SquadNumbers.com - Football Squad and Shirt Numbers Blog

The History of Numbers: Argentina

The History of Numbers: Argentina

Recently, we examined how the ‘classic’ English numbering system came into being through a series of gradual changes. Different methods evolved in different countries, however.

If you’re on this site, you probably have more than a passing interest in numbers and therefore it’s likely you have wondered more than once why South American teams tend to have the number 5 in midfield. For Argentina, for example, Fernando Redondo, Esteban Cambiasso, Javier Mascherano and Fernando Gago have all been what is known as el volante or ‘the rudder’.

When the 2-3-5 was in use in Argentina, it was numbered the same as in Britain: 2 and 3 in defence, 4, 5 and 6 the half-backs and 7-11 across the forward line.

With the change to three in defence, however, there was no set in formula. Where the number 5 dropped back between the full-backs in England, in Argentina it was the right-half who now operated as a right-back, with the other two defender shunted across but retaining their numbers.

When a four-man defence was adopted, as in Britain it was the number 6 who became a centre-back, but here he partnered the number 2 with 3 moving across to left-back. Number 8 became a midfielder while 10 withdrew slightly from the attack. Eventually, this would become a 4-3-3, with 5, 8 and 10 in midfield.

Later, the number 11 became the left-midfielder with 7 partnering 9 up front, though playing in more of a withdrawn role. This is the numbering style that Argentina have used more or less to the present day, though sometimes 11 operates as the second striker.

Previous post
1-11 in the Premier League era
Next post
Keown and Adams, Adams and Keown


  1. Alex Howells
    June 14, 2019 at 23:52 — Reply

    Noticed even Argentine women’s World Cup team v England today had a back four of 4 2 6 3.

  2. June 20, 2018 at 19:25 — Reply

    […] The History of Numbers: Argentina […]

  3. Pablo
    February 28, 2018 at 19:28 — Reply

    This is great. I was reading old entries thinking “There should be a post about the numbering we use in Argentina” and here it is. Spot on.
    It is still current, and it’s weird for us to see a number 2 playing at right back and a number 5 playing defence.
    Great work, as always!

    • May 2, 2018 at 09:10 — Reply

      Thanks a lot Pablo, and apologies for the late reply!
      Am I right in thinking that players in Argentina don’t really like high numbers and the aim is generally to get down to 1-11?

  4. October 18, 2014 at 20:03 — Reply

    I love that someone is writing about this. Does the Argentine method also apply to Brazil? Their recent national teams have tended to use numbers 2-3-4-6 across the defence, with number 5 in midfield (Cerezo, Alemao, Mauro Silva, Cesar Sampaio, etc). Their forwards have also often worn 7 and 9 (Muller and Careca in ’86) or 7 and 11 (Bebeto and Romario in ’94).

    • October 18, 2014 at 20:06 — Reply

      Hi James,

      Thanks for the comment. The Brazilian way will be featured in a post of its own, hopefully next week.

  5. October 16, 2014 at 12:13 — Reply

    This of course went to pot when Argentina allocated squad numbers aplabetically in 78 and 82.

  6. Jay29ers
    October 16, 2014 at 10:42 — Reply

    Hnnnngggg. This really is too good. I had never thought about the patterns, or that there could be a specific system in place here. Immediately I think of Claudio Lopez wearing #7 in 1998, for example, and things start to make sense. Brilliant.

Leave a Reply to James Campbell Taylor Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.



This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


The History of Numbers: Argentina