While numbering traditions vary from country to country, the notion of number 9 as the chief goal-getter is almost universal.
Legends such as Alan Shearer, Filippo Inzaghi, Gerd Müller and Gabriel Batistuta have achieved great scoring feats with 9 on their backs and, at most clubs, being given 9 is a major status symbol.
In 2021, many of Europe’s most feared strikers wear 9 – though some of them have had meandering journeys to the digit.
Romelu Lukaku (Internazionale)
Is Romelu Lukaku the deadliest striker in Serie A? He certainly is at the moment. The stout Belgian forward had leding Inter to a first title in a decade, striking 21 times in 33 games. He has also bagged goals in the Champions League and the Coppa Italia, bringing his tally to a total of 27 in 41 appearances.
Great things are expected of him at the Euro 2020 football championship where Belgium is expected to play for the trophy and it’s interesting to note that he has worn 9 and 10 for Belgium this season as 10 has featured in his club career, too.
Having started with number 36 at Anderlecht, he shifted to 14 before joining Chelsea, where he assigned 18. After a spell with West Bromwich Albion, where he wore 20, he moved back to Stamford Bridge before a permanent move to Everton.
Initially assigned 17 at Goodison Park, he switched to number 10 in 2014 and kept that for three seasons before his move to Manchester United. Perhaps surprisingly, that was the first time he wore number 9 but he kept the digit upon his move to Inter.
Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)
Lewandowski has probably been the best number 9 in Europe now for a few years – had he not been injured for Bayern’s Champions League quarter-final against Paris Saint-Germain, they may well be on course to retain that title.
Nevertheless, his stats look more like video game numbers. He has bagged an amazing 36 goals in 26 matches in the Bundesliga, and seven more in other competitions.
‘Lewa’ has always worn single digits, but not always 9. While he had 9 at Znicz Pruszków, he then wore 8 for Lech Poznan and was given number 7 when he signed for Borussia Dortmund in 2010. After a strong breakthrough season, he then moved to 9 and was also able to wear it when he joined Bayern in 2014.
Luis Suárez ages like fine wine. After leaving Barcelona, he has found a new home in Atlético Madrid but the change of scenery hasn’t stopped him from bagging goals like before. He has been in fine form for Atlético and will continue to dominate the scoring charts.
He will surely get over the 20 goal mark for the umpteenth time in his career. However, while he wore 9 for Barça, the only other time he had that number was early in his career for Groningen, having switched from 20. Starting out with 25 for Club Nacional, he later had 16 at Ajax before inheriting the famous Liverpool number 7 shirt.
Erling Braut Haaland
Erling Haaland is the hottest football player in the world right now. He’s doing things no one has done before and breaking records set by legends. It’s expected that he’ll dominate football for years to come – it’s just a question in which team he’ll break further records.
A successor of Lewandowski in the Dortmund number 9 shirt, it’s his first time to carry such a special digit. Having had 19 at Bryne, he later wore 30 for Molde and also for Red Bull Salzburg. Having taken 17 when he joined Dortmund midway through 2019-20, he switched at the beginning of the current campaign.
Even at 33 years old and with colleagues Cristiano Ronaldo having departed, Karim Benzema continues to display a deadly eye for goal.
At Lyon, he graduated downwards from 44 to 19 to 10 but when he joined Madrid in 2009, Ronaldo had 9 as he was waiting for Raúl to depart so he could take 7. When that move materialised the following year as Raúl moved to Schalke, Benzema was able to swap 11 for 9, as Ronaldo Nazario had done in 2003.