Football is traditionally a sport of numbers. A number can often refer to a position on the field whilst certain numbers hold a certain weight.
The number 7 is a very special number in Manchester United lore. It has been worn by club legends including George Best, Eric Cantona, David Beckham, and Cristiano Ronaldo. No one has yet been fit to sport the number for a long period of time since Ronaldo. United’s #7 is currently unoccupied.
The number 10 is a special number with Barcelona as Maradona, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho, and Lionel Messi have all done magical work in this same shirt.
However, for both Manchester United and Barcelona, it would seem that no player has made a big enough impact to have that number retired.
Could this be about to change with Lionel Messi at Barcelona?
Jersey number retirement is perhaps the rarest honor given to an athlete. It gives an athlete the respect of not allowing another player to ever represent that same number for as long as that team or club exists.
The retirement of jersey numbers worn by legendary club or team players is usually synonymous with American sports.
However, what not many people know is that there are in fact a handful of jersey numbers retired in football.
Bobby Moore – West Ham United #8
- Captained the team for 10 years
- Captained the World Cup winning England side of 1966
Paolo Maldini – AC Milan #3
- After retiring, Maldini allowed for the #3 to be worn by his sons have they play for the club. Amazingly enough his son, Daniel Maldini, plays as a forward for Milan wearing the #98.
Emiliano Sala – Nantes #9
- Sala tragically died in a mysterious plane crash back in 2019
Diego Maradona – Napoli #10
- 7 years in Naples allowed Maradona to win numerous titles for the Italian side earning him the honour of having his famous #10 retired.
Pele – New York Cosmos #10
- Well past his prime by this point, Pele had his jersey number retired in New York for his contribution to the popularity of the sport in the USA.
Henrik Larsson – Helsingborg #17
- Larsson is considered one of the greatest Swedish players of all time and is a legend at Helsingborg.
Johan Cruyff – Ajax #14
- The Dutch legend won himself 3 Ballon d’Or’s in this jersey whilst changing the game of football forever.
Marco Rossi – Genoa #7
- The Genoa legend appeared in almost 300 official games over 9 seasons for the club.
Javier Zanetti – Inter Milan #4
- The Argentine made 858 appearances for Inter winning 16 major trophies.
Franco Baresi – AC Milan #6
- The Italian legend won 17 major trophies in 20 years with Milan. He is also widely considered one of the greatest defenders fo all time.
Many would argue that Cristiano Ronaldo should have had his #7 at Real Madrid retired. After all he did bring them 4 UEFA Champions League’s, multiple La Liga titles and 4 Ballon d’Ors. His goal scoring output was phenomenal netting 451 goals in 438 games.
But with Jersey retirement hard to come by in football, perhaps 9 years in Spain’s capital was not enough to set a jersey number aside at the world’s biggest club.
Lionel Messi on the other hand is entering his 17th season with the Catalan club. He’s won 3 UEFA Champions League’s, 6 Ballon d’Ors, and a stupendous 10 league titles. He broke the great Gerd Muller’s single-season record for goals scored with 91 and has made over 660 appearances for the club. Statistics that Ronaldinho, Rivaldo, and Maradona did not come close to.
With Messi only guaranteed another season with Barcelona, will his great #10 jersey be retired?