Shirt numbers and their meaning for professional players

Special connection

Numbers on the back of shirts were originally intended to help identify players. Nowadays they often represent something unique and symbolise a special relationship between player and number. We’ve taken a closer look at this phenomenon and, using different professional players as an example, will show you why the shirt number is so important today.

CR7 represents a brand

A footballer’s shirt number can have many different meanings, but in most cases it has become some kind of identifying marker. The best-known example is probably Cristiano Ronaldo, who turned his jersey number into a global brand. The abbreviation CR7 is now known far beyond the confines of the football world.

An idol’s jersey number

You probably have a footballer who you see as a role model or whose style of play you particularly like. You’re not the only one. Even established stars or players from previous football generations emulated their idols and expressed their special relationship through their shirt numbers.

Toni Kroos wore the number seven at the beginning of his career because Mario Basler once gave him a shirt with this number from the 1995/96 season. David Beckham was another keen proponent of the number seven, but he picked the number 23 when he moved to Real Madrid in 2003 as it was also Michael Jordan’s jersey number, his great sports idol.

“The number 23 was available and I’ve always been a huge fan of Michael Jordan. I admired him as a player and person.” – David Beckham in an interview with the Daily Mail

The legendary number 10

Shirt numbers are like a legacy that is passed down from generation to generation. The number ten has left a particularly deep impression over the decades. Many great footballers have worn the number ten shirt and given it legendary status. Zinedine Zidane, Francesco Totti, Diego Maradona, Pelé, Lionel Messi – the line-up of tens is long and will continue to produce more legends in the future. Toni wore the number ten in the junior national teams, wishing to emulate his role model Johan Micoud, who also played with him at Werder Bremen between 2002 and 2006. When Toni turned pro, he started off wearing the number 39 shirt. “I got a chance at the top. I didn’t care what number I was wearing. There were only two numbers left. One of them was 39. I just took it.” Toni has been wearing the number eight since he joined Real Madrid.

The shirt number is often picked deliberately in football. For many, it is a symbol, a brand and an identifying marker at the same time. You probably also have a special relationship with a certain number.