What’s in a number?
An awful lot, when it comes to football. The number ten evokes memories of magical midfielders, the number nine a goalscoring hero and the number 99… well, you get the point.
Some clubs were so taken with a certain player that they paid him the highest honour by retiring his number.
1 Marc-Vivien Foe (Man City #23)
The languid midfielder’s life was tragically cut short when he suffered a fatal heart attack on his 64th Cameroon cap. He would have signed for Man United in 1999 had a broken leg not curtailed the move. After his death Foe’s number 23 shirt was retired at Man City, as well as the number 17 at former club Lens.
2 Gianfranco Zola (Chelsea #25)
Although Chelsea never officially retired the number 25, no player has worn it in the thirteen years since Zola left the club. John Terry reportedly took the number 26 shirt so he could sit next to the Italian and, as fate would have it, his number could be the next to be retired.
3 Paolo Maldini (Milan #3)
The fate of Milan’s number three shirt depends on one of Paolo’s son making it into the first-team, in which case the shirt will come out of semi-retirement. No pressure then!
4 Javier Zanetti (Inter #4)
While Maldini’s shirt has been laid to rest in the red half of Milan, in the blue half Javier Zanetti’s number four will never be seen at the San Siro again. They should retire his trademark haircut as well!
5 Diego Maradona (Napoli #10)
Leading Napoli to two Serie A trophies was more than enough to secure Maradona hero status in Naples. Throw in a Coppa Italia, UEFA Cup and Italian Super Cup and it’s no surprise the number 10 shirt is retired. Maybe they’ll bring it back if Gonzalo Higuain does the same.
6 Raul (Schalke #7)
Yes, you read that right. Raul’s number seven was retired at Schalke, not Real Madrid, after just two years at the club. To be fair, it only lasted a year before German youngster Max Meyer brought it back. Make your mind up!
7 Bobby Moore (West Ham #6)
Moore gave The Hammers sixteen years of service, in which time he lifted the World Cup with England and came runner up in the Ballon d’Or, among other honours. A true great of the English game who will forever be synonymous with West Ham.
8 Johan Cruyff (Ajax #14)
The number 14 will only ever mean one thing in football… Johan Cruyff. Ajax decided to pay tribute by not letting any other player wear the number from the 2007/08 season. That means Thomas Vermaelen can lay claim to being one of the last players to wear the iconic 14.
9 Mathieu Valbuena (Marseille #28)
Valbuena’s number 28 shirt was briefly retired when he left the club in 2014. But joining arch-rivals Lyon when he headed back to France was never going to go down well, and now the shirt is back in circulation again.
10 Karel Poborsky (Ceske Budejovice #8)
The wing wizard started and finished his career at Ceske Budejovice in between spells at the likes of Man United, Benfica and Lazio. If you can dig out a Poborsy #8 shirt you’re guaranteed to win the football hipster of the year award.
11 Ferenc Puskas (Honved #10)
A man who defined a generation as part of the Mighty Magyars with Budapest Honved. He made over 300 appearances, scoring over a goal a game, so the least the club could do was retire his number 10.
11 Roberto Baggio (Brescia #10)
Baggio joined Brescia as a fading force at the age of 33 in 2000. Or so everyone thought. The Divine Ponytail netted 45 goals in 95 Serie A appearances and helped steer Brescia away from relegation in the four seasons he was there. No one has worn the number ten since.
12 Daniel Jarque (Espanyol #21)
Another player taken from us far too soon. Jarque was a member of Spain’s Under-19 Euro Championship winning side, alongside the likes of Andres Iniesta and Fernando Torres. He passed away at the age of 26 from a heart attack, just a month after being named Espanyol captain. Iniesta dedicated his World Cup winning goal to his mate in a touching tribute.