While your typical soccer team will have shirt numbers of 1 to 99.
There are plenty of teams that don’t have all their numbers up for selection.
In fact, some have a selection of them that can’t be used or chosen.
Now while this can be for different reasons.
One of the most common reasons is because they have been retired.
However, what is this, do teams do this and why does it happen?
There is an explanation for this so, in this post, I will be taking you through everything you need to know.
I will also share with you some of the greats to play soccer and have their number retired.
Table of Contents
Do Soccer Teams Retire Numbers?
Soccer teams do retire numbers however its not very common and don’t happen on a frequent basis.
Since every player in a team needs to be assigned a number, it, therefore, isn’t practical to retire several numbers.
As if too many are retired there will become a time, where there is a lack of numbers to be chosen.
Now originally numbers weren’t even retired, as back in the old days of football, players were assigned numbers from 1 to 11.
Meaning that each of the outfield starters would take up a number each on the day.
As a result, it was essentially impossible to retire a number, as someone would need to have it on game day.
But eventually, in the 1993/94 season, the rule was made that clubs would assign numbers to each of their squad members.
As opposed to the original concept of just giving 1-11 to whoever is starting the game.
So as a result of this change numbers were assigned to players, meaning that being able to retire a number was possible.
What Happens After A Shirt Is Retired?
When a soccer team retires a number it means it can no longer be chosen.
So this means no current players could switch to it.
Nor would it allow any players in the future to select it when choosing numbers after signing.
Soccer teams do this for a multitude of reasons, however, whatever the reason be its always to honor a certain player.
Not Every League Retires Numbers
While plenty of teams around the world retire numbers, some leagues tend to not do so.
Instead, if a player has become a legend, then instead of giving up that number.
They will try and find a suitor who will then carry on their legacy.
This is common within the English leagues where numbers are very rarely retired.
In fact, there have been times where top players who have hung up their boots, have been asked about retiring their shirts.
A good example would be Ryan Giggs, who after calling time on his career in 2014, said how he wanted his number 11 shirt to be passed down.
Due to the amount of talent Manchester United creates.
However in some leagues its different, with some teams retiring multiple numbers which will not be used again.
For instance, AC Milan has retired both the number 3 and 6 for club legends Baresi and Paulo Maldini respectively.
While Mexican top division side Pachuca retired 4 numbers.
Why Do Soccer Teams Retire Numbers?
Every club has its own motives for retiring a player number.
It can be just because the club sees it as unlucky.
While another reason could be to honor a player who has played many seasons for them.
In this section, I will take you through all the common reasons that have seen past and even recent players have their number retired.
The most common reason for a footballer’s shirt being retired is due to them dying.
This has happened unfortunately while players have still been under contract for clubs.
It also as you would expect happens after a player’s career when someone who was once a big player for a club passes away.
As a result, some clubs will retire that player’s number to show appreciation for their service to the club.
This happened when Davide Astori who was still playing for Fiorentina at the time tragically died in 2018.
When this happened his number 13 shirt was very quickly retired at Fiorentina and Cagliari.
To show appreciation for the 11 years he spent across both of the clubs.
Club Legend is the next most common reason for clubs retiring numbers.
Now while every club will have players who were great during their time playing for them.
Not every player fits into that club legend category.
So what makes a player a club legend is someone who has shown tremendous loyalty towards them.
Which is even as much as that player spending the majority of their career with that club.
Along with that, they might also have been a real hit with the fans, and one of the first players to come to mind when the club is brought up.
Finally, they most likely showed a lot of respect and gave it their all for every appearance they made.
So while many players become successful at a club, there is a difference between them and the club legends.
This is why clubs recognize this and retire numbers to basically say thank you for dedicating your footballing career to them.
Celebrate An Achievement
While the above reasons can be seen as a sad moment.
As for a club legend, it often marks the end of their career.
Or if its for someone who has passed away its therefore done to remember that player’s life and time at the club.
This reason however is to celebrate an achievement a player has made at the club.
A great and also recent example of this is young star Jude Bellingham who surged through the ranks at Birmingham.
Becoming the youngest footballer to start for the first team and to score, Birmingham retired his shirt to celebrate the achievement.
They did it not only because of that but with the intent to inspire the next generation of talent to come through the youth system.
Many times you will hear that a shirt has been retired due to something sad like the reasons above.
However, this is less of a sad note and instead more inspirational and happy.