Number 9 In Soccer: Why It’s So Special

Numbers in today’s soccer world play a big role in identifying players. It’s hard to imagine the days when numbers on the back of jerseys did not even exist, but the start of that practice had very humble beginnings.

The #9 jersey in soccer might not be the most popular, as that’s usually reserved for #7 and #10. However, it’s still a pretty special number in the eyes of many. What makes #9 a highly sought-after number?

Why Is The Number 9 Special In Soccer?

The #9 jersey is usually worn by center forwards or strikers in soccer. When numbers were first introduced, this is where those players lined up on the field.

That means some of the most skilled players on teams wore the number, and they tend to get the most headlines. As the game evolves, fans of previous players want to wear #9 to emulate them.

Who Are The Most Famous Players To Wear Number 9?

  • Ronaldo (R9)
  • Johan Cruyff
  • Bobby Charlton
  • Alan Shearer
  • Marco Van Basten
  • George Weah
  • Robert Lewandowski
  • Harry Kane
  • Luis Suarez

The #9 jersey has been worn by many different stand-out players in soccer history. For example, some of the best of the best include Ronaldo, Marco Van Basten, Robbie Fowler, Alan Shearer, and Johan Cruyff.

No matter what time a player grew up or what unique background they have, chances are they grew up watching at least some of these players. They collectively have inspired a lot of people to put on this jersey number.

Out of that entire list, Ronaldo is probably the most revered in soccer circles. People are still very familiar with all he was able to accomplish on the hitch, and he’s built his brand even in retirement. A lot of people in Brazil have adopted wearing his number on teams of their own, and he’ll always have his place as far as a legacy is concerned.

As one can see, all the players to make this list played roughly the same position. In the next few years, there might be some players who are inspired to wear #9 while becoming a player lining up somewhere else. That has more to do with the evolution of the game, as wearing #9 out of position is a relatively new phenomenon. Speaking of which…

Can a Player Wear #9 At a Different Position?

Any player in soccer can now wear #9 if they wish. Some teams still stay very traditional, and they will not give it to certain positions. However, those rules seem to be pretty much lifted these days, so if it’s available, a player can go ahead and wear it.

If there’s any type of argument, or a new player wants to wear #9, but it is already taken, players can take it into their own hands to figure things out. In some instances, a brand new player will pay someone who already wears #9 a bit of money to give it up.

This is especially important if a player has their number already included in their own personal logo, as it can make things pretty awkward when wearing a new number.

Why is wearing different numbers now acceptable? Many factors play into it, but it is much easier to see who is who on the pitch than before. Upgrades in televisions across the globe certainly help with that. There’s also the last name on almost every jersey, making it easier to identify a certain person.

Finally, so many players are tied to their numbers as they develop their individual brands. Being forced to wear a particular number based on format does not make that much sense in the modern game of soccer.

When Did Numbers Truly Become Associated With Soccer?

Numbers were not on the back of jerseys for soccer players consistently until around the 1950s. In fact, the 1954 World Cup is the first time the organizers decided that players could keep the same number at all times, rather than switch up uniform numbers when changing positions.

This was not only a good move to help cut down on any confusion, but it allowed individuals to grow their own legacy. Switching jerseys nowadays would seem like a pointless waste of time for most, and it wouldn’t go over well. If anything, it would cause more confusion.

Are Traditional #9 Players Always On The Attack?

There’s always been this phrase known as “false nine,” a soccer position that is slightly different from the norm. In this case, the number nine player on a traditional squad drops a little deeper into the attacking midfield position.

This is to not only help defensively at certain times, but it opens everything up to find a bit more space. A false nine is responsible for being a playmaker and creating goal-scoring opportunities, instead of being extremely on the attack at all times.

The advantage of using a false nine is that strikers can be more playmakers than anything. Teams that have creative strikers might want to go in this direction.

It also gives attacking midfielders and wingers a chance to move ahead of the number nine if they want. It’s a strategy worth mentioning, but most opt to keep this player in their traditional spot.

Is The #9 For a Jersey Lucky?

Every number can be considered lucky by people wearing it. Some are usually ranked as luckier than others, and nine isn’t particularly high on that list. Still, people can have personal connections to the number, or they started with the #9 and never changed throughout childhood all the way to the pros.

All it takes is some great performances wearing the #9 jersey for people to gravitate more and more towards wearing it for the rest of their career. It becomes part of them and provides a good amount of excitement.

When Ronaldo was at his peak, the #9 suddenly became a lot luckier for players all around the world. His electric style had a lot of people striving to emulate him in their own ways.

The #9 Jersey In other Sports

The number nine jersey is popular in more than just soccer, which has helped keep it in the spotlight all these years. For example, players such as Dwyane Wade, Tony Parker, Gordie Howe, and Drew Brees show quite a bit of variety across several sports.

Pair those stars with soccer players wearing #9, and younger athletes have plenty of inspiration to draw from.

Why #9 Will Always Stay Popular

The #9 jersey will stay pretty popular forever, mostly because of its history. It also helps that it’s a single-digit number, as there’s something easy to remember to help build a brand as an individual player.

Greats in the sports have worn #9, and more greats are inevitably on their way to carve out their own history as well.


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Connor Smith

I'm Connor, the guy behind SoccerPrime. I'm a former NCAA Div 1 college player that retired at the age of 21 due to injuries - which led me into a new career as a soccer coach.

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