Retired Football Numbers – Legendary Players and the Digits They Went Down in History With

Football fans and football players know exactly the value of the number they wear on the back of their shirts. Traditionally, it marks the position a player plays at. But in modern times, most teams and players have moved away from the standard format and have begun wearing not-so-standard numbers for their positions. Nwankwo Kanu, being one of them who played forward for Nigeria but wore the number 4 jersey number, usually meant for a defender.

However, it is when a player becomes synonymous with his jersey number that he enters on the realm of legends. You can’t imagine him wearing a different number throughout the years and numerous accomplishments, he has made it his own. For instance, I can’t imagine the famed Real Madrid forward Raul wearing a different number that the famed 7. Even Cristiano Ronaldo had to wear the number 9 while Raul was still at Real.

Some clubs have decided to honour their players by retiring those numbers, never allowing anyone else to carry it on the back of the jersey. Even though the tradition of retiring a number is more suitable for US sports like basketball and ice hockey, football teams have began picking it up. Therefore, today we have a number of retired jersey numbers in football that has become a standard practice.

Why to Clubs Retire Shirt Numbers?

There are a few reasons that make clubs to create retired football jersey numbers. The most obvious one is granting a player legendary status by allowing them to go down in history alongside the number they wore during their career. This usually happens when a player becomes synonymous with one club or has spent his entire career in their childhood club. One such example is Francesco Totti, the Price of Rome, who spent his entire professional career at AS Rome.

Another example is through an unfortunate accident. The best example is that of Marc-Vivien Foé. The Cameroonian player who suffered a cardiac arrest during a game and succumbed to it. To honour him, his former clubs Lens and Manchester City, both retired his numbers. Lens retired number 17, while Man City did the same with 23.

Finally, there is also a bizarre case of retiring a jersey number due to it being simply unlucky. Former Leeds United owner, Massimo Cellino simply decided to retire the number 17 in 2014. He considered it of being unlucky for his club.

Retired Football Jersey Numbers

The list of retired football players and their jersey numbers features some notable names from the world of football. They have all done extraordinary things to earn the right for their clubs to retire the numbers they wore.

Diego Armando Maradona – Napoli #10

For the people of Napoli, Diego Armando Maradona is the embodiment of a God. He is an absolute legend who helped I Partenopei win their first-ever Serie A title during the 1986/87 season.

Maradona played in Napoli between 1984 and 1991, and during that time, the team won five trophies in total. While his image was a bit tarnished with his suspension due to cocaine use at the end of his stint in Napoli, the fans and the club never forgot what he had done for him.

They retired the number 10 and also decided to rename their stadium from Stadio San Paolo to Diego Armando Maradona Stadium in 2020 after his death.

Retired Football Numbers

Javier Zanetti – Inter Milan #4

The famed Il Capitano, Javier Adelmar Zanetti, played for Inter for 19 years. During his time there he stirred them to some of the best and most recent successes that the club has had. He became captain in 1999 and continued to do so until 2014 and his retirement.

He also played a vital role in Inter Milan’s last Champions League trophy. The Neroazzuri defeated Byaern Munich in the 2009/10 finals, with Zanetti crowning his career with one of the most coveted trophies in football. He was known for his credibility, pace, and durability on the field, rarely missing games due to injuries.

After he retired, Inter retired the number 4 shirt and named him Vice President of the club.

Paolo Maldini – AC Milan #3

Another Italian legend, the former AC Milan and Azzurri captain Paolo Maldini, had his famed number 3 shirt retired. Maldini is one of the most recognizable and famous retired football players to ever play for AC Milan, as he spent over 25 years with the club, rising through the youth ranks and then transitioning to the seniors.

He won seven Serie A titles with the Rosonerri and five Champions League trophies. The number of successes is something that you rarely see in today’s football and it earned him the right to have his shirt number retired. However, Paolo also said that if one of his sons ever makes it at Milan, only one of them will be able to wear his old jersey number.

Famous Retired Footballers

Roberto Baggio – Brescia #10

Roberto Baggio became one of the retired football players to have his shirt retired alongside with him in 2004. While Baggio played for some of the most famous clubs in Italy. Including the likes of Juventus, AC Milan, Fiorentina and Inter. He was never really synonymous with any of them.

During his final playing days, he joined Brescia in 2000 and made an absolute boom. He scored 46 goals for the club and made 101 appearances. Most football purists remember him as one of the most complete attackers that the game has ever seen. Brescia gave him the honour by retiring the #10 shirt, which he mostly wore during his career and which he retired in.

Johan Cruyff – Ajax #14

While Johan Cruyff features on almost every list of retired football players, he also has had the honour of having his shirt retired as well. Cruyff played for Ajax, his boyhood club, for 10 years. During his time there, he reinvented football, as most would agree. He became one of the best attackers and masters of the game at his time.

He managed to set heights that a lot of players haven’t been able to achieve ever since then. Cruyff led Ajax to eight Eredivisie titles and three Champions League trophies and even came back to manage the side in the 80s.

Even though he played for Feyenoord at the end of his career, the bitter rivals of Ajax, he received the honour from Ajax having his shirt number 14 lifted into the rafters, never to be worn by an Ajax player ever again.

Bobby Moore – West Ham United #6

Bobby More is not only one of the most famous retired football players, he is seen as one of the best defenders the English football has ever seen. He became the first English captain, and at this time the only, to ever with the World Cup title. At the same time, he stayed true to his boyhood club, West Ham. For which he made more than 500 appearances.

The Hammers decided to retire his famed number 6 jersey number. That way, honour him for everything he has done for the club. Moore was so good that even the legendary Pele gave him credit. He not only said that Moore was the best defender of his time but one that even he had trouble getting past.

Ferenc Puskas – Budapest Honved #10

Before joining Real Madrid, Ferenc Puskas played for the Hungarian team Budapest Honved. Ferenc spent 13 years at the club and, during that period scored more than 300 goals. He was so good that in 1948 became the best scorer in Europe, all while playing in the Hungarian league.

The feats that he pulled at Honved earned him the move to Real. It allowed him to become an even better player. Today, Puskas is not only named in almost every famous retired football players’ list, but he has also earned the right for the trophy of the best goal of the season to be named after him.

Honved decided to credit him for his achievements at the club by retiring his legendary number 10 shirt. He wore the same number in Real and for the Hungarian national side. But he will originally be remembered by dawning it for his boyhood club.

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