Ranked! The 10 WORST squad number choices in history

The 10 WORST squad number choices in history: Kalvin Phillips of West Ham United poses after signing at London Stadium on January 25, 2024 in London, England.
(Image credit: West Ham United FC/Getty Images)

Kalvin Phillips is looking to rehabilitate his career at West Ham United and get back into Gareth Southgate's plans for Euro 2024. But can he ever do it wearing the No.11?

The digit isn't often associated with defensive midfielders, with the likes of Romario, Robin van Persie and Mohamed Salah more commonly thought of when you picture those two ones on a shirt. It's decidedly weird to see KP in the No.11 for West Ham after spells at Leeds and Manchester City with the far-more-sensible No.23 and No.4 respectively. 

We wish you the best of luck at the London Stadium and hope that you can get into the Euros squad this summer, Kalvin – but on the condition you don't take this shirt in Germany. Still, Phillips isn't the biggest offender we've ever seen in this genre…

The 10 WORST squad number choices in history: 10. Soccer Aid: Basically everyone

Usain Bolt of the World XI during Soccer Aid for Unicef 2021 at Etihad Stadium on September 04, 2021 in Manchester, England

What the hell is that, Usain? (Image credit: Matt McNulty - Manchester City/Manchester City FC via Getty Images)

Soccer Aid is a brilliant thing. It unites the world of celebrity and football for an event that raises millions for worthy charity, giving fans a chance to see legendary players lining up with the likes of Chunkz. 

But as far as crimes against shirt numbers go, the telethon extravaganza is a repeat offender. Usain Bolt wearing 9.58 – his 100-metre sprint record in seconds – isn't even the worst of it, either: Lee Mack has had 95.80 and 999, while frequently, legends who made the same shirt number famous have both worn it alongside each other. See Patrice Evra and Roberto Carlos both with No.3s. In the same team. Horrible.

We don't care who takes part: they should have to follow the conventions and rules of shirt number etiquette. Even if they are the fastest man on Earth… especially if they're Lee Mack. 

9. Asamoah Gyan, No.3

Asamoah Gyan of Ghana celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group G match between Germany and Ghana at Castelao on June 21, 2014 in Fortaleza, Brazil.

Asamoah Gyan has even had a No.3 bleached into his barnet (Image credit: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

No.3 should be a left-back's number: at a push, a centre-back. It's bad enough that Fabinho wore it for Liverpool – worse still that Wataru Endo took it following his exit. But the No.3 is synonymous in Ghana with forward Asamoah Gyan, who at World Cups gone by, has dyed the digit into his hair, too.

“Three is the shirt I wore as a teenager in Ghana,” he once explained. “If you are lifting something heavy, you count to three before you lift. If you want to warn someone, you warn them once, then twice and the third time you take action.”

Three might well be the magic number… but it seems a bit tenuous to wear it based on lifting something heavy. 

8. Darren Huckerby, No.6

Darren Huckerby of Norwich celebrates his goal with the crowd during the Nationwide Division One match between Norwich City and Ipswich Town at Carrow Road on March 7, 2004 in Norwich, England

Darren Huckerby's No.6 shirt is infamous (Image credit: Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)

Zinedine Zidane made the No.5 legendary. He's one of a number of players to make a shirt number iconic. Unfortunately, Darren Huckerby didn't do the same for the No.6.

Not that there was anything wrong with Huckers – he was a decent player. But the No.6 should simply never go to a pacy winger. A centre-back? Yes. A midfielder? OK, maybe. A left-back, like Roberto Carlos? You're pushing it but fine. 

A Norwich City speed merchant? That's where we draw the line. We don't make the rules but we are slaves to them. 

7. Gianluigi Buffon, No.88

Gianluigi Buffon of Parma #88 during the official presentation of AC Parma new uniform at Ennio Tardini stadium on September 05, 2000 in Parma, Italy

Gianluigi Buffon in his controversial No.88 jersey (Image credit: Claudio Villa/Getty)

Gianluigi Buffon once faced criticism after wearing a shirt bearing the slogan, "Boia chi molla" – which means "Death to cowards" – a phrase used by fascists during the time of Benito Mussolini. Gigi didn't exactly ease the concern, either, when he followed this up by choosing No.88 for his Parma jersey in 2000: a number associated with neo-Nazism.

"I have chosen 88 because it reminds me of four balls and in Italy, we all know what it means to have balls: strength and determination," Buffon declared, presumably from deep down in his hole, spade still clutched in hand. "I wanted 00 but the league told me that was impossible. I also considered 01 but that was not considered a proper number. 

"I liked 01 because it was the number on the General Lee car in the TV series The Dukes of Hazzard," he then randomly came out with, in his second-strangest left-turn after moving to Paris for a season. The Italian giant claimed he had no idea about the racist connotations and since worn No.77 for Juventus and Parma and No.18 for PSG. He's a character, isn't he?

6. Khalid Boulahrouz/Steve Sidwell, No.9

Steve Sidwell of Chelsea of Chelsea tackles Carl Cort of Leicester City during the Carling Cup Fourth Round match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Stamford Bridge on October 31, 2007 in London, England.

Why didn't chelsea give the No.9 to a striker? (Image credit: Paul Gilham/Getty Images)

As Buffon can, unfortunately, testify with his shirt digit debacle, often mistakes come one after another. Chelsea's choice to hand their hallowed No.9 top out to two flops in a row in the noughties is perhaps something that they should have seen coming, though. 

Khalid "the Cannibal" Boulahrouz, a deadly Dutch defender, inherited a striker's jersey in 2006 when he moved to west London surely knowing he was only going to be squad fodder at best. Sure enough, he played 13 unremarkable Premier League games before being spat out to Sevilla on loan – so did Jose Mourinho choose to give the number to a forward and just pretend that mistake never happened?

Well… no. Steve Sidwell inherited it next, later claiming he thinks the Special One was trying to prove a point to the board about the lack of a real No.9 at Stamford Bridge. At least Sidwell managed two more appearances than Boulahrouz, mind. 

5. Rui Patricio, No.11

The shirt of Rui Patricio of Wolverhampton Wanderers is seen inside of the changing rooms ahead of the Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and West Ham United at Molineux on April 05, 2021 in Wolverhampton, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors

It sends shivers down spines (Image credit: Jack Thomas - WWFC/Wolves via Getty Images)

In honour of the previous goalkeeper Carl Ikeme, who had just retired following treatment for acute leukaemia, Rui Patricio chose not to wear the No.1 shirt for Wolverhampton Wanderers

And that's a lovely thing to do. Sao Patricio chose, however, to don the No.11, in one of the most jarring shirt choices in Premier League history. Backup custodians John Ruddy and Will Norris were left with No.21 and No.31, respectively – meaning that each goalkeeper had the No.1, proceeding their ranking of first, second and third-choice. 

Which leaves FFT torn. That's quite unique, in itself – and Patricio's reasoning for not taking the No.1 was obviously great. But we did say we were slaves to the rules… and goalkeepers wearing outfield numbers simply isn't on. Rules are rules – and Rui broke them.

4. Ivan Zamorano, No.1+8

Ivan Zamorano attends Serie A match between FC Internazionale Milano and AC Chievo Verona at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on May 3, 2015 in Milan, Italy.

We thought Ivan Zamorano would want to forget this, not comemorate it (Image credit: Claudio Villa - Inter/Getty Images)

The most famous positive symbol in football – excluding Diego Maradona's 1994 urine sample results – Ivan Zamorano took the biscuit when he couldn't have his No.9 shirt at Inter Milan

While fellow forward Mario Balotelli opted for the No.45 at Manchester City, since four and five equals nine, Big Zamo was a little more on-the-nose, wearing the No.18 in Serie A but putting a little "+" between the two numbers. It's become iconic.

Some loved it, others thought it was lame. Unsurprisingly, it never caught on – and thankfully, few players since have asked fans to do sums simply with their shirt. 

3. Tommy Oar, No.121

Tommy Oar of Australia is penalised for this challenge on Hariono of Indonesia during the Asian Cup Group B qualifying match between the Australian Socceroos and Indonesia at Suncorp Stadium on March 3, 2010 in Brisbane, Australia.

Tommy Oar looking like an athletics competitor with a three-digit number (Image credit: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

If you thought Zamorano's choice of a sum was cheeky, wait until you see the carnage of when the Socceroos stuck their Oar in. 

Australia registered Tommy Oar for his debut as a No.121 – and the excuses since have been spectacular, including those that claim the winger himself wanted the three-digit number since it was his usual shirt number, 11, only squared. Oar himself has even claimed that he thinks it was because he was the 121st Aussie registered to play – though surely the numbers are chosen ahead of the game. 

"My whole career people are showing me articles of people just making up stories, writing articles about it when they see that I wore that number," he claimed. "Completely ridiculous. You've got to laugh."

Sorry, Tommy. Expect to see yet another article about your shirt number pinged over to you shortly. 

2. William Gallas, No.10

William Gallas of Arsenal applauds the crowd before he makes his debut for his new team in the Barclays Premiership match between Arsenal and Middlesbrough at The Emirates Stadium on September 9, 2006 in London, England.

William Gallas followed the legendary Dennis Bergkamp as an Arsenal No.10 (Image credit: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

The No.10 is the most prestigious shirt in football. To give it to a centre-back is sacrilege. 

But it's not just that a centre-back received the number. William Gallas inherited the shirt from Dennis Bergkamp – one of the most beloved footballers ever in north London – on Arsene Wenger's reasoning that it was so difficult for a forward to follow in the non-flying Dutchman's footsteps. So why not write new memories with that number, with a defender? 

Gallas became widely disliked by fans, criticised as a captain for sulking on the pitch and later played for Tottenham Hotspur. It says a lot that every questionable shirt number choice since at the Emirates Stadium – and there have been a few – has been dwarfed by the Gallas fiasco.

1. Edgar Davids, No.1

Barnet player manager Edgar Davids gives out orders to his team during the Skrill Conference Premier match between Barnet and Wrexham AFC at The Hive Stadium on October 13, 2013 in London, England.

You're our No.1, Edgar – literally (Image credit: Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images)

You have to be pretty extroverted to wear Nike-branded silver and orange sunglasses in top-level football. But that's nothing compared to the self-confidence that Edgar Davids was imbued with during his stint as Barnet player/manager. 

A Champions League winner in the lower leagues of England is a big deal – and the Pitbull didn't shy away from that. Claiming he was going to "start a trend", Davids gave himself the No.1 shirt – yes, really – and proceeded to get sent off three times in the first eight games of the season – still, yes, really.

Eventually, he told his team he would not attend any away games which required an overnight stay before leaving in January as one of the most disastrous bosses English football had ever seen – and ruining the chance of the No.1 ever being used by an outfield player ever again without comparisons to his ill-fated catastrophe at the Hive. 

Well, it was either No.1 or playing up to his nickname and wearing the No.305 shirt…

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