Barcelona and their unique brand of football, it seems that more and more parents around the world are also choosing to name their children after the players. We take a look at the phenomenon.

We ‘name our’ baby…

While the Barça striker is buzzing around the Camp Nou, there will be hundreds more Neymar Juniors buzzing around the world’s kindergartens in a year or two. Eight children were registered with that name in the United Kingdom in 2014, but that’s nothing compared to elsewhere. There were a staggering 498 Neymars born in the USA in the same year and little Costa Rica had 349! Just one Mexican state, Nuevo Leon, saw the births of 329 children named after the Brazilian in 2014, and only during the four weeks of the World Cup, 471 Peruvian babies were given the name!

[[DES_1]]But the administrative capital of Bolivia, La Paz, has gone Neymar crazy! One out of every five boys born last year was registered as Neymar. "We believe that in 17 years most adult males will be called Neymar because that is the current trend," civil registry office representative Remigio Condori told local paper La Razón. "It is the name in fashion right now."

It certainly is! When you note that between 1992 and 2008 there were only two children called Neymar in the entire state of Sao Paulo, and one of those was the future Barça star himself, that’s quite some surge in popularity!

Messi-mania

In the UK, Leo shot from nowhere in 2004 to become the 57th most popular name in the country. That was due to Prime Minister Tony Blair and his wife Cherie choosing the name for their first child. A decade later, however, it would seem to be another Leo who has caused the name to rise to a record high of 16th in the charts, with 3,414 cases.

In 2004, the year Leo Messi made his debut, there were just 11 baby Leos in Barcelona province. By 2014, the number had risen to 422. The same year produced 3,936 neonate Leos in the US, as well as 387 nippers called ‘Lionel’.

Meanwhile, there were four cases of kids being called Messi in the UK and 15 in the USA. That’s considerably more than in the Barça number ten’s native Argentina, but there is a reason for that. The desire among parents to name their child ‘Messi’ is prevented by strict laws in the country that regulate what babies are called. It took Hector Varela, a resident of the southern city of General Roca, a long legal battle to get his son called Messi Daniel Varela. This prompted the head of the civil registry of Messi’s native Sante Fe province, Gonzalo Carrillo, to make a public announcement that “using surnames as first names is prohibited by law because it can cause confusion.”

Xavi and even… Barça!

It’s not just Neymar and Leo Messi’s names that have caused furore. The name Xavi was given to seven British babies and 168 in the US last year, while even after his departure from Liverpool, the spelling ‘Luis’ is still unusually popular in the UK after Luis Suárez (134 cases in 2014) and there were six babies in the US called Luis Enrique last year.

And what about Belgian couple Anneke Maes and Wesley Beeckma? Not only did they name their son Barca, but also made him a member of the club!

Pro players follow the trend

One famous example of a child named after Messi was that of Italian international striker Antonio Cassano. “I named [my son] Lionel because I’m a massive fan of the best player in history” he told Italian TV programme Undici. “My wife wasn’t keen, but then I convinced her.”

And in 2009, Sergei Semak, captain of FC Rubin Kazan, named his fourth child ‘Barcelona’ after his team’s unexpected win against the Catalans. “This is a nice way to make sure I never forget that memorable win” he told Sowjetski Sport. “Additionally, it’s a bit of a tribute to the beautiful football they play.”

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