The dynamics that go into picking a squad number in football are fascinating, to say the least. Specific numbers have gone on to become more significant than others for many reasons. This is, more often than not, due to the personnel that donned them in the past.
For instance, the iconic number ten is usually associated with the creative hub of the side, such as Leo Messi at Barcelona and Neymar at Paris Saint-Germain. The number seven has been donned by some of the all-time greats as well, including Cristiano Ronaldo, Raul Gonzalez, and several others.
For this reason, there is arguably no bigger sign of respect in football than when a club chooses to retire a prominent number in honour of a player, as a sign of respect.
This could be purely based on merit, such as Schalke 04 retiring Raul's number seven permanently, or George Weah's number 14 being retired by Liberia. Clubs have also retired shirt numbers in the event of an untimely passing away of a player, such as Emiliano Sala's number nine at Nantes, Davide Astori's number 13 at Fiorentina, and Junior Malanda's number 19 at Wolfsburg.
On that note, here, we take a look at five famous footballers whose shirts were retired by their clubs.
#5 Pele | New York Cosmos' #10
Historically, not many clubs in world football have retired the famous number ten shirt in honour of a player, but Pele was no ordinary footballer. The Brazilian game is widely regarded as the greatest player to have played the game, and he's won the World Cup on three occasions with the Selecao, more than any player in football history.
Although he spent nearly two decades with Santos, where he established himself as a football icon, it was the star-studded New York Cosmos that honoured him by retiring the number ten shirt. Pele had a three-year spell in the United States, during which he scored 37 goals and set up a further 30.
It was at the Giants Stadium in New Jersey where he played his final game, during which he played one half for the Cosmos and the other for his former side, Santos. His Cosmos shirt was retired at half-time during this game. A legendary farewell for a true legend of the game.
#4 Javier Zanetti | Internazionale's #4
Javier Zanetti is one of the greatest full-backs to have graced the sport. With a staggering 615 Serie A appearances for Inter (858 across all competitions) and an overall figure of 1,114 for club and country, Zanetti is the proud holder of a host of records. He is also arguably Internazionale's greatest-ever captain, having helped them to five Scudetti and a European treble among other major titles.
His 19 years at San Siro, out of which he spent 13 as captain, is regarded as one of the greatest spells a player has had at any club, and Inter paid a remarkable tribute to the Beunos Aries-native. The Nerazzurri permanently retired his shirt number with a touching statement, saying the number four is 'forever Zanetti's'.
Zanetti was subsequently appointed as part of the Inter board to recognize his contribution towards the club apart from having his shirt number retired.