Ted Lasso: Which Real Life Footballer Is Dani Rojas Based On?

Dani Rojas (Cristo Fernandez) is one of the most talented and popular players from Apple TV+s Ted Lasso, and he’s inspired by a real life former Premier League footballer. Ted Lasso tells the story of the titular American football coach (played by Jason Sudeikis) who gets hired to manage a team in the English Premier League, despite his lack of knowledge and experience regarding football (or soccer). Fans of the series and of the real life sport quickly drew some clear connections between aspects the show and the actual footballing world. The combative Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein) is a play on Manchester United’s Roy Keane, Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster) highlights aspects of many young football talents like Cristiano Ronaldo or Jack Grealish, and Lasso’s club, AFC Richmond, compares directly to Crystal Palace, even going so far as to film most of the show in their stadium, Selhurst Park.

Dani Rojas enters the show as one of Lasso’s players who joined the team at the start of the season, but suffered a knee injury before he was able to make an impression. When he finally recovers enough to play, Rojas exudes a highly contagious optimism and passion for the game, constantly running around the grounds full of energy, proclaiming to anyone that will listen that, “Football is life.” In addition to his winning attitude, Rojas brings a new level of skill to the club, even managing to beat their current star striker in a crossbar challenge.

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Rojas becomes something of an icon for AFC Richmond, and is based on real life just like many of the other players. While many players have similar traits to him, the most likely inspiration is Javier “Chicharito” Hernández, whose origins, attitude, and prodigious talent all line up with the characteristics of Dani Rojas. Like Rojas, Chicharito is from Guadalajara, and left Mexico for the Premier League. Although the specifics of Rojas’ childhood aren’t mentioned, Cristo Fernandez grew up in Guadalajara and played football from a young age, so it’s easy to imagine that the actor channeled these experiences in the role. Chicharito was also known for his positivity and passion, regularly smiling on the pitch and having fun while he played. That passion swings both ways, however, and Chicharito also exuded obvious frustration when he and his team didn’t perform. Likewise, Rojas has to seek the help of Sharon, Ted Lasso’s team psychologist, to overcome his dismay at missing an important penalty and accidentally killing the team mascot.

The two Mexican football stars also share another notable trait: their prowess and immediate impact for their teams in the Premier League. When Rojas finally takes to the training ground for AFC Richmond, his skill is evident as he dribbles through their defenders with ease and then scores with a one-touch volley to the top corner of the goal. Chicharito also showed off his remarkable talent during his first season with Manchester United, scoring an impressive 13 Premier League goals for the club.

While these similarities seem to directly compare Ted Lasso’s striker to the real ex-Manchester United star, it’s difficult to say that he was the sole inspiration. Other plays such as Neymar or Kylian Mbappé show similar passion and talent, and Chicharito’s style of play does differ from that of Rojas. Rojas is more showy, dribbling through defenders to get to goal. This plays better on TV, but Chicharito was usually more of a goal poacher, waiting in the box or with the last defender for a chance to score. Although there are some differences, fans of Ted Lasso certainly hope that Rojas goes on to make the same impact on English football that Chicharito did.

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