Retired shirt numbers: Clubs and players to give & receive honour

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Clubs commemorate their best stars by naming stadiums after them or building statues, but they also retire shirt numbers

Player-specific squad numbers have become a normal part of football since the abandonment of a simple one to 11 numbering system and some players are forever associated with certain numbers.

The number 10, for example, is usually associated with the creative heart of a team - think Lionel Messi or Diego Maradona - while number four might be a defensive midfielder or centre-back.

Cristiano Ronaldo followed a long line of famous number sevens at Manchester United - including George Best and David Beckham - subsequently making it a central component of his brand, CR7.

Occasionally, such is the influence of an individual that the number they wore at a club can be retired, thus ensuring that it is exclusively tied to the memory of their achievements.

Goal takes a look at why clubs retire shirt numbers as well as some notable examples of the practice.


Why do clubs retire shirt numbers?


Clubs can retire shirt numbers for any number of reasons, but it is generally used as a tribute to players who have excelled for the club or as a mark of respect to players who have died prematurely.

It is believed that former Toronto Maple Leafs player Ace Bailey was the first sportsperson to have a shirt number retired in his honour, when the team withdrew the number six from selection in 1934.

The practice is particularly common in the United States and Canada, but it has since spread through other sports across the world.


Clubs who have retired shirt numbers for players


Pele New York Cosmos

The practice of retiring shirt numbers has caught on across the world, but it appears to be more common in certain countries.

As the lists below will show, Italian clubs seem to be more fond of the tradition, with the likes of Paolo Maldini, Roberto Baggio and Diego Maradona among the notable figures to be honoured.

In England, West Ham have retired the number six in tribute to World Cup winner Bobby Moore, while Manchester City retired the number 23 following the tragic death of Marc-Vivien Foe.

Brazil icon Pele has been honoured by American club New York Cosmos, while Major League Soccer Side New York Red Bulls have indicated that no other player will wear 99 after Bradley Wright-Phillips.

Dutch giants Ajax retired the number 14, which was famously worn by Johan Cruyff.

Notable retired shirt numbers in England

Club Shirt number Player honoured
Leeds United 17 Considered unlucky*
Manchester City 23 Marc-Vivien Foe
West Ham 6 Bobby Moore
West Ham 38 Dylan Tombides

*Former Leeds United owner Massimo Cellino retired the number 17 in 2014 because he considered it to be an unlucky number.

Notable retired shirt numbers in Spain

Club Shirt number Player honoured
Cordoba 8 Juanin
Espanyol 21 Daniel Jarque
Real Betis 26 Miki Roque

Notable retired shirt numbers in France

Club Shirt number Player honoured
Lens 17 Marc-Vivien Foe

Notable retired shirt numbers in Germany

Club Shirt number Player honoured
Wolfsburg 19 Junior Malanda

Notable retired shirt numbers in Italy

Club Shirt number Player honoured
Atalanta 19 Federico Pisani
Bari 2 Giovanni Loseto
Bologna 27 Niccolo Galli
Brescia 10 Roberto Baggio
Brescia 13 Vittorio Mero
Cagliari 11 Gigi Riva
Cagliari 13 Davide Astori
Chievo 30 Jason Mayele
Crotone 4 Antonio Galardo
Fiorentina 13 Davide Astori
Genoa 6 Gianluca Signorini
Genoa 7 Marco Rossi
Inter 3 Giacinto Facchetti
Inter 4 Javier Zanetti
Livorno 25 Piermario Morosini
Messina 41 Salvatore Sullo
AC Milan 3 Paolo Maldini*
AC Milan 6 Franco Baresi
Napoli 10 Diego Maradona
Parma 6 Alessandro Lucarelli
Pescara 4 Vincenzo Zucchini
Salernitana 4 Roberto Breda
Siena 4 Michele Mignani
Vicenza 3 Giulio Savoini
Vicenza 25 Piermario Morosini

*Paolo Maldini has given his consent for the number 3 to be worn by his sons if either of them play for AC Milan.

Notable retired shirt numbers in North America

Club Shirt number Player honoured
Kansas City 12 Lauren Holiday
Montreal Impact 20 Mauro Biello
New York Cosmos 9 Giorgio Chinaglia
New York Cosmos 10 Pele
New York Red Bulls 99 Bradley Wright-Phillips
Portland Timbers 3 Clive Charles
Real Salt Lake 9 Jason Kreis

Numbers reserved for supporters & mascots


Filbert Fox Leicester City

As well as current and former players, many clubs have honoured their supporters by retiring the number 12, based on the idea that the fans are often considered to be the "12th man" on the team.

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However, there are also deviations from that tradition across the world. For example, United Soccer League team Indy Eleven have retired the number 11, Turkish outfit Bursaspor have retired the number 16, while Swedish sides AIK and Djurgarden have reserved the number one for their fans.

Premier League side Bournemouth have dedicated the number 50 to their fans and the number 99 is reserved for the club mascot, Cherry Bear, while Leicester City's mascot Filbert Fox wears the number 50.

Major League Soccer side Atlanta United have reserved the number 17 for their supporters and also as a nod towards their first ever season in the competition.

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