Shirt numbers in sports are iconic, and they can carry a responsibility for athletes. For example, if basketball undrafted players are given the number 23 they will always have Michael Jordan’s legacy in their mind. It might serve as a motivation or an extra load of pressure that some are not able to carry.
Similar story happens in football, as for example the number 7 in Manchester United has been carried by Cristiano Ronaldo, David Beckham and Cantona. Any player who takes this shirt number definitely has some expectations to fill.
Though, it wasn’t that long ago that your shirt number defined your position on the pitch with many semi-pro and amateur teams still operating in that manner.
That’s not the case for everyone though and here we look at some of the strangest squad numbers of all time.
Why always me he asks? Possibly because he is one of the more eccentric footballers to have graced the game. To be fair, compared to some of the things he’s done over the years – like throwing money from his car or setting off fireworks indoors – his choice to wear the number 45 shirt is actually pretty mundane.
He came through the youth system with Inter Milan and club policy forced youngsters into the higher numbers. Balotelli took the number 45. He wore it for a few games and found the net regularly. As such, it became a good luck superstition. The fact the two numbers add up to nine is just a lucky coincidence.
Rogério Ceni is the gift that keeps on giving when it comes to random facts. Not only does he goes down in history as one of the most extraordinary goalkeepers with over 100 career goals – yes, over 100 goals – to his name but he also played a game with the number 618 on the back.
The Brazilian World Cup winner spent nearly all of his career with São Paulo and opted to wear the less than normal number to celebrate breaking the club’s appearance record, which happened to be his 618th game.
We shouldn’t be that surprised though; they do say you have to be mad to be a keeper.
If number 618 is up there with the highest shirt numbers you’ve seen, then Moroccan international and former Aberdeen striker Zerouali is a shoo-in for the lowest. He joined Aberdeen back in 1999 for his only taste of football in Europe where he earned the nickname ‘Zero’. As a result, he opted for the shirt number to match.
Certainly, in Scotland, no player had worn the number before. Never will they again either with the authorities having now banned such a move. Zerouali has since passed away in a tragic car accident when aged just 27 but his ‘Zero’ antics mean he’s a cult hero in North Scotland and has a place in their history books too.
The Argentine squad from 1982
It’s one thing for a player to stray away from the norm but it’s another when an entire team chooses to do so. When Spain 1982 rolled around the Argentine World Cup squad set their numbers in alphabetical order. It doesn’t sound completely illogical until you throw in the next two things.
Firstly, Maradona, who was their star player didn’t fall into the same rule and played in his favourite number 12.
Secondly, it meant that midfielder Ossie Ardiles was awarded the number one jersey whilst keeper Ubaldo Fillol wore seven. Utterly bizarre.
We’ve already looked at four pretty bonkers squad number stories, but Ivan Zamorano tops the lot – by quite a distance too. The Chilean legend had already proved to be a big hit in Europe’s top five leagues with Sevilla and Real Madrid when Inter Milan came calling. Zamorano had two shirt numbers he liked to wear.
Number nine was his preferred choice with 10 coming in as a backup option. Unfortunately, two pretty big names – Ronaldo and Roberto Baggio – had already occupied those numbers meaning the odds of him taking one were slim to none.
Ever the innovator, Zamorano called dibs on 18 and stuck a ‘plus’ sign between the two to create a false nine.
There you have it, five of the strangest squad number selections of all time.