The Welshman Xavi, even The Welshman Pirlo.
Neither nickname has sat comfortably with Joe Allen who once remarked that he would rather be known simply as an average Joe.
Yet that could never be the case for those who watched the 32-year-old dressed in the red jersey of Wales he has now decided to hang up for the last time.
Whether the Pembrokeshire playmaker liked it or not – and his modesty meant it was often the latter – supporters saw Allen as a step above most.
Indeed, even now he made his decision to retire from international footballyou will have every chance to see again the giant banner which has been present on the Red Wall for many years: “When God created Joe Allen, he was only showing off”.
A statement in a team containing the talents of Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey, but Allen was always seen as key to Welsh success as both of his longtime team-mates – even if his club career never quite reached the same heights or won the same silverware.
Bale and Ramsey may have been the match winners, but Allen was hugely influential in his own right during Wales’ greatest era.
The first of his 74 caps came as a substitute against Estonia in 2009, when just 4,000 fought apathy to watch Llanelli’s side.
Given his debut by John Toshack, made essential by Gary Speed, it was under Chris Coleman that Allen rose to prominence.
While he struggled to live up to the hype after a high-profile move to Liverpool, he was still more comfortable controlling Wales games. Coleman compared him to an owl such was how he could look for passes before receiving the ball, with Bale and Ramsey so often the beneficiaries.
With bravery in and out of possession that belied his stature, he was considered the heartbeat of the team.
“He was outstanding, kept it simple, didn’t over complicate things. We’re quick to praise Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale for their talent, goals and assists, but they don’t get as many ball if they don’t. I don’t have Joe Allen in midfield,” former Wales striker Iwan Roberts told BBC Radio Wales.
And while his subtleties meant he didn’t have the same stardust as his peers, the little player was gargantuan in his popularity because, with Allen in the camp, Wales fans still had a blast. hope.
Not that Allen saw it that way.
“He never wanted to attract attention, he was happy to be a player in the team, to do his role quietly in the background, to be appreciated by the players on the pitch with him and the Red Wall too of course,” former teammate Owain said. Tudor Jones told BBC Radio Cymru.
“I think playing for Wales again and again and then getting the success that he has had means so much to him.
“He deserves so much praise and we will always appreciate what he has done and achieved.”
And that has never been more appreciated than in the Wales dressing room – and never more evident than in Wales’ historic run at Euro 2016.
Ever present in the team that reached the semi-finals and named in the UEFA Team of the Tournament, Bale was asked why Allen didn’t make as many headlines as the rest.
“In the team, he makes headlines,” Bale replied, adding that every day was a day of appreciation for Joe Allen, a nod to then-captain Ashley Williams’ revelation that the group The team’s WhatsApp would pay a weekly tribute to the soft-spoken. Midfielder.
It seems that Williams’ admiration hasn’t diminished.
“One of my favorite team-mates of all time,” said his colleague at Swansea, Stoke and internationally, adding in his social media post that Allen was one of the “greatest players in the Country of Wales”.
Ramsey, meanwhile, wrote that Allen was “everything and more you’d want from a midfield partner” and Bale – while also posting a picture of that aforementioned banner – said: “A pleasure to play by your side, Joe. What a player. Legend.”
Such tributes show why manager Rob Page was so desperate for influence in Qatar as Wales finally reached a World Cup that he saved him a seat on the plane despite an injury in the build-up which would already make him miss the opening match with USA.
“A lot of people don’t know how close he was to missing the World Cup altogether,” Jones revealed.
“He hadn’t trained for almost three months before due to a nasty hamstring injury and it showed his character, that he was ready to work hard and get on the pitch, that meant a lot.”
By the time he was introduced as a substitute against Iran, Wales’ adventure was all but over, save for one final appearance against England.
Page has previously said he will look to young talent as Wales bid to qualify for a third consecutive European Championship, starting in Croatia in March 2023.
He will now do so without another member of Welsh football’s golden generation after a player who has routinely shrugged off criticism and praise appears to have listened to what his body is telling him.
“Unfortunately time and injury are taking their toll and so it’s time for me to make way for our next generation,” Allen wrote in his farewell note, although he will now continue for Swansea, the home club. childhood he returned to last summer.
“I think the disappointment for him personally is that he never saw himself retiring from international football, he thought he would do something similar to Gareth Bale which was to quit playing football (totally) “, added Jones.
“But physically over the last couple of years the game has just caught up with him, playing in the league, so many games, he feels it in his legs and unfortunately he’s had to make some kind of decision to try and play for as long. as possible.
“I think he just thought another campaign would be physically too heavy and that’s a shame because the truth is he’s going to be missed.”
Robert agrees. “He’s irreplaceable. Every successful team, every good team needs a Joe Allen in midfield: an energetic, no-nonsense midfielder who wins the ball and covers every blade of grass.”
It’s a stark reminder of the challenge Wales now face, but also of what has been achieved.
The fact that Allen was so instrumental in it suggests that he was never an average Joe.