One of the best forum threads on squad numbers – not a heavily-contested title, admittedly, is on the When Saturday Comes messageboard.
Entitled ‘Squad numbers I feel comfortable with’, it was started by user Ray de Galles in 2009 and, like much of the WSC forum, it has been a source of wisdom and nonsense since then, present company included (moreso in the latter category).
Among Ray’s hopes for the future was this:
I would just once like to see a newly signed egomaniacal keeper who has been denied the 1 shirt by the established keeper take 11. But just the once.
Well, it has happened, and we were are waiting to see if it will just be the once.
Portuguese goalkeeper Rui Patricio is among the notable arrivals as Wolverhampton Wanderers look to build on last season’s promotion to the Premier League.
Last season, John Ruddy played 45 of 46 games with 21 on his back as Wolves romped to the Championship title, with Nigerian international goalkeeper Carl Ikeme (number 1) unavailable as he was treated for cancer. While Ikeme is thankfully in remission but was advised to retire on medical grounds at the end of July.
That would seem to have freed up 1 for Patricio, who wore it for all but his first season at Sporting CP, when he was 22. However, Ikeme received a new contract before Wolves’ promotion and is still listed on their club website and so perhaps the number is being retired, or at least rested, in his honour.
It meant that, when Patricio made his first appearance for Wolves, in a friendly against Villarreal last Saturday, he was wearing something else.
Here's how Wolves line-up for this afternoon's pre-season friendly against @VillarrealCF.
— Wolves (@Wolves) August 4, 2018
It must be a first in English football, though of course there is a chance that it’s not permanent – for instance, Liverpool have made clear that the 3 and 13 being respectively worn by new signings Fabinho and Alisson Becker are provisional numbers. As can be seen, Patricio did not have his name on the back of his shirt.
Is this just a friendly thing, or is Rui Patricio going to wear number 11??? pic.twitter.com/RC9glg3wkI
— Rob Cotton (@robcotton84) August 4, 2018
Instances of goalkeepers wearing numbers from 2-11 are rare, but not unknown. Here is a non-exhaustive list – as yet, we haven’t found any examples of a custodian with 4 on his back, so if you know of someone then please let us know.
Number 2 – Emiliano Viviano, Joe Wildsmith, Uwe Gospodarek, Billy Mercer, Bob Bolder
Viviano got his own blog posting in the site’s early days as he wore 2 at Sampdoria – however, in some kind of cosmic balancing, he has moved to Sporting, taking the number 1 vacated by Patricio.
Wildsmith was part of Wednesday going a bit crazy two years ago but he was restored to 28 after a season.
Unfortunately, we have no footage of Gospodarek’s single season wearing 2 as Kaiserslautern’s back-up goalkeeper in 1998-99 – he switched to 16 the following season.
According to this thread, Billy Mercer took 2 at Bristol City in 1999 for the simple reason that 1 was taken by Bo Anderson when he signed.
Bob Bolder didn’t feature for Charlton Athletic in 1993-94, his final season in football – the Addicks opted to number alphabetically that season and he was next in line after the number 1, defender Stuart Balmer.
Number 3 – Gilmar, Cristiano Lupatelli
Folklore tells us that Brazil’s numbers for the 1958 World Cup were randomly assigned by an official from the country’s football association, which is how Pelé came to wear 10.
As luck would have it, 1 was given to a goalkeeper, Carlos José Castilho, but he was back-up to Gilmar, who was given 3 as Brazil won the tournament for the first time. Four years later, Gilmar was wearing 1 when they retained the title.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, this list features a few repeat offenders, and Italian goalkeeper Cristiano Lupatelli is one of those. He moved from Verona (see below) back to Roma in 2003-04 – having had 12 and then 22 in his first stint, this time he opted for 3. It was the only time in his career he wore a single-digit number.
Numbers 5 and 7 – Ubaldo Fillol, Luca Bucci
Two goalkeepers to have the same odd (in all senses) numbers.
Fillol was Argentina’s second-choice goalkeeper at the 1974 World Cup and wore 12 as they numbered conventionally, but for the 1978 tournament they went alphabetically and he wore 5 as they triumphed on home soil.
Four years later, he was further down the list name-wise and so had 7.
Before Gianluigi Buffon emerged, Bucci was Parma’s number 1 and he had spells at Perugia, Torino and Empoli before returning to the gialloblù in 2004. While he wore 37 in his first season back, he dropped the ‘3’ for 2005-06 and then moved from 7 to 5 for his final two years there. Moved to Napoli for his last season as a professional, wearing 70 – not the year of his birth, as so many others do, but the year after it
Number 6 – David Button
Thanks to Ryan Woodward for this one – when Button was on loan from Tottenham Hotspur to Dagenham & Redbridge, he was oddly given 6.
Number 8 – Jan Jongbloed, Salvatore Soviero, Guillermo Ochoa
The Netherlands also went alphabetical – with one notable expeption – in 1974, meaning Jongbloed wore 8 as they finished runners-up. In 1978, most survivors, including Jongbloed, from ’74 kept their numbers, though the reserve goalkeeper Piet Schrijvers moved from 18 to 1.
We must admit to knowing little of Salvatore Soviero, but, having worn 1 at Genoa and Salernitana, he later wore 8 for Regina, Crotone and Juve Stabia.
Guillermo Ochoa received a lot of attention when he opted to wear 8 at Standard Liege last season, riffing on the similarity of his name to the word for the number in Spanish.
However, for 2018-19, he will wear 13, as he did for Malaga and Granada and still does for the Mexico national team.
Number 9 – Jens Lehmann, Jorge Campos
While Campos wore 9 for Mexico, as far as we can see it was only in the games where he played as a striker – though occasionally he wore 1 outfield.
At club level, he did wear 9 in goal, though.
Number 10 – Cristiano Lupatelli
As mentioned above, Lupatelli wore 3 when he moved back to Roma – that was after two seasons as number 10 for Chievo Verona.
He was asked why he did so in a 2009 interview (answer translated from Italian):
A bet with friends. It all started as a joke, and it became a reality. One thing I think funny and nice.
Unfortunately, the interviewer declined to check why he wore 3 – perhaps it was to signify that he was third-choice behind Ivan Pelizzoli and Carlo Zotti?