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José Molina’s debut for Spain

José Molina’s debut for Spain

As a goalkeeper earning his living in Spain, José Molina unsurprisingly either wore 1 or 13 at club level for Atlético Madrid, Deportivo La Coruña and Levante.

An unused squad member at Euro 96 and World Cup 98, he had 22 on his back and retained that number for Euro 2000, by which stage he had become first-choice goalkeeper, ahead of Santiago Cañizares and Iker Casillas. Unfortunately for Molina, his blunder in Spain’s opening game led to a 1-0 defeat to Norway, and it proved to be his last international appearance.

It was an ignominious end, but we shall focus on his Spain debut, also against Norway, which nearly provided a far nicer level of infamy.


A combination of circumstances, which couldn’t happen nowadays, contributed to a nice piece of number shenanigans. It was a friendly, so all of a team’s subs could be used, but these were the days when five was the maximim (it seems strange to think of a time when ‘only’ five were permitted to be named).

Spain manager Javier Clemente had brought his four outfield replacements together in the 53rd minute, but one of them, Juanma López, suffered an injury on 77. Had it been a competitive game, with three subs allowed, it would have been a case of finishing the game with ten men. If it happened in a friendly nowadays, with four subs on and a player having to come off, the manager would be able to use one of his two remaining substitutions and would have five outfielders to choose from, with the two goalkeepers unlikely to be called upon.

This was 1996 though and so Clemente gave Molina the nod. Of course, he was listed as number 13 on the teamsheet and couldn’t come on wearing his outfield shirt, so what happened was that he took the field with a doctored number 18 shirt:

More convincing than Richard Dunne’s DIY number 5 in 2001? It’s difficult to see from the clip whether part of the 8 has been darkened with marker or tape, and the question of whether or not it was prepared beforehand or done on the hoof must also go unanswered.

Another louche joy when a goalkeeper plays outfield nowadays is that he’ll have different shorts and socks to his team-mates, like when David James was put up front against Middlesbrough in 2005, and you can just about make out the difference here, Molina’s black against his team-mates’ navy.

You’ll have to forgive the poor quality of the image, but we only have a 38-second YouTube clip to work from. The close-up on Molina isn’t because he was a goalkeeper playing outfield, though – the news anchor is blissfully unaware – it’s because he had the best chance of a scoreless draw.

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1 Comment

  1. Jimakos
    November 3, 2017 at 09:14 — Reply

    Although I am a goalie fan, never heard of this story before! I checked a little, and the only pics I came across are those two (hote the link is right!)


    As u said, it’s obvious Molina is wearing his goalie pants and socks, but his jersey’s number is modified. It’s a bit clearer than the video, but still, not very helpfull.

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José Molina’s debut for Spain