While I was writing my first Soccer by the Numbers post about how player jersey numbers have evolved, I got to thinking. Just for fun, I came up with a list of who I think are the best players in history to wear specific numbers.
Without further ado, I give you my fantasy team, and why I picked my roster.
#1. Lev Yashin, Russia: I wanted to pick Ossie Ardiles because he wore number 1 when Argentina allocated jerseys alphabetically but I thought it was a cop out.
#2. Berti Vogts, Germany: I Know it’s “out here” pick but he captained Germany during one of their most dominant eras.
#3. Paolo Maldini, Italy: He read the game so well and I loved his quote – “If I have to make a tackle then I have already made a mistake.”
#4. Franz Beckenbauer, Germany: He would be my captain.
#5. Zinédine Zidane, France: Not the normal number you would associate with Zizou but he wore this number for Real Madrid.
#6. Xavi, Spain: Great playmaker and a “winner”.
#7. George Best, Northern Ireland: Sorry, I can’t pick Ronaldo and who could not vote for the 5th Beatle.
#8. Frank Rijkaard, Netherlands: I thought about picking Iniesta here and could have gone either way but Rijkaard’s guile, strength and quickness and along with his success for club and country gave him the nod.
#9. Alfredo Di Stefano, Spain: Legend. He led Real Madrid during a time when earned the reputation of being the best side of all time.
#10. Pele, Brazil: Sorry, Maradona and Messi fans – it’s the old school in me. Messi’s obviously incredible but has to do it in a World Cup to take our Pele for me.
#11. Gareth Bale, Wales: I can hear the abuse already – but check it out. Not a lot of greats wore this number.
Other notables not 1-11
#13. Gerd Mueller, Germany: The best pure finisher
#14. Johan Cruijff, Netherlands: Perhaps the best soccer mind ever.
I’m sure many of you will disagree. Have at it! When you consider who your best would be, I think you will find it’s not easy. Too many of the top players wore the same number. I would love to include Platini in this list and I was close to picking Brazil’s Ronaldo in the 9 spot. It was also a little harder as I was determined not to select an English player! Gordon Banks was considered for the GK spot though.
I think you have to judge players on how they performed in their era. One last note – do you know how tempted I was to include many more Welsh players on this list or even Leeds United Players from my childhood: 4 Bill Bremner, 10 Johnny Giles and of course 6 Norman “Bites Yer Legs” Hunter.
So who would you put where? Share in the comments below!