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W E E K LY T O P 11

The most famous no.10s of all time

Maradona’s magic 10 Thomas Renggli


hings were much better in the good old days, or so the saying goes. Football matches certainly boasted a clearer organisation, symbolised above all by a systematic use of numbering that linked each number with a specific position in a 3-2-5 formation: 1 goalkeeper, 2 right fullback, 3 left fullback, 5 centre back or sweeper, 4 and 6 the two halfbacks, 7 outside right, 8 inside right, 9 centre forward, 10 inside left, 11 outside left. Numbers 12, 13 and 14 were allocated to the reserves on the bench. The numbers that now adorn shirts around the world were a product of the English school of thought and first appeared on football kits in the 1933 FA Cup when Everton faced Manchester City, the Liverpudlians wearing numbers 1 to 11 and the Mancunians numbers 12 to 22. Six year later English clubs agreed on the systematic use of the numbers 1 to 11 for each team. But the arrival of Johan Cruyff soon put an end to that, the Dutch genius making his debut for Ajax as a 17-year-old in 1964 with the number 14 on his shirt. The number, traditionally worn by a reserve, remained his trademark throughout his career and was worn by Cruyff at Ajax, Barcelona, for the Dutch national team and even in his guest appearance in the American soccer league. Jurgen Klinsmann was also of a sentimental disposition, the Germany striker making his debut for the national team in the number 18 shirt and keeping it for the rest of his playing days. Despite a willingness to tolerate such indulgences, FIFA recommends the consecutive use of numbers 1 to 11. In fact, systematic shirt numbering ranging from 1 to 23 has been compulsory at international tournaments since 2008, even for the more superstitious players.

In this respect, football differs from other sports such as Formula 1, where the number 13 has not been allocated since 1976. Certain nations have not always been overly imaginative when it comes to shirt numbers, the Argentinians numbering their players in alphabetical order at the 1982 World Cup in Spain. But Diego Armando Maradona’s fierce resistance to the number 12 shirt forced the hand of coach Cesar Luis Menotti, who granted the playmaker the number 10 shirt he so desired. The alphabetical allocation of squad numbers meant that the other Argentinian playmaker, Osvaldo Cesar Ardiles, took the number 1 shirt, with goalkeeper Ubaldo Matildo Fillol wearing the number 7 jersey between the sticks. The preferential treatment received by Maradona in Spain has its roots in Brazil, where an extraordinary talent by the name of Edson Arantes do Nascimento, nicknamed Pele, made his mark in the number 10 jersey. Despite beginning his career with an 8 on his shirt, Santos soon granted Pele the number 10 due to its status as the highest grade in the Brazilian school system. Regardless of the school system in place, the number 10 has now acquired a legendary status around the world. The best mark in Switzerland might be a 6, in Germany a 1 and in England an A, but on the football field everyone wants to be a 10. Å

The weekly column by our staff writers T H E F I FA W E E K LY


Pele. The three-time World Cup winner and World Player of the Century is ­a lmost the quintessential number 10.


Diego Maradona. The Argentinian had magic in his boots and also scored with the ’Hand of God.’


Zinedine Zidane. With his sensational style of play, he led the French national team to the 1998 World Cup and 2000 European Championship.


Ferenc Puskas. The heart of the great Hungarian team, feared for his powerful, precise left foot strikes.


Michel Platini. A legend in France, named by Juventus the best player to ever appear for i Bianconero.


Roberto Rivelino. Worshipped in Brazil. In 1970, he won the World Cup in Mexico with the Seleção.


Lionel Messi. You can’t ignore the fourtime World Player of the Year. The Barcelona and Argentina no.10 thrills football fans.


Lothar Matthaus. ‘Mister World Cup’ played at the finals five times. Germany’s most-capped player lifted the trophy at Italy 1990.


Roberto Baggio. The ‘Divine Ponytail’ was one of the best attacking players of the 1990s. He made 452 appearances in Serie A, scoring 205 goals.


Gheorge Hagi. The greatest player in Romanian football history. Aside from his time at Barcelona, he wore the number 10 at all his clubs.


Mario Kempes. Top scorer and heart of the World Cup winning Argentina team of 1982. ‘El Toro’, the Bull, took the opposition by the horns.

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The FIFA Weekly Issue #13  

The FIFA Weekly Issue #13  

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