Over the years, we have seen many clubs retiring jersey numbers to honour their legendary players. Retiring a shirt number is the ultimate honour to a loyal servant of a football club, a player who has made a huge impression in his playing time and become a fan-favourite.
Giving up an important squad number once and for all is not an easy choice, but many clubs have done it down the years which deserves respect.
Let us take a look at ten players whose jersey numbers were retired by their clubs:
1. Raul – Schalke #7
One of the all-time greats of Real Madrid, Raul, was shown a fantastic gesture by Schalke after his tenure at the German club. After spending more than 15 years at Real Madrid, the Spanish forward joined the Bundesliga side and spent just two seasons there, making a solid impact.
But, it was a surprising gesture to see the Royal Blues retiring their number 7 jersey in honour of the Spanish great.
Schalke legends Olaf Thon and Ingo Anderbrugge did not take their club’s decision too kindly at all and publicly criticised the Bundesliga giants for this move. Raul, despite being in his 30s when he joined the German club, scored 40 goals for them in just two seasons.
2. Diego Maradona – Napoli #10
Considered as one of the best players ever to grace the football pitch, Diego Maradona was a superstar at Serie A side Napoli for seven long years. He donned the number ten jersey of the Italian giants from 1984 to 1991 and achieved a lot with them.
Maradona could spur a team to success single-handedly, and he did that with Napoli to help them win their maiden Serie A in 1986-87.
The Italian giants won a total of five trophies, and the Argentine was at the heart of each of those. Though he left Napoli in an undesired fashion after serving a 15-month ban for failing a drug test for cocaine use, the Serie A giants did show gratitude to their hero by retiring their number ten shirt.
3. Pele – New York Cosmos #10
Widely regarded as the greatest ever footballer, Pele was shown a significant amount of respect by New York Cosmos where he spent the last two years of his career. ‘The Black Pearl’ plied his trade for his boyhood club Santos for almost two decades, and his move to the US only increased his popularity and reputation.
Pele made 107 appearances scoring 64 goals for the Cosmos. After his retirement, the club retired the #10 jersey worn by him.
The NY Cosmos were dissolved in 1985 and again founded in 2010.
4. Javier Zanetti – Inter Milan #4
One of the most adored players of the last two decades, Javier Zanetti became a vital player for Inter Milan. The Argentine spent 19 years at the San Siro club and enjoyed plenty of success. He captained the Nerazzurri from 1999 to 2014 and was famously called ‘Il Capitano ’ or ‘The Captain’.
Inter president Erick Thohir announced that the club would be retiring the iconic #4 jersey donned by the Argentine full-back at the end of the season, and he would also be made Vice President of the club as a tribute to his services in 2014.
5. Bobby Moore – West Ham United #6
The greatest English defender ever and the only English captain to have lifted the World Cup, Bobby Moore was shown a great amount of respect by West Ham United when the East London club retired his jersey number 6 once and for all.
Moore spent 16 years at West Ham making over 500 appearances for the Hammers. He was known for his excellent ability to read the game and was touted as the best defender of all time by none other than Pele.
6. Roberto Baggio - Brescia #10
Christened as ‘The Divine Ponytail’ thanks to his famous hairstyle, Roberto Baggio is considered as one of the best Italian players of all time and graced the pitch for a host of clubs which included Inter Milan, Juventus, Milan and Fiorentina.
But, it was Brescia who gave the iconic forward the ultimate respect by retiring his number 10 jersey.
Baggio spent the last few years of his illustrious career at Brescia where he scored 46 goals in 101 games. One of the most complete attackers football has ever seen, Baggio is still remembered fondly in Italian football.
7. Ferenc Puskas – Budapest Honved #10
The best Hungarian footballer of all time, Ferenc Puskas, played for Budapest Honved from 1943-1956 scoring over 300 goals in 341 appearances. While at Honved, he became the top scorer in the Hungarian league on four occasions and in 1948, he was the top goal scorer in Europe.
Honved honoured him by retiring the number 10 kit worn by him.
The legendary forward then went to join Real Madrid and won numerous trophies and is a much-reveredHe achieved plenty of success with the Spanish capital club too and is still remembered as one of the best strikers in the game.
8. Franco Baresi – AC Milan #6
AC Milan have seen many great players in the past 2-3 decades, and Franco Baresi will be one of the names at the top of that list. The legendary Italian defender represented Milan throughout his career playing over 700 games and winning a plethora of trophies.
He is also credited for being a mentor to a then young Paolo Maldini who would also go on to become a club great.
Baresi was voted as the club’s best player of the 19th century, and it was hardly a surprise to see Milan retiring the number 6 shirt in honour of him.
9. Paolo Maldini – AC Milan #3
Paolo Maldini, one of the best defenders of all time, was a Milan boy throughout his career. The Italian enjoyed plenty of success in the Rossoneri colours including five Champions League titles, which is a remarkable feat.
A servant of the club for over 25 years, it's fair to say Paolo Maldini earned the honour of retaining his number three shirt. Although the number '3' has been officially retired, Maldini does have the right to re-instate it if any of his sons play for Milan.
10. Johan Cruyff – Ajax #14
Cruyff was not just one of the greatest footballers of all time, but his contributions to the game even after retirement were tremendous. The game owes a lot to the Dutch master who reinvented football in many ways.
Cruyff joined Ajax when he was just a 10-year-old boy and had an incredible journey, first as a player and then as a manager.
During his playing career won the Eredivisie title 8 times and the European Cup 3 times. Even after his playing career, Cruyff's love affair with Ajax continued, returning to manage the team for three years during the 1980s. His iconic number 14 jersey was retired by the Amsterdam side in 2007.