Who remembers when it was CR9 and not CR7? What about R10 instead of R9?
Sometimes even legends who have made shirts their own and become synonymous with certain numbers have to wear something different every now and again..
Here’s a look at seven superstars who have been forced at one time or another to adopt a number other than their usual iconic jerseys…
7. Mario Balotelli – #9
Ever enigmatic and controversial, Mario Balotelli’s ties to the number 45 began when he was an emerging talent at Inter Milan and needed to choose a shirt between 36 and 50 which were typically assigned to the youth team players.
He opted for 45 because 4+5=9 and was therefore an appropriate jersey for a striker. He then kept it for superstition’s sake and continued to wear it at Manchester City, Milan (two spells) and Liverpool.
Balotelli was prohibited from donning 45 when he moved to Nice in 2016, though, with Ligue 1 outlawing the high squad numbers that have become popular elsewhere. In France, players can only wear shirt numbers higher than 30 in exceptional circumstances, so Balotelli was forced to take the actual number nine instead.
6. Michael Owen – #11
Michael Owen became number 10 for both club and country not long after bursting onto the scene as a teenager. He took over the shirt from legend John Barnes at Liverpool in 1998 and was England’s regular number 10 around the same time when he became an automatic starter.
But when Owen left Liverpool for Real Madrid, his favoured jersey wasn’t available. Galactico signing Luis Figo had at the Bernabeu and the Englishman was forced to settle for number 11 instead – the shirt he was wearing when he famously scored against Barcelona.
He was back in a number 10 shirt when he returned to England after just one season, though, wearing it at Newcastle until his release from the Magpies in 2009 and then later at Stoke after a questionable stint as Manchester United’s number seven.
5. Xabi Alonso – #22 and #3
Xabi Alonso was wearing number 14 when he scored Liverpool’s famous equaliser in the 2005 Champions League final. He was wearing number 14 when presented with winner’s medals at the 2010 World Cup and back-to-back European Championships with Spain. Real Madrid’s Decima? Number 14. Not since Johan Cruyff has one player been so linked to 14.
But Alonso caused a stir when he joined Bayern Munich in 2014 and ended up with a number three shirt instead. That was because veteran Peruvian striker Claudio Pizzarro already had the 14 at the Allianz Arena.
Alonso got his usual jersey the next season, just as he had done at Real Madrid when he spent his debut campaign in 2009/10 wearing Los Blancos’ number 22 shirt as local legend Guti was still occupying 14. But Alonso always came back to his favourite in the end.
4. Frank Lampard – #18
From the age of 23 to 36, Frank Lampard wore the number eight with distinction for Chelsea, becoming the club’s all-time top scorer during that time and making himself one of the most decorated English players of his generation.
It was also he and not Steven Gerrard who was England’s regular number eight, taking over the number at international level from Paul Scholes in 2004 until his retirement a decade later.
Yet when Lampard moved on from Chelsea for a short-term spell at Manchester City, the number eight was already taken by Samir Nasri and so the veteran had to settle for 18 he had previously worn as a youngster at West Ham. Number eight was back when he moved on to New York City in America.
3. Paul Scholes – #22
Deciding to hang up his boots and retire following yet another Premier League title in 2011, Paul Scholes finally vacated Manchester United’s number 18 shirt after 15 long years.
And because retired jerseys are usually very rare in European sport, the shirt was more or less instantly handed over to new signing Ashley Young when he completed a £20m move from Aston Villa just a few short weeks later.
Clearly feeling he still had plenty left to give, Scholes came out of retirement by January 2012 and played on for another 18 months. But with his old shirt already occupied, the 36-year-old had to take a different number and reverted to the number 22 he’d briefly worn for United many years earlier.
2. Ronaldo – #10 and #11
Widely known as ‘R9’ when he burst onto the scene in the mid-1990s, the ‘phenomenal’ Ronaldo was synonymous with the shirt number that also defined his personal brand.
He wore the jersey for Brazil, at PSV Eindhoven, and then Barcelona as he destroyed La Liga during his sole season with the Catalan giants. But after a world record move to Inter in 1997, the young superstar temporarily wore the number 10 jersey for a season instead.
His favoured shirt was occupied by Ivan Zamorano. Ronaldo did get the number nine back the following year, prompting Zamorano to infamously have a ‘+’ symbol added to his new 18 shirt. Contrary to popular belief, that shift was instigated not by Ronaldo’s demands but by the arrival of Roberto Baggio at Inter, with the ‘Divine Ponytail’ taking his usual number 10 shirt when he joined the club from Bologna in 1998.
Ronaldo later also wore number 11 for a season after moving to Real Madrid because nine was still held by Fernando Morientes at the time. And it was in that number 11 shirt, rather than as ‘R9’, that he scored a now iconic Champions League hat-trick against Manchester United.
1. Cristiano Ronaldo – #9
Much like his namesake with ‘R9’, Cristiano Ronaldo became known as ‘CR7’ after emerging as a world class player at Manchester United and going on to become a global superstar at Real Madrid.
He actually didn’t want the number seven shirt as a teenager, but Sir Alex Ferguson insisted that he have it and now it’s hard to imagine Ronaldo wearing any other jersey.
Yet when he completed his world record £80m move to Real in 2009, Los Blancos legend Raul was still at the club and so CR7 briefly became CR9 for a season until the Spaniard left. He got his hands on Real’s number seven shirt in 2010 and hasn’t relinquished it since.