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7 modern greats who nearly ruined their careers with terrible squad numbers

Seven players guaranteed Hall of Fame status... but what were they thinking with their squad numbers?

Call us sociopaths if you want but here at Dream Team our favourite thing about football is squad numbers.

A player’s number becomes part of his identity and when they are done right they can solidify a legacy.

When they are done wrong though… they can tarnish a player’s good name.

These seven players were so good that they just about got away with their eyesore numbers — but it was touch and go for a while…

Zinedine Zidane

This photo would be framed above our bed if it wasn’t for Zizou’s number

This photo would be framed above our bed if it wasn’t for Zizou’s number

Now we know that Juventus’ No21 shirt has its own mythology but it’s worth pointing out that Zizou was only the Old Lady’s second ever player to own No21.

Before him only one-cap wonder Michele Padovano had worn it meaning that when Zidane had No21 it had no prestige about it at all. Since then the shirt has been worn by Lilian Thuram, Zdenek Gryera (not as good), Andrea Pirlo and Paulo Dybala.

Then, because Real Madrid had a host of Galacticos with galaxy-wide egos, Zidane was given No5 when he became a Bernabeu resident — not okay!

Even his early days as a No7 at Bordeaux doesn’t feel right.

Thank heavens he wore No10 for France.

Ideal number(s): 8, 10

Bastian Schweinsteiger

Don’t even ask what is going on with Podolski

Don’t even ask what is going on with Podolski

In 2016 the German midfielder revealed that he has no emotional connection to the No31 whatsoever.

Speaking to Man United’s website he said: “I don’t know why they [Bayern Munich] gave me that. I still have this number on my back but it doesn’t really have a story behind it, it just happened.”

Schweinsteiger wore No7 for Germany (it’s common for German players to wear different numbers for club and country) which we are happy to accept but No31 has always got under our skin. It may have something to do with the fact it’s the the reverse of No13, which is a significant number in German football — more on that later…

Ideal number(s): 8

Didier Drogba

“Yellow card for having the wrong number, Didier!”

Times Newspapers Ltd
“Yellow card for having the wrong number, Didier!”

“You can’t be too annoyed about someone having a number that’s from 1-11,” we hear you say. Of course we can.

The Ivorian forward has worn No11 from 2001 onwards with the exception of his first two seasons with Chelsea (No15) and one season with Galatasaray (No12).

Normally we wouldn’t let our OCD be triggered by a forward wearing No11 but a centre-forward of Drogba’s stature is crying out to be No9.

Ideal number(s): 9

Yaya Toure

Hug out the sadness

Getty Images - Getty
Hug out the sadness

Let’s brush over the fact that Yaya wore No2 at his first club, Beveren, and skip straight to the point. Why No42?

At Barcelona he wore the reverse, No24, but for Ivory Coast he mostly wore No19.

Fair play, he’s almost definitely the most famous No42 to ever play the game and there’s something to be said for making a synonymous with yourself and nobody else but come on, Yaya. Think of the number-obsessed fans out there.

Ideal number(s): 4, 6, 8

Philipp Lahm

No amount of massive German beers will block out Lahm wearing No21

AFP or licensors
No amount of massive German beers will block out Lahm wearing No21

Like his buddy Schweinsteiger, Lahm wore one number for Bayern Munich (and Stuttgart) but another for Germany.

However, unlike Schweinsteiger, he didn’t stick with No21 simply because he was given it as he was actually handed No29 as his first number for the Bavarian giants.

He wore No21 in his early days for Germany before switching to No16 in 2006.

As something of a utility player for much of his career (though that is doing a very fine player a disservice) he would have suited a host of single digit numbers but, alas, the world is not that kind.

Ideal number(s): 2, 4, 6

Thierry Henry

Not having it

PA:Empics Sport
Not having it

That’s right, nobody is safe.

For Premier League fans it’s difficult to look at No14 and think of anyone other than the suave French finisher but it’s never sat well with us.

Johan Cruyff ensured that No14 would forever have a special place in football but Henry’s tendency to wear No12 for France offset the idea of a homage to the great Dutchman.

Sickeningly, Henry wore No6 during his brief spell at Juventus — what kind of monster devised that plan?

Ideal number(s): 11

Michael Ballack

If you are going to wear No13 then put some gloves on and take your place on the bench

If you are going to wear No13 then put some gloves on and take your place on the bench

The No13 is an esteemed one in German football.

Max Morlock, scorer in the 1954 World Cup final which led to the country’s first ever global crown, wore No13 but it was Gerd Muller who made it popular among centre-forwards.

Since then Uwe Seeler, Karl-Heinze Riedle, Rudi Voller and Thomas Muller have all graced the world stage sporting a number associated with second-choice goalkeepers in many other countries.

Ballack preferred No13 for club and country, forcing William Gallas to switch to No3 when he signed for Chelsea.

Worse still, he wore No3 for Kaiserslautern…

Having premier players as No13 goes against traditional German efficiency. This trend must be stopped as soon as possible.

Ideal number(s): 6, 8

That’s enough of that. We’re off to alphabetise our DVD collection…