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Numbers Nonsense: When players pick weird shirt numbers

| 27.07.2018

Pre-season doesn’t just mean lots of running. It also means transfers and new faces coming in.

But when a club does announce a signing one of the first things on the fans’ minds is what shirt number their new hero will wear.

Long gone are the days of the classic 1-11. Number 5 would be your centre-half. Number 9 your goal poacher. Number 1 doesn’t always mean the goalkeeper now! Farcical!

But as we throw it back through the years, there’s been some weird shirt numbers and even more ridiculous reasons why…

Ivan Zamorano – number 1 + 8.

Zamorano may have scored a bucket load of goals for Chile. But he wasn’t going to take no for answer when Inter took the number nine shirt off of him.

Roberto Baggio was signed by the Italian club in 1998. Zamorano was already a cult-hero at the club,but when Baggio took number 10 it meant Ronaldo snatched Zamorano’s number nine.

The Chilean was so committed to being the main man that he took the number 18 and inserted a plus sign between the two digits.


Yado Mambo – number 5

National League club Ebbsfleet United went viral on Twitter for not giving defender Yado Mambo the number 5 shirt.

When eagle-eyed viewers caught wind that he was wearing number 18 then a social media bandwagon was born.

The number 5 shirt was never coming off the back of skipper Dave Winsfield – so they auctioned off the shirt with Mambo’s name on to charity!

‘One-two-three-four-five…will leave the rest to Lou Bega’

Edgar Davids – number 1

Champions League winner Edgar Davids may have thought he was playing Football Manager during his ill-fated spell at Barnet in 2012.

He was player-manager during the 2013-14 season and even made himself captain – but that wasn’t the end of it.

The former Juventus star gave himself the number one shirt and said: “That is my number for the season. I am going to start this trend.”

Oh Edgar…

Derek Riordan – number 01

SPL regular Derek Riordan was re-signed by boyhood club Hibernian in 2008 but found his beloved number 10 shirt was taken.

The only logical thing to do was flip the numbers around, right?!

Riordan would net 40 goals in his second-spell in Leith. Becoming the SPL’s third all-time leading scorer behind Kris Boyd and Henrik Larson and thus consolidating his hero status at the club.

Joe Wildsmith – number 2

Sheffield Wednesday’s Joe Wildsmith brought a whole new meaning to the number 2 role. And no he didn’t play right-back.

But the Owl’s back-up stopper was so desperate to be Wednesday’s No1 that he chose to wear the number closest to it.

The number 2.

He only made one appearance in the league in that season.

William Gallas – number 10

The master. The magician. The maverick. He’s synonymous with Arsenal and the number 10 shirt.

Dennis Bergkamp right?

So when William Gallas took the number 10 shirt in 2006 it more than raised eyebrows.

The man himself said he originally wanted Alex Hleb’s number 13 and Arsene Wenger was reluctant to pass on Bergkamp’s famous jersey number.

The French defender did eventually wear the number 10 but won’t go down a legend like the silky Dutchman.

Khalid Boulahrouz – number 9

Falcao. Torres. Crespo. All world-class strikers in their day also had the Chelsea number 9 shirt in common.

But the last person they could imagine they’d share that with is Khalid Boulahrouz. He’s not quite the clinical finisher the shirt is renowned for.

The centre-back arrived after the 2006 World Cup but was loaned out swiftly.

Bixente Lizarazu – number 69

There are a few different reasons why the Bayern Munich defender would want to wear the number 69.

But it’s not as lewd as some claimed.

The answer is really quite simple. Lizarazu was born in 1969. He also stands at 1.69m tall and even weighed 69kg.

He wore the shirt number in his final season as a pro, helping Bayern to another domestic double.

Bradley Wright-Phillips – number 99

David Beckham. Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and now Wayne Rooney have gone to MLS but Bradley Wright-Phillips has bested them all.

The former Manchester City youth graduate has in many ways been the star of MLS since his 2013 move stateside.

He notched his 100th MLS goal in July 2018 and will likely go down a league legend.

BWP even has his own fashion line ‘Two Nines’ in homage to his kit number!

All Odds and Markets correct as of date of publication



Charlie Dear

Charlie has covered sport for the likes of The Guardian, Football365 and FourFourTwo. Arsenal sufferer. German football enthusiast.