The number on a back of a player’s shirt has grown past it’s original introduction, where it helped the referee identify players, to become a huge part of the game. Replica jerseys are sold all over the world and, most of the time, a player hopes to adorn that number for his entire career.
Sometimes though, the situation changes. Whether it be because a team-mate already has the number a player wants or a player has established himself in the first-team and wants to land a ‘better’ number, there are many occasions when a player decides to switch things around.
So, to celebrate the introduction of free jersey number changes in TopEleven, we’re taking a look at some of the biggest players who have changed their number for a variety of reasons. Maybe this will inspire some squad numbers changes within your club!
Alexis Sanchez: 17 to 7
One of the more recent changes on this list, Chilean ace Alexis Sanchez changed his jersey number from 17 to the more recognisable 7 last month. Alexis had adorned the number 17 jersey since switching from Barcelona to Arsenal two-years ago but the exit of veteran Tomas Rosicky, who had worn the jersey for the past decade, allowed Alexis to follow in the footsteps of Robert Pires, Liam Brady and David Rocastle in North London.
David Beckham: 7 to 23
Immortalised as a number 7 at Manchester United, David Beckham had a bit of a predicament when he moved to Real Madrid as that number was already owned by Spanish striker Raul. Beckham instead elected the number 23 shirt, taking inspiration from recently retired basketball star Michael Jordan, and chose the same number at LA Galaxy. In subsequent stints with AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain, Beckham wore 32- the reverse of 23.
Ronaldinho: 10 to 80
Ronaldinho had established himself as one of the greatest number 10’s in his era during his successful career with Barcelona and the Brazilian national team but he went down a different route in 2008 with AC Milan. Ronaldinho chose 80, a number normally associated with a young or reserve player, due to his year of birth- 1980.
Dani Alves: 2 to 22
Quite possibly the most heart-warming change of jersey number, Dani Alves became famous with the number 2 shirt during the first five years of his career in Barcelona but, in 2013, he switched to 22. The reason, it later emerged, was due to close friend Eric Abidal, who wore the number during his own spell at the club and had battled liver cancer in his final years with the Catalan giants. Another switch then followed when he took Xavi’s vacated number 6 shirt, which he wore until his departure to join Juventus this summer.
Sergio Aguero: 16 to 10
Last year, Argentine striker Sergio Aguero changed his Manchester City number from 16, which he had worn since his arrival in the Premier League, to 10. That number was previously worn by Edin Dzeko but his departure allowed Aguero to take the famous jersey. Aguero still holds fondness for the 16 he previously wore though, with the stand-out moment in that number being the dramatic title-winning goal against QPR in 2012.
Lionel Messi: 19 to 10
Messi 10 shirts sell worldwide but it’s actually the third number the Argentine has worn in Catalonia, with his first jersey being number 30. During his breakthrough years he then wore 19, lasting two seasons, before Ronaldinho’s exit in 2008 allowed him to take the vacant number 10 jersey- and he hasn’t looked back since, becoming one of the best players in history to wear the famous number.
Cristiano Ronaldo: 9 to 7
CR7 was once CR9, due to a problem he shared with David Beckham. Having worn number 7 at Manchester United, Ronaldo selected the number 9 when he first joined Real Madrid as Raul was still around. That lasted just one-season though as a year later the Spanish striker left his beloved club, which allowed Ronaldo to switch to his preferred number and Karim Benzema to take the iconic number 9.
Johann Cruyff: 9 to 14
One of the first players to make a number outside the first 11 famous, at a time when numbers weren’t usually reserved for individuals but instead positions, Johann Cruyff’s path to fame with number 14 was a random one. Usually wearing number 9, he gave that jersey to team-mate Gerrie Muhren ahead of a game against PSV Eindhoven after he couldn’t find his usual number 7 shirt. Cruyff took 14 as a result and the rest, as they say, is history- with Cruyff deciding to keep the number as he played well in that match.
Aaron Ramsey: 16 to 8
Another more recent change like Alexis Sanchez, Aaron Ramsey has also seen his jersey number change at Arsenal this summer. The Welshman had become accustomed to the number 16 shirt, which he had occupied ever since his arrival in North London back in 2008, but Mikel Arteta’s retirement vacated the more famous jersey. Now, the established star will be looking to make the number is own and join the likes of Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard as great Premier League 8’s.
Harry Kane: 18 to 10
An emergence from the reserves into the first-team is a surefire way of giving yourself the chance to wear a more famous jersey and Harry Kane is a player who took his opportunity with both hands. Starting the 2014/15 season as third-choice striker, wearing the number 18 shirt, Kane thrust himself into the limelight and became a crucial player for Mauricio Pochettino’s side. Last summer, he took the number 10 shirt and enjoyed further success, having won the Golden Boot last term and establishing himself as England’s first-choice striker.
Eden Hazard: 17 to 10
Number 10 is one of the most wanted jerseys at any club, so it was no surprise to see Eden Hazard jump at the chance to take the jersey in 2014. Previously, Hazard had worn 17 in his two-years since joining from Lille but had worn 10 for Belgian’s national team and was attracted to the number by one of his heroes, Zinedine Zidane. The change became available after Juan Mata’s move to Manchester United in the January window, though Hazard had to wait until the end of the season to make the change.