Soccer players seem to gravitate toward a jersey number and then stick with it; sometimes, it’s due to their position on the pitch, such as the number 9 for a striker or number 1 for a goalkeeper.
Some numbers, though, such as the number 21, can simply be the preferred number a player might choose due to their idol wearing it when they were young.
Table: Football Players With Number 21 Jersey
|Player Name||Clubs/Teams||Key Achievements & Notes|
|Paulo Dybala||Juventus, Roma, Argentina||2022 World Cup winner, Five-time Serie A winner with Juventus.|
|Philipp Lahm||Bayern Munich, Germany||2014 World Cup winner, Eight Bundesliga titles.|
|Frenkie de Jong||Barcelona, Holland||Bought by Barcelona for €75 million.|
|Zinedine Zidane||Juventus, Real Madrid, France||1998 World Cup winner, La Liga and Champions League winner.|
|Andrea Pirlo||AC Milan, Juventus, Italy||Wore number 21 for 20 years, Four titles with Juventus.|
|Luis Enrique||Barcelona, Spain||Played for both Real Madrid & Barcelona, 107 career goals.|
|David Silva||Manchester City, Spain||Nicknamed “Merlin”, Four-time Premier League winner.|
If you think that there can’t be many players who have worn the number 21 jersey, certainly not world-class players anyway, you’re in for a surprise.
Our list of seven soccer players who wore the number 21 is packed with quality, world-class players whose careers stand out above almost every other; let’s get down to business.
Here are the 7 best soccer players that have worn the number 21 jersey.
1. Paulo Dybala – Juventus, Roma & Argentina
2022 World Cup winner Paulo Dybala has worn the number 21 jersey for most of his career, from Juventus to AS Roma, and also for the Argentinian national team.
A five-time Serie A winner with Juventus, Dybala is a lightning-fast, lethal striker with great game intelligence. As you’d expect from a South American soccer player, Dybala’s technical skills are excellent.
Despite not being the largest striker in Serie A, Dybala uses his speed of movement and his ability to anticipate where the ball will go to evade defenders and pop up with crucial goals.
Similar in style to compatriots Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero, Dybala is considered one of the most promising strikers Argentina has produced in years.
2. Philipp Lahm – Bayern Munich & Germany
Former Bayern Munich full-back Philipp Lahm is unquestionably one of the greatest attacking full-backs of all time.
Pep Guardiola has described the former Bayern and Germany captain as the most intelligent player he had ever coached, and it’s easy to see why; Lahm could do everything and play in almost every position on the pitch.
The Bayern number 21 could work both flanks, cross the ball superbly, link up with teammates, and was an excellent defender. Lahm won every domestic trophy going while at Bayern, including eight Bundesliga titles, the Champions League, Super Cup, and World Club Cup.
He was also instrumental in Germany lifting the 2014 World Cup and was voted into the All-Star team for the tournament.
3. Frenkie de Jong – Barcelona & Holland
The youngest player on our list, former Ajax starlet and current Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong’s career has been on a meteoric rise since he broke into the Ajax first team at just 19.
After only 57 games for the Amsterdam giants, de Jong was bought by Barcelona for a whopping €75 million.
Barcelona identified de Jong as one of the most promising players in world soccer, and de Jong fits the Barcelona style perfectly.
He keeps the ball and wants more of it, and when he’s got it, he knows exactly what to do with it. With most of his career ahead of him, the hefty price tag looks like a bargain.
Frenkie de Jong’s playstyle has been compared to that of former West Germany sweeper Franz Beckenbauer, which, under normal circumstances, would be enough to make any player feel the pressure.
The young Netherlands international seems to be taking it all in his stride, and the Barcelona number 21 looks set for a stellar career in European soccer.
4. Zinedine Zidane – Juventus, Real Madrid & France
If Frenkie de Jong is the future of European soccer, then Zinedine Zidane is part of the very history of soccer, with a career that’s beyond fantastic.
Arguably the greatest soccer player France has ever produced, Zidane was a beast of a player, with the subtlety of a ballerina and the power of an NFL Linebacker.
Zidane was one of the most gifted soccer players in history and could make use of even the smallest of spaces, and thanks to his size and strength, he was almost impossible to dispossess.
A World Cup winner with France in 1998 on home soil, Zidane was superb while playing for Juventus but became a phenomenon at Real Madrid.
Despite only winning one La Liga and one Champions League while in Madrid, Zidane’s performances, week after week, were extraordinary.
Capable of the most sublime skills, Zidane could change a game in a heartbeat. His winning goal in the 2002 Champions League final was one of the most incredible volleys you’ll ever see.
5. Andrea Pirlo – AC Milan, Juventus & Italy
Andrea Pirlo must have been a big fan of the number 21 jersey, as he wore it for every season of his 20-year career.
Starting at Brescia in 1996, the future Italian legend started his career in professional soccer wearing the number 21, and two decades later, he retired at New York City FC wearing precisely the same number.
One of the finest deep-lying midfielders of all time, Pirlo was a free-kick specialist and a long-range passer without peer.
After ten successful seasons with AC Milan, Pirlo was released on a free transfer, and was quickly snapped up by Juventus. Four titles in four seasons followed, with the evergreen Italian international at the heart of everything the Turin club did.
Rarely caught in possession and rarely needing to break a sweat, Pirlo did everything calmly, making 80-yard passes look mundane and making the ball, and his opponent, do all the work for him.
Having such an intelligent player sit in front of the defense allowed his teammates to roam freely and made Pirlo one of the greatest midfielders in soccer history.
6. Luis Enrique – Barcelona & Spain
Not many players play for Real Madrid and Barcelona and claim they were a success at each club, but Luis Enrique, the former Spanish midfielder, made a combined 364 appearances for Spain’s top two clubs.
Enrique would even go on to manage Barcelona after retirement before moving on to the Spanish national team.
The versatile number 21 spent five seasons with Real Madrid before a controversial move to their arch-rivals in 1996.
Eight successful seasons with the Catalan club would make Luis Enrique a popular player with the club; his 73 goals in 207 appearances were an excellent return from a player that could play anywhere in midfield or attack.
His versatility, as well as his skills, made Barcelona pursue their man, and though it was a move that drove Real Madrid fans to despair, it’s a move that unquestionably worked out well for the player.
Enrique’s 16-year career saw him score 107 goals, an average of one every four games.
7. David Silva – Manchester City & Spain
When a player’s nickname is “Merlin,” you know you’re going to see something special. The former Valencia academy player David Silva has made his career out of being the most creative and exciting number 21 in soccer.
After six seasons of performing miracles in the Valencia midfield, it was inevitable that Silva’s skills would take him to the very top.
In 2010, Manchester City bought David Silva from Valencia. The World Cup and European Championship-winning midfielder would spend the next decade as one of the best-attacking players in European soccer.
Silva was the most dangerous player on the pitch, regardless of how much money Manchester City spent; when he played well, City was irrepressible.
There’s a real argument to be made that David Silva is the greatest number 21 in history; his World Cup and European Championship win with Spain notwithstanding, he’s also a four-time Premier League winner, won five League Cups, and two FA Cups.
One of the most technically gifted players the Premier League has ever seen, Silva was a class above.