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HomeSportsMastering the Nutmeg: A Guide to the Perfect Nutmeg in Soccer

Mastering the Nutmeg: A Guide to the Perfect Nutmeg in Soccer

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“Nutmegs, for me, are a beautiful thing to do,” Javier Pastore, the former Argentina international, said.

“They’re beautiful to watch. In fact, even when I get nutmegged myself I find that beautiful – and that actually happens quite a lot too!”.

Whether using the inside or outside of the foot, or the sole or the heel, Pastore was an absolute master of slipping the ball between an opponent’s legs, creating the illusion that he was running through people at times.

“I think it’s a skill that gives you a lot of possibilities as it eliminates an opposition player,” Pastore, who played for Paris Saint-Germain between 2011 and 2018, said. “I find it much easier to do a little nutmeg and run round the player than to try and dribble around him with the ball.” (Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images)

Humiliates would be another.

There are more elaborate skills on a football pitch, for sure, but it’s hard to think of any other trick that brings one player so much adulation and strips another of their dignity in quite the same way as a nutmeg.

When Jude Bellingham nutmegged Conor Coady before scoring in his first England training session, everyone applauded the teenager. Everyone except Coady, obviously. “I thought, ‘I look like a right plant pot here!’,” Coady told the Ben Foster Podcast when discussing the incident.

Clearly, some nutmegs are more flamboyant than others and, naturally, that brings a whole new level of misery to the player on the receiving end.

The good news for Gary Cahill was that Rafael Raphinha’s quite brilliant 270-degree turn and nutmeg on him at Elland Road in 2021 came at a time when football was being played behind closed doors because of the global pandemic.

The bad news for Cahill was that the footage went viral the next day. An artist at work! Picture Source: Leeds United

The word nutmeg has been part of football’s lexicon for as long as people can remember.

According to Peter Seddon, author of the book Football Talk – The Language & Folklore Of The World’s Greatest Game, the origin of the term relates to the exportation of actual nutmegs between North America and England in the 1800s.

“Nutmegs were such a valuable commodity that unscrupulous exporters were known to pull a fast one by mixing a helping of wooden replicas into the sacks being shipped to England,” Seddon wrote. “Being nutmegged soon came to imply stupidity on the part of the duped victim and cleverness on the part of the trickster.”

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