What Is Nutmegging in Soccer?

Have you ever heard the term nutmeg used regarding the game of soccer and been completely confused by the meaning? If so, you are not alone. In this article, we will aim to clarify how the term is used.

What Is a Nutmeg in Soccer?

Simply put, a nutmeg is an action of intentionally playing the ball between an opponent's legs in order to advance past them and retrieve the ball again on the other side.

A soccer player nutmegging an
A nutmeg is the process of playing the ball through an opponent's legs.

Nutmegging an opponent is regarded as a highly skillful technique, that is most likely to be attempted by the more creative, attacking players in the team. A player in a defensive position is less likely to attempt to nutmeg an opponent because, in most scenarios, a failed nutmeg will result in a turnover of possession to the opposing team.

Although nutmegging can be a very effective way of going past a player, it can also be deemed as a form of showboating and can be seen as humiliating and embarrassing for any player on the receiving end, potentially resulting in jeers and taunts from other players on the field.

People laughing at player that has been
Being nutmegged can be humiliating for the player on the receiving end.

What Is the Origin of Nutmeg in Soccer?

There does not appear to be a consensus on the origin of the term, however, some theories have been proposed.

  • In his book 'Football Talk - The Language And Folklore Of The World's Greatest Game', Peter Seddon suggests that the term comes from a trick that was used when exporting nutmeg between North America and England. Wooden replicas of the nutmeg were mixed into the sacks to fool the traders into thinking that they were receiving more nutmeg than they actually were.
  • Another theory is proposed by Alex Leith, in his book 'Over the Moon, Brian - The Language of Football'. It is suggested that the word 'nuts' refers to the testicles of the player whose legs the ball is played through.
  • The final suggestion is that the term derives from cockney rhyming slang, using the word nutmeg to mean leg.

"Being nutmegged soon came to imply stupidity on the part of the duped victim and cleverness on the part of the trickster."

- 'Football Talk - The Language And Folklore Of The World's Greatest Game'

Nutmeg Specialists

  1. Ronaldinho

    The Brazilian is considered by many to be one of the best players of all time and is famously known for his flair and creativity.

  2. Luis Suarez

    Luis Suarez has been consistently performing nutmegs on his opponents throughout his career. During the 2012/2013 season with Liverpool, Suarez completed 36 nutmegs during the season. In comparison, Lionel Messi completed 21. Suarez became so famous for completing nutmegs, that the Liverpool fans joked that he 'could nutmeg a mermaid'.

Who Has the Most Nutmegs?

The record for most nutmegs in a season in recent history is currently held by Paris Saint-Germain, with a total of 62, set in the 20/21 season. Following them are Paderborn and Liverpool, both with 42, set in the 19/20 and 18/19 seasons respectively. In third place are Barcelona and Chelsea with 41, set in the 17/18 season.

Language Variations

The term nutmeg is mostly used in English-speaking countries, and can sometimes be shortened to just "nuts" or "megs".

Other countries use different terminology for the same technique.

  • "Tunnel" is used in Spanish-speaking countries, Portugal, Scandinavia, Germany, and Italy.
  • France uses the term "petit pont", which translates to "little bridge".
  • In Brazil, it is known as a "caneta" (pen), "janelinha" (little window), "rolinho" (little roll), "ovinho" (little egg), or tabaca.


The technique of nutmegging can be very popular in street-soccer, and was taken so seriously by some, that a whole new game has evolved from it called "Panna". The game can be played one vs one, in a small 6 metre diameter field, with a time limit of three minutes. A player can win the game by scoring more goals than their opponent, or by simply completing a single nutmeg (or "panna").


Are nutmegs overrated in soccer?

Some would argue that performing a nutmeg simply for the sake of it, and with no end product, is nothing more than showboating and could be considered overrated, as it does nothing to help the team to win the game. Others would insist that the nutmeg is just as exhilarating as scoring a goal, and is one of the best techniques to perform during a game. The ideal combination would be to perform a nutmeg and then continue with a meaningful contribution to the attack.

How do you avoid getting nutmegged?

The best tip to avoid getting nutmegged is to focus on your stance. Avoid positioning yourself face-on to the defender, with your legs apart. Instead, position yourself at an angle, and stagger your feet, with one foot closer to the opposing player. This stance also has the advantage of allowing you to turn quicker and chase the opponent if they do manage to play the ball past you.