Football is at its best when pure, but long gone are the days when players turned out in the traditional 1-11, when you knew just where each player would be playing before they stepped onto the field.
Since players were given permanent squad numbers in 1993, all kinds of numbers have been dished out, from the iconic to the downright bizarre.
We’ve taken a look back at some of the real stinkers, which make purists like us wince at the mere thought of seeing the player step out onto the field wearing a number that categorically does not reflect the position in which they are playing.
Imagine signing a player called Mambo and not giving him the number 5 shirt. Poor form from Ebbsfleet United. pic.twitter.com/ZFjVGlXRIV
— Joe (@RedAndWhite11) November 11, 2017
Player-manager, self-appointed captain, why wouldn’t Davids hand himself the No.1 shirt at Barnet?
“I am going to start this trend,” he said before getting sent off three times in the first eight games of the season, announcing he would not attend any away games which required an overnight stay and eventually leaving the club in January.
When Edgar Davids managed Barnet…made himself captain…gave himself the number 1 shirt…and then got 3 red cards in 6 games. 😂👏 pic.twitter.com/0ddlbyB5R0
— Football Banter (@FbBanterPage) August 24, 2017
Ever heard of the power of three concept? Asamoah Gyan has…
“Three is the shirt I wore as a teenager in Ghana,” he has said about his favourite number. “It is a powerful number.
“If you are lifting something heavy, you count to three before you lift. If you want to warn someone, you warn them once, then twice and the third time you take action.”
When Gallas arrived at Arsenal, Alex Hleb already had dibs on his favoured No.13 shirt, but rather than ask him to swap, the Frenchman’s eyes lit up.
Apparently a midfielder in his younger days, Gallas used to wear No.10, but never donned the shirt in his professional days… until he joined the Gunners.
They were reportedly reluctant as it had been vacant since Dennis Bergkamp’s departure. It’s safe to say the two players have very different legacies in north London.
In a disappointing turn of events, there’s absolutely nothing interesting in this tale, Johnson simply took the No.8 because it was the only decent number available.
But the gaffer is a Stoke fan and it drives him f*cking mental, so it’s quite funny really.
Nothing beats Glen Johnson having the number 8 as a RB tho pic.twitter.com/IqJ1jaGtrB
— julian💜 (@juIianesque) August 3, 2017
Zamorano was the number nine at Inter, but after Roberto Baggio’s arrival caused some shuffling around, he was landed with a problem.
Not to be prevented from being a proper number nine, what did he do? Yep, picked No.18 and planted a + sign in between the numbers. Genius. Utterly ridiculous, but genius.
In the AFC, players have to keep the same numbers throughout qualifying campaigns for the World Cup. Tommy Oar’s favourite number 11 was taken when the youngster made his Socceroos debut, so he plumped for 11 squared. 121.
It’s definitely at this point that it is officially too far. Us supporters shouldn’t have to deal with this kind of sh*t.
— Out of Our A-League (@outofouraleague) June 8, 2014
It was a hotly debated point in the office, but Zinedine Zidane just about gets away with wearing the No.5 shirt, because he’s Zinedine Zidane. Milan Baros is not Zinedine Zidane.
The fact he was allowed to lift the Champions League trophy in this abomination is just disgusting.
Futre was preparing for his first appearance for West Ham when a coach handed him the No.16 shirt, and to say he wasn’t happy would be an understatement.
“Futre 10, not 16,” he said, according to Harry Redknapp. “Eusebio 10, Maradona 10, Pele 10; Futre 10, not f*cking 16.”
Redknapp attempted to calm the player down. “I tried to be firm. ‘Paulo, put your shirt on, get changed, please, we have a big game. If you don’t want to wear it, off you go,’ I said. And he did.”
Next thing he knew, Redknapp was faced with a team of lawyers, who were brought in to negotiate Futre being given the No.10 shirt. Eventually John Moncur agreed to let him take it in exchange for two weeks in his villa in the Algarve.
'West Ham's Paulo Futre once stormed out of Highbury into a taxi after refusing to wear No16' https://t.co/Kp9tYmvq0F
— A Football Archive* (@FootballArchive) March 7, 2016
Apparently nicknamed ‘Daddy Cool’ in South Wales, when asked why he chose No.2 upon his return to Swansea, he said: “It’s the second time I am at the club, hence I wanted to wear No.2, and I want to achieve more for the team.”
Tenuous, to say the least.
Perhaps the most mentally scarring of the lot is the former Chelsea defender turning out in the No.9 shirt.
After 20 easily forgettable appearances, he was shipped out to Sevilla, leaving only memories of his choice of squad number and literally nothing else.
Boulahrouz handed the No.9 shirt to none other than Steven James Sidwell. The mind boggles.
– Di Santo
Alvaro Morata will hope to fare better than Chelsea’s recent 9️⃣s pic.twitter.com/X5rBb2aAmX
— B/R Football (@brfootball) July 25, 2017
When your nickname is zero, what number could you possibly choose? Thankfully for all of us, the Scottish and English FAs were quick to ban it.
Remember when Hicham Zerouali wore #0 for Aberdeen? pic.twitter.com/VShJ8zO2Tv
— Classic Football CFS (@classicshirts) December 28, 2016
The No.6 shirt is very debatable. We reckon it’s acceptable either as a centre-back or a holding midfielder, but certainly not a pacy attacker.
Step forward Huckerby, who scored 50 goals in five years at Norwich City, despite wearing a real shocker of a shirt number. Not cool.
Only the post denied us a ludicrous goal.
A throwback to Moussa at his best.
Who would win between Arsenal 04 and Man City 18?
Jose is pretty passionate in his response.
The most joyous player in the Premier League.
There’s a total of 20 to get.
Including a couple of notable sons.
You’ll be hearing a lot more about Allison.
Of course he meant it. He meant everything.
The second half of an epic challenge.