Why did David Beckham wear the No 23 at Real Madrid and LA Galaxy?

Comments()
David Beckham Michael Jordan
Getty/Goal composite
The number a player wears can have all sorts of inspirations - from superstition to marketing - or, indeed, none

Squad numbers are regarded as important in football. They are indicators of positions and there are expectations of players who wear certain numbers.

Skilful playmakers such as Diego Maradona or Lionel Messi usually wear No. 10, and you had better fit that mould if you want to wear it.

At some clubs, numbers have come to be associated with particular players, such as the No. 7 at Manchester United, with Cristiano Ronaldo, Eric Cantona and, of course, David Beckham donning it.

The No. 7 became something of a brand when Beckham wore it at Old Trafford (as it later did with Ronaldo), but he switched to the No. 23 when he signed for Real Madrid.

So why did he do it? Goal takes a look at the squad numbers Beckham wore in his career and why he chose the No. 23.

Why did David Beckham wear No. 23 at Real Madrid & LA Galaxy?

While Beckham may have been the biggest star in world football when he signed for Real Madrid in 2003, the No. 7 was worn by Raul, the club captain and a Blancos icon.

Unable to continue wearing the No. 7 - a number he was building the 'DB7' brand around - Beckham chose the No. 23, inspired by Michael Jordan, who wore that number for the Chicago Bulls.

According to former Real Madrid sporting director Jorge Valdano, No. 4 and No. 23 were Beckham's options and the player's wife, Victoria, steered him towards No. 23.

David Beckham Real Madrid

“We spoke to him about the numbers four and 23. He asked my opinion and I told him I prefer the classic numbers from one to 11," Valdano told AS. "But I also told him that I understood things had changed and today’s fans can easily accept any number. He said he thought it was a bad idea to delay a decision on the subject.

"Finally, his wife intervened to say something like: ‘The number 23 didn’t do Jordan any harm.’"

Beckham has indicated that he would never have had the audacity to ask Raul for the No. 7 at Real Madrid and that wearing No. 23 was a "no brainer" given the Jordan connection.

"So 23 was available and I’d always been a huge fan of Michael Jordan and I’ve loved him as a player and a person," he said in an interview with ESPN. "Everything that he represented. Everything that he did in his career. I was a huge fan so yeah it was a no brainer."

He then resolved to remain attached to the No. 23 when he made the switch to MLS to play for LA Galaxy, out of a classic sense of footballer's superstition: he had enjoyed good times with it. 

When asked why he continued with No. 23 in the US, he said: "It was just kind of a number that I wanted to keep because I’ve been successful with it with Real Madrid, and like I said being a fan of Michael Jordan."

David Beckham Manchester United

What squad numbers did David Beckham wear?

Beckham wore No.7 at Manchester United, but switched to No. 23 when he joined Real Madrid in 2003 and continued to wear that number when he moved to LA Galaxy in 2007.

While the No. 23 had become his favoured squad number, he wore the No. 32 in his loan spells at AC Milan, since the No. 7 and No. 23 were held by Alexandre Pato and Massimo Ambrosini respectively.

Article continues below

In choosing to wear the No. 32 at San Siro, Beckham followed legendary Italian striker Christian Vieri, who wore it for the bulk of his career at Inter, AC Milan, Fiorentina and Atalanta.

Beckham, who has '723' tattooed on his hand, also wore No. 32 at Paris Saint-Germain, continuing the use of the digits 2 and 3 until the conclusion of his career.

At international level for England, Beckham wore the No. 7 for the entirety of his Three Lions service.

Close