There are few greater marks of respect in sport than seeing a shirt number retired in your honour.
It is a common practice in major North American sports and became prevalent beyond those shores following the establishing of squad numbers in football, where for a long period the starting players were given 1 to 11 on a weekly basis depending on position.
In most cases, it’s done out of respect. Either for individuals who have sadly passed away in tragic circumstances or for unique club servants retiring following an esteemed career.
Meanwhile, some clubs – such as Bayern Munich – have dedicated the ‘number 12’ to their supporters.
As such, it’s rare to see a club reverse the act of retiring a shirt number. But here follow 10 examples of clubs doing exactly that.
Galatasaray is the most decorated club in Turkish football history. Cimbom have won 21 league titles, 17 domestic cups and the Uefa Cup in 2000.
An integral part of that success was defender Bülent Korkmaz, who made over 600 appearances between 1987 and 2005. As a one-club man, the powers-that-be felt compelled to prohibit anyone else from wearing his number 3 jersey, but that ruling didn’t last long and since then plenty have done so most notably Felipe Melo.
Rapid Vienna (No.5)
Rapid Vienna have actually done this on two separate occasions. Both shirt numbers in question – numbers five and 11 worn by Austrian defender Peter Schöttel and German midfielder Steffen Hofmann, respectively – were unavailable for a decade before they were reissued.
In today’s current squad, the number 11 is without an owner while Belgian defender Boli Bolingoli-Mbombo proudly wears the number five.
AS Roma (No.6)
Aldair is arguably one of the most popular players in AS Roma’s history. The much-loved Brazilian central defender spent much of his playing career representing the Giallorossi and was set to become their captain when he decided a 22-year-old Francesco Totti should have the armband.
For his services, including helping them win the 2000/01 Italian championship, it felt right to retire his number six jersey. However, a decade after going into retirement, new boy Kevin Strootman asked to have the honour. His wish was duly granted upon Aldair’s say-so.
Persepolis, Schalke 04 & Stabæk (No.7)
Iranian club Persepolis have retired three shirt numbers, one of which is still unavailable – 24 (following the passing of Hadi Norouzi in 2015) – while the number 12 was dedicated to the fans, but has since been taken up by Abolfazl Darvishvand. They also brought the number seven back. It was initially retired after forward Ali Parvin retired in 1987 but the player himself requested that no longer be the case and it has adorned many players since.
Schalke 04, after legendary Spanish centre-forward Raul’s brief sojourn in Gelsenkirchen, felt they couldn’t bear to see another player wearing his number seven. That didn’t last long, though, and since 2013 – until his departure last summer – it belonged to Max Meyer.
It was a similar story at Norwegian outfit Stabæk, who took the number seven out of circulation, to honour defender Christer Basma, but that was duly revoked.
Although he played for six different clubs, Mexican-Argentine footballer Gabriel Caballero is most commonly associated with Pachuca, whom he represented in three spells.
Such was his popularity, the number eight Caballero donned with distinction was retired when he called it quits. But this only lasted five years, when Hirving Lozano – arguably Mexico’s finest player today – was given the shirt.
FC Köln & Livorno (No.10)
For many, the number 10 is football’s most iconic shirt. A who’s who of the greats have worn it from Pele to Diego Maradona and now Lionel Messi. So, whenever a club ensures no one can wear that number, it’s sure to make news. FC Köln and Livorno both temporarily prohibited anyone from placing 10 on their back whilst representing them. Köln arguing it was out of respect for club legend Lukas Podolski, who continues to play, whilst Livorno did so for ex-captain Igor Protti but the latter wanted no part and stressed it’s the dream of many to wear that number.
Barcelona have yet to permanently retire a shirt number. But there was a brief moment when it seemed that could be the case. La Liga, unlike most leagues, have a strict policy when it comes to squad numbers. Under their rules, numbers cannot be retired. Between 2004 and 2006 the number 21, worn by midfielder and future club manager Luis Enrique, was nowhere to be found, until Lilian Thuram swapped Juventus for the Catalan giants.