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What’s in a Number? Iconic Shirt Numbers in the Premier League

October 05, 2015

- Grant Whittington

When Luke Shaw joined Manchester United from Southampton to become the world’s most expensive teenager in 2014, you would have thought that is shirt number would be the last thing on his mind. Footballers are superstitious beings, however, and Shaw was adamant that he wanted to keep the number 23 shirt that he had worn during his time with the Saints. However, that was already taken by Tom Cleverley until the midfielder left for Everton this season allowing the young full-back his favoured shirt.

This story underlines the fact that football shirts are so much more than just a number, with many players and clubs having iconic digits that are an intrinsic feature of their history.

Some clubs have even retired specific shirts in honour of a legendary player, so here are three clubs and their iconic numbers…

Number 25 at Chelsea

In many instances, iconic shirt numbers are created by the legendary players that wear them. Take the number 25 at Chelsea for example, which was popularised by the diminutive Italian Gianfranco Zola. He led the Blues’ continental renaissance in the mid-nineties, after nearly two decades of decline in the wilderness of the Football League. Due to his incredible technical ability, quick feet, and indisputable courage (not to mention the influence he had after his move from Parma), Chelsea retired the number 25 shirt from service once he had left.

Number 7 at Manchester United

Such is the roster of players that have worn the coveted number seven shirt at Manchester United it can often place a great burden on those that wear it. From George Best and the legendary Bryan Robson to modern stars such as David Beckham and the incomparable Cristiano Ronaldo, Manchester United’s number seven is elevated as a symbol of greatness at the club. Players who assume this number must therefore not only be talented, but they must also have incredible bravery and belief in their own abilities.

Number 23 at Manchester City

Occasionally, shirt numbers may be retired or immortalised by tragedy rather than the player who wore them. This was the case with former Manchester City star Marc Vivien-Foe, who wore the number 23 shirt during his stint with the team. While Foe was an incredibly talented player who earned a cult following during his time at Maine Road, his shirt number was retired out of respect after his sudden and tragic death while representing Cameroon during the African Cup of Nations in 2003. This was a shock to fans around the world, and no City players have worn this tragic jersey since that fateful day.

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