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Lionel Messi is considered the best player ever to play the beautiful game

10 greatest players to wear the coveted number 10 jersey

Herbert Chapman, the visionary Arsenal manager, popularised the printing of squad numbers on the back of jerseys in a match way back in 1928 against Sheffield Wednesday. His idea was to create awareness among his players to keep in mind their relative positions on the field.


The numbers were assigned in ascending order starting with the goalkeeper, who wore the number 1 shirt and so on. Those were the days when the 2-3-5 formation was being predominantly used by teams worldwide. Hence the out-and-out strikers of the team wore the numbers 9 and 10 on the back of their shirts.


The tradition of numbering, which was once rejected by England's governing body, has gone on to become one of the most symbolic things that one can relate with a footballer. Whenever a club announces a new signing, fans look forward to the jersey number that is given to him.


This signifies the importance that has been given to these numbers. In the modern footballing world, revenue generated from shirt sales is a significant talking point.


With the evolution of new formations, the roles that were assigned to the previous Chapman squad numbers began to change. One number that was kept reserved for the best player in the team since the 1950s was the number 10. Position wise, this number was associated with a second striker that later got anointed as an attacking midfielder, and also as a trequartista in some formations.


Whatever may be the role, the footballing world has seen the best players ever to grace the field don the number 10 jersey. On that note, let's take a look at ten of the greatest players to wear the number 10 jersey in their illustrious careers.



#10 Francesco Totti

Totti is often called as the epitome of loyalty

"When you hear about Roma, you think of Totti." The man who is considered as the Gladiator of Italian football and the golden boy of Rome, Francesco Totti was a one-club man in his playing career, wearing his heart on his sleeve for AS Roma.


Totti has played in several interesting systems like playing as a false nine, as a trequartista, a winger and also as an out and out striker. Whatever may be the role, the Italian has shone for his boyhood club whenever he has donned the famous red shirt.

Totti left a lasting legacy at Roma and is sure to go down as one of the greatest players to have donned the famous shirt.

#9 Denis Law

Denis Law holds an important place in Manchester United's folklore

''The Lawman'' as the Old Trafford faithful fondly referred to him, was one of the best players to grace the Theatre of Dreams. Sir Matt Busby has previously called Law the best player he ever managed, which is a huge compliment considering the players the legendary Scotsman has coached.

Law was a hard-working player who always had an eye for goal, which prompted Sir Busby to play him as the second striker. He won the coveted Ballon d'Or back in 1964, donning the number 10 jersey. Alongside George Best and Sir Bobby Charlton, he was also a part of the Manchester United's Holy Trinity of attackers.

#8 Roberto Baggio

Roberto Baggio scoring a freekick during his Brescia days

The winner of FIFA's World Player of the Year award in 1993, Italian Hall of Famer Roberto Baggio needs no introduction. "Il Divin Codino" - the Divine ponytail as he was fondly called during his playing career, Baggio had an eventful career for club and country.

He had more than 200 Serie A goals to his name and was also one of Italy's top goal scorers with 27 international goals. Baggio sported the number 10 jersey during his spells at Juventus and Inter Milan and also for his national team, Italy.

He played as a second striker or as an attacking midfielder throughout his career. But as luck would have it, despite his immense talent, he will always be remembered for his missed penalty in the 1994 World Cup final against Brazil.

#7 Michel Platini

Platini was a midfield maestro for Juventus

The Frenchman was one of the best playmakers the beautiful game has ever produced. Along with his creativity, it was his prolific goalscoring which made him one of the best of his generation. Playing in the number 10 role, Platini achieved great heights at Saint-Etienne and Juventus, while also playing a significant role in France's 1984 Euro win.

The Frenchman won three consecutive Ballon d'Or's from 1983-85 and was also adjudged French Player of the Century in 1999. Platini will always be highly regarded on the football pitch as a leader, and a dominant midfield maestro who could paint masterpieces on the field.

#6 Ronaldinho

The Brazilian was a force to reckon with during his Barcelona days

"Gaucho" donned many jersey numbers throughout his career, but his standout years came at Barcelona where he sported the iconic number 10. The silky, flashy playmaker was an idol to an entire generation and was also responsible for kick-starting a new era for the Catalans.

He had all the tricks in the box, as he enthralled football lovers with his elasticos and no-look passes. He was FIFA's Player of the Year in 2004 and 2005 and also won the World Cup with Brazil in 2002.

Ronaldinho did not score 30 goals a season or exhibit brilliant work rate throughout his professional career, but the joy that he brought with a ball at his feet made him one of the most loved players of all-time.

#5 Zico

Zico was Brazil's most valuable player in the 70s and 80s

The White Pele as he was lovingly called during his playing career, Zico was one of the best playmakers ever to play football. His vision, coupled with his brilliant finishing made him Brazil's talisman in the late 1970s and early 1980s. During this period, he was considered the best player in the world by football fans and critics.

The Brazil team of the 70s and 80s put on quite a show with their flair and class, and Zico was at the helm of the side playing as a number 10. Zico played in a number 10 position for Brazil and remains one of the best players to have never won the World Cup.

#4 Zinedine Zidane

Zidane was an important figure for France

It's hard to find the right words to describe an enigma like Zinedine Zidane. The Frenchman was as elegant a footballer as one ever saw and was one of the best attacking midfielders of his generation. His pirouettes were a piece of art, while his goal for Real Madrid in the Champions League final against Bayer Leverkusen in 2002 remains one of the best goals ever.

Alfredo Di Stefano once described the former Real Madrid great: "He makes it worthwhile going into the stadium." Such was the aura and elegance of the man who sadly ended his career with a sending off in the 2006 World Cup final against Italy.

#3 Pele

Pele was the first big global superstar of football

Michel Platini was quoted saying, "To play like Pele is to play like God." The Brazilian was the first superstar of world football and captured the imagination of the world with his brilliant goalscoring feats and amazing trickery. He donned the number 10 jersey for Brazil, for whom he won a record three World Cups.

Brazil, with Pele in the side, are often termed as the best team of all-time, and the attacking quality in that team is still unmatched by any team since then. Pele was called the "King of Football" for his sublime goal tally coupled with his trophy cabinet.

#2 Diego Maradona

Diego Maradona won the 1986 World Cup for Argentina

Diego Armando Maradona was more than a footballer. He was a saviour to his country, and to his clubs, Napoli and Boca Juniors. Maradona was a one-man army and he succeeded in becoming one of the best players to grace the world.

Sporting the number 10 jersey, he scored many magical goals, which include the 'goal of the century' against England in 1986. The Argentinian legend was a classic number 10, a perfect trequartista whose dribbling was second to none.

Napoli retired the number 10 shirt in honour of their greatest ever player. His vision, goalscoring abilities and legacy have ensured that he has cemented a place among the greats of the game.

#1 Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi has a record six Ballon d'Or awards to his name

The Argentine might not have played in a traditional number 10 position in his career, but he embodies the fundamental idea of having the number 10 on the back. It is said that the best player in a team usually wears the coveted shirt and who else is/was better than "La Pulga".

Many critics have said that Messi cannot be termed as 'the best of all-time' without a World Cup to his name, but to justify his greatness, one has to look at the statistics and the sheer number of trophies that he has amassed.

One Spanish commentator put it quite simply and rightly to describe Messi after he scored a magical goal: "Say thanks to your mothers that she gave birth to you so that you can see Lionel Messi live."

Edited by
Staff Editor
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