Number one is the keeper, number 9 is the striker, number 10 is the playmaker, but the number 7 shirt is usually reserved for the superstar. No squad number holds more weight and prestige in the footballing world than the number 7 and many of the world’s greatest footballers have donned the famous number 7 shirt.
At times, it has acted like a double bladed sword; either the player rewarded with the number 7 shirt has failed to live up to its aura, or they have flourished into footballing sensations. Here are four superb Premier League number 7s and three who failed to further the shirt’s stature.
Eric Cantona would be a hard act to follow for any footballer, but not for David Beckham. He gave up the number 10 shirt to take over where King Cantona left off and he never looked back. Becks went on to become one of the most recognisable sportsmen on the planet, winning a whole host of domestic and European trophies with United, and was twice runner-up in the World Player of the Year competition, now more commonly known as the Ballon d’Or.
Under the guidance of Arsene Wenger – who entrusted the little-known winger with the number 7 shirt when he arrived from Marseille – Pires blossomed into one of the most magical and majestic midfielders the Premier League has seen. He was an integral part of the Arsenal team who went unbeaten throughout the 2003-04 season and remains a fans’ favourite down at The Emirates.
It was a lot of pressure to heap on such young shoulders when Sir Alex Ferguson handed the baby-faced Portuguese winger United’s fabled number 7 shirt. He was only 18 at the time and it took him a few years to find his feet in English football. But once he did, the rest is history. Cristiano Ronaldo established himself as one of the best footballers in the world, during his time in England, scoring 66 goals in his final three seasons and became the first Manchester United player since George Best (another famous number 7), to be crowned World Footballer of the Year in 2008.
Suarez’s arrival from Ajax was overshadowed by the British record transfer of Andy Carroll when the pair arrived at Anfield. Whilst the latter endured a fairly forgettable time at Liverpool, Suarez went from strength to strength, establishing himself as one of the best strikers in the world, before moving to Barcelona three years later. Kevin Keegan and Kenny Dalglish made the Liverpool number 7 shirt famous. Luis Suarez kept that legacy alive, and he did it in style.
I’ve got nothing against the Canadian defender. He proved to be a versatile squad player during his time at White Hart Lane. But why, oh why – in a squad boasting talents like Robbie Keane, Jermaine Defoe, Edgar Davids and Michael Carrick – was an economy wing-back assigned the hallowed number 7 shirt?
Owen will go down as one of the best strikers ever to grace the Premier League, but considering he joined United at the back-end of his career and he was only guaranteed a bit part in the team, why was he deemed the right successor to Ronaldo as United’s number 7? It doesn’t make sense. Sure, he scored a few notable goals for United, but his time at Old Trafford certainly won’t be the highlight of his glittering career.
Winston Bogarde is one of football’s biggest enigmas. After winning the Champions League with Ajax and spells at AC Milan and Barcelona, Bograde arrived at Chelsea with a big reputation to live up to.
Four years later – after pocketing a staggering £40,000 per week – he left on a free, having made only nine appearances in the Premier League. What a waste of money.