In a game that continues to evolve away from what happens to a ball at a player’s feet, jersey numbers are a long-awaited part of a team’s season.
Whether it’s waiting to see what number a new signing has taken, or seeing if a young talent has managed to throw down the order, the squad numbers have moved away from the traditional 1-11 meaning and can tell more about what is thought on some players.
Players themselves also like to have their say about it. And while it’s cool that they care, some people care a little too much. And it has created some strange but iconic memories. Here are 30 of the strangest shirt number choices ever.
Growing Up, Gianluigi / Marco Canoniero / Getty Images
Born in 1999, it was first meaningful for a 16-year-old Donnarumma to carry 99 in Milan. It is the year he was born, and he was young, so a high number is expected.
The question is, why did he not release the 99 as soon as he had established himself as the first choice? Donnarumma was number one until 2016 but decided not to take the jersey in Milan and left 2021 as number 99. Strange.
It looks so wrong / Jasper Juinen / Getty Images
The man who has built a brand like CR7, it feels like a fever dream to see Ronaldo hold the number nine shirt at his Santiago Bernabeu presentation in 2009.
With Raul left at the club, Ronaldo had to wait before he could actually get hold of number seven, which he had become known for wearing at Manchester United. Still looks weird this day.
Errors on so many levels / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images
Seeing Messi in anything but a Barcelona shirt is strange enough to the eye, so to add that he now wears number 30 for Paris Saint-Germain is even worse.
No, do not give us that “it was his youth number” argument. Debris. It’s Messi, guys. Lionel Messi. He can not not be number ten.
New issue needed / Pool / Getty Images
McTominay came in unexpectedly during Jose Mourinho’s reign at Old Trafford and has since developed into one of United’s strongest assets.
The Scottish player has a bright future ahead of him and is a new regular under Ole Gunnar Solskjær. That’s exactly why he wears 39 is so wrong; time to choose the right number, thank you.
Chelsea’s nine jerseys are pissed / Paul Gilham / Getty Images
Chelsea have had a terrible time giving people their number nine shirt.
Before the days of Alvaro Morata and Fernando Torres, they thought Steve Sidwell was the answer after his free transfer from 2007 from Reading. Midfielder Sidwell. He left after one season.
Looks weird, right? / Athena Pictures / Getty Images
Players choosing numbers from the wrong position can be one of the most frustrating aspects of the game.
When he returned to Swansea in 2017, Bony chose to take the number two jersey to remind people that it was his second spell with the club. Annoying. “Two” should have come up with a ban on two matches for such unpleasantness.
Oar had a strange number early in his career / Tony Feder / Getty Images
Making your international debut should be a memorable moment. But Oar made it unforgettable in 2010 when he came wearing 121. Yes, three numbers.
The 18-year-old came from the bench for Australia in a World Cup qualifier against Indonesia which received the unique number. He revealed years later that he was given the strange number of reasons for registration rules, which means that he was registered in advance as the 121st player and therefore had to wear it.
Everyone’s Favorite Eight / Clint Hughes / Getty Images
Johnson’s time at Stoke is very much Randy Orton in the 2020s; so careless that it’s come to a point where people are just laughing with them.
Högerbacken wrote in 2015 and instead of taking a back or a higher up, he took responsibility for number eight. Creative guide.
He even had it put in the side of his head for the World Cup / Laurence Griffiths / Getty Images
Best remembered for his spell with Sunderland, Gyan breaks boundaries at the international level with Ghana.
Whenever he showed up for his nation, Gyan would no doubt wear the number three jersey, even though he was a forward. He took on the number from his older brother and has a personal connection to it, and has also worn it several times at club level.
It’s time to dump her / Pool / Getty Images
Think of McTominay, but even more relevant.
While the shots share opinions, Rice is widely regarded as West Ham’s face and is now the club’s vice-captain. He has made over 100 appearances for the club – leave the youth team number already. Please.
Unusual Choice / David Ramos / Getty Images
Quite simply, Hooper was born in 1988, so he has always worn the shirt where possible.
Never trust a striker who does not want to wear number nine.
No way we’re telling Skrtel his number was stupid … / Clive Rose / Getty Images
For a man who made over 300 appearances for Liverpool and became a fan favorite in his eight-year term, you would have thought that Skrtel would have received a lower number.
However, the tough tackleback got stuck with 37, due to his lucky number being three and his then girlfriend’s lucky number being number seven. A simple man, but certainly a strange choice.
Sort it out, Trent / Michael Regan / Getty Images
See previous criticism of McTominay and Rice, increased even more.
Alexander-Arnold is now the Champions League and Premier League winner. There is no need to wear number 66, Trent. Please do the beautiful game a favor and pick a normal number.
Everton’s number five did not last long / Laurence Griffiths / Getty Images
Eto’o, who chooses to wear number five at Everton, sums up his time at Goodison Park, which felt like a fever dream on the whole of 2014/15.
Signed in the summer, chose a strange number, scored some goals and was gone in January. Perhaps the most Everton history imaginable.
Bendtner is a strange device / Getty Images / Getty Images
Spoiler; this is not the last time you see Bendtner on the list.
The man who constantly made football laugh through the 2010s, Bendtner chose to wear number three when he signed for Wolfsburg in 2014. Because of course he did. No one questioned him right now.
The perfect Crespo replacement / Etsuo Hara / Getty Images
It is hardly surprising that a man with the nickname ‘cannibal’ ended up choosing a proper number for his shot in general.
Upon arrival at Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea in 2006, defender Boulahrouz chose jersey number nine, following the departure of Hernan Crespo. Damn upgrade.
Zidane we did not know we needed / Clive Brunskill / Getty Images
Liverpool’s cult hero Baros is remembered for losing the Champions League trophy and bowling it in 2005, but also finished as the club’s top scorer that season.
He did all this while wearing number five on the back of the club, as a striker. A midfielder Zinedine Zidane got away with it, Baros did not.
Balotelli has worn 45 for most of his career / Jonathan Moscrop / Getty Images
Football’s favorite cannon in the 2010s, Balotelli’s motivation to wear number 45 is honestly bulletproof.
As a youth in Inter, he chose the number because four and five add up to nine. And after finding a mold run with it, he never released it again. More than just a pyrotechnic expert.
Riordan did not last long as number 01 / Jeff J Mitchell / Getty Images
After returning to Hibernian in 2008, Riordan – an attacking striker – received the jersey “01”. You know, there’s a queue for the regular number.
The jersey number ten had already been taken, so instead of just choosing another fairly normal number, Hibs agreed to turn over ten. He finally got his ten jersey the following season.
Dempsey has one thing for number two / Robert Cianflone / Getty Images
While Bony had a rather meaningful reasoning behind his brief use of number two as a striker, Dempsey never did.
Still, the American forward has insisted on wearing it almost everywhere he has been, both in the states and in England. Sure, he sets goals in it, but at what cost?
Bixente Lizarazu had two spells with Bayern / Stuart Franklin / Getty Images
When he returned to Bayern Munich in 2005, Lizarazu chose to take the jersey number 69, which at first glance is quite funny. We’ll let you find out.
But his reasoning for choosing such an odd number was due to a connection to it – let’s end. Lizarazu was born in 1969, but also stands 1.69 m tall and weighed 69 kg.
Expert thinking from Wenger / Ryan Pierse / Getty Images
Gallas’ request to have an important squad number when signing for Arsenal in 2006 was reasonable given his abilities and the role he would play.
The decision for him to get number ten – which was previously held by Dennis Bergkamp – was not so reasonable. Gallas did not want number three and Arsene Wenger did not want to burden a forward with Bergkamp comparisons, so the defender took it.
A Strange Enchantment / Charlie Crowhurst / Getty Images
Perhaps the best part about a car accident two seasons with The Child after another football break was David’s weird shirt number.
When he agreed to become coach in 2012, the Dutch midfielder chose the number one jersey. Goalkeeper number. Nothing but respect.
Lupatelli bar number ten / Grazia Neri / Getty Images
While David wore number one, there was a goalkeeper who wore shirt number ten in Italy in the early 2000s.
On loan from Roma, Lupatelli carried the striker’s number on Chievo Verona due to a bet he had made with friends. Because we can only applaud the absurd.
Osvaldo Ardiles was number one at the 1982 World Cup / Getty Images / Getty Images
The plan for David’s lower level English football madness, Ardiles did it on the biggest stage of them all.
As the numbers were assigned in alphabetical order, the Argentine ended up in the number one shirt that is usually reserved for the goalkeeper. Bizarre politics.
Zerouali carries a normal number 11 for Morocco / Touchline / Getty Images
The late Zerouali was best known for his time with Aberdeen between 1999 and 2002 and became a hero for his abilities, but also for his shirts.
Crazy shirt numbers are not usually seen in British football, so the Moroccan pick number ‘0’ was completely unknown and lasted only one season before it was banned. He died in 2004.
Wife carries two in Turkey / VI-Images / Getty Images
Seriously, what about strikes and number two? It could just as easily be the new jersey number nine at this rate.
Wife wore number 22 on a few occasions before taking up number two at Levante. He then continued to wear it when he signed for Wigan in 2012 and picked it up again in 2017 when he went to Turkish Sivasspor.
Double number, twice the player / Mike Hewitt / Getty Images
Before he had chosen to wear number three in Wolfsburg, Bendtner had already puzzled football at Arsenal by switching from 26 to 52.
The Dane quoted that the number had a special meaning for him personally, while there were also rumors that he wanted to double his number to resemble him as twice the player. It did not work out anyway.
Jorge Campos Nine Sweater / Stephen Dunn / Getty Images
The game’s resident uneven goalkeeper, Jorge Campos played football with every cheat code used. And in flamboyant, custom kits.
When he was not saving shots, he dribbled outside his area and was used as his side’s assistant. And he was good. So good that he actually wore the number nine jersey throughout his career because he took on double duties.
Even had it on the shorts / Claudio Villa / Grazia Neri / Getty Images
The single most ingenious concept we have ever seen in the beautiful game. Forget your Messi and your Pele, this is football.
After signing for Inter in 1996 and initially getting the jersey number nine, a change saw Inter give nine to Ronaldo and number ten to Roberto Baggio. Since Zamorano did not want to be number nine, he chose 18 and got a plus in the middle to make nine. Incredible.