Thursday October 4 2012
No 10 shirt downsized

Once a clear pointer to a side’s best player, the No 10 shirt is starting to lose its magic in Serie A. Antonio Labbate writes.

The No 10 was once a sacred jersey in Italian football. A second skin for the game’s most gifted and creative players, an instant indication of a team’s source of inspiration, today it continues its sliding transition from the shirt kids dreamed about wearing to just another squad number.

In a country where players of the calibre of Gianni Rivera, Giancarlo Antognoni, Michel Platini, Roberto Mancini, Giuseppe Giannini, Roberto Baggio, Francesco Totti and Alex Del Piero have had their fantasy, class and genius recognised by a number on their back, the majority of today’s 17 Serie A players who have been given that mythical 10 by their club have little in common with its tradition.

Juventus are one of three top-flight clubs, along with Napoli and Cagliari, where the numeral remains unassigned. While Napoli’s has been withdrawn in honour of the great Diego Maradona, the Turin giants opted to keep the number free following the departure of previous owner Alessandro Del Piero – who was against its retiring – this summer.

“Del Piero is missed a lot, but I would not put on his No 10 shirt,” stated Claudio Marchisio. “Whilst it was an ambition of mine when I was younger, I was an attacker back then and now I am a midfielder. I am not Platini, Baggio or Del Piero. I’m not one who can decide a game, so I do not deserve to ever wear that shirt.”

Not everyone, unfortunately, holds the jersey and its historical significance in such high regard. Fiorentina goalkeeper Cristiano Lupatelli did the previously unthinkable while at Chievo and asked for the 10. The club, unbelievably, gave it to him. “The value of numbers in football is changing,” the custodian noted. “The No 10 is not as special as it once was.”

That was further highlighted by the events at Genoa this summer when a dispute between Alexander Merkel and Cristobal Jorquera over who would get the jersey ended up in a blind auction. Although the money ended up going to charity and Merkel is a promising player, he’s not your archetypal – or what we once perceived as a typical – No 10.

So what’s changed? There is no doubt that a combination of factors have seen the jersey lose its uniqueness. The introduction of stable squad numbers in the 1990s worked wonders for merchandising, but allowed players worthy of the 10 to go and pick other digits. Antonio Cassano, for example, has opted for the 99 in recent years.

The evolution of tactics in Serie A may also be a factor given the downturn in true trequartisti, whereas the economic crisis has also had a part to play, given that the peninsula has lost more than one high class player with the ability to shine in a No 10. Take Milan, for example. Zlatan Ibrahimovic was all set to inherit the 10 from Clarence Seedorf until he was sold to Paris SG this summer. Kevin-Prince Boateng subsequently filled the void.

Boateng can be a great player on his day, but he’s no Wesley Sneijder or Francesco Totti when it comes to being a natural fit. But the Ghanaian isn’t the only man on the Serie A landscape whose ability and squad number don’t add up.

Alberto Aquilani, a mezz’ala, was handed the status symbol at Fiorentina this summer despite being half a player on the evidence of his last two seasons on the peninsula. While it seems bombers now have a right to the combination of the one and the zero after Maxi Lopez and Alberto Gilardino took up the number following moves to Sampdoria and Bologna respectively.

“I’ve come here to score goals, not set them up,” admitted Gilardino, perhaps with a hint of embarrassment, after attacking schemer Gaston Ramirez opted for a switch to Southampton. “I admit that it’s a bit weird to have the No 10 jersey with my name on it, but it was one of the only shirts left.”

And for those who’ll no doubt question what all the fuss is about, that the 10 is only a number, well, that’s now the point…

Serie A’s present No 10s: Giacomo Bonaventura (Atalanta), Alberto Gilardino (Bologna), Francesco Lodi (Catania), Luciano (Chievo), Alberto Aquilani (Fiorentina), Alexander Merkel (Genoa), Wesley Sneijder (Inter), Mauro Zarate (Lazio), Kevin-Prince Boateng (Milan), Fabrizio Miccoli (Palermo), Jaime Valdes (Parma), Mervan Celik (Pescara), Francesco Totti (Roma), Maxi Lopez (Sampdoria), Gaetano D’Agostino (Siena), Alessandro Sgrigna (Torino), Antonio Di Natale (Udinese).

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Have your say...
Really 10s - Totti, di Natale and Miccoli
on the 24th December, 2012 at 2:17pm
passion -gifted- Tardeli world cup goal- four world cups Italian football still lives on and may be behind premier and la liga but come those world cups italia will be there or there abouts number 10 baloteli the next generation.

premier leage english players will reduce even further and the england team will be picked from the championship
on the 11th October, 2012 at 10:29am
As a Milan fan I can't believe they've given Boateng the number 10 after Boban, Seedorf, Savicevic etc. Kind of sums up how things have changed at the club.
on the 6th October, 2012 at 3:35pm
No#10 are meant for a complete player. A centre piece in the team. The one that will turn the game around all by himself. Other than ADP and Totti, Sniejder is the best. That's why Inter won treble back in 2010 :)
on the 6th October, 2012 at 2:37pm
If people wouldn´t care they would not write here.

The true #10 = Francesco Totti

We all know it..
on the 6th October, 2012 at 9:46am
not many players in SERIA are deserving of that number
on the 6th October, 2012 at 3:15am
Jovetic deserves the no 10 in Viola. He´s probley the only player in Serie A to have a fair chance of becoming a new Del Piero or Totti.

He´s young, professional, can play as seconda or prima punta, has great skills, can score goals with both foots, a leader(was captain in Partizan Belgrad just 19 year old), proved he can "step up" in big games (Liverpool, Bayern M, Milan, Inter, Juve)
on the 5th October, 2012 at 5:34pm
Sneijder Totti Miccoli and Di Natale are the ones who deserve N 10
the number 10s in Milan and Lazio are shame on football
on the 5th October, 2012 at 2:28pm
For me, it's a number. World class players have used other numbers, we don't argue a left back should be a great for him to wear 3. I really couldn't care if Giovinco, for example, wore 10, 12 or 666 on his back.
on the 5th October, 2012 at 7:07am
Is it not true that De Rossi expects the 10 shirt once Totti retires? Surprised this isn't mentioned. If true number 10s go out of style, maybe whoever is considered the fulcrum of the team will expect the number 10?

But retiring numbers is odd for me. Roma have 2 and 6 retired? Napoli have had other players who gave as much as Maradona, but did not have his natural talent. An entire 1-11 could be retired if we were being fair.
on the 4th October, 2012 at 9:11pm
Personally i think the no.10 should onyl be allocated to true greats. To me, you must be consistently good, stand out from all of your peers domestically and nationally, be charismatic, then u get the no.10. Those are the three qualities. The reaosn why that number has been allocated ot anyone in Serie A is the same reason why Italian football has declined, because the standard of players is poor. You end up allocating the number 10 to the best of a bad bunch that you have in your team.
on the 4th October, 2012 at 7:26pm
It seems that Mr labate read my mind as I know it seems silly but seeing the no.10 shirt on Boateng last night did stick in my craw. But this is typical of players of today that think too much of themselves and those with little skills seems to think they have play making skills. To be fair though serieA has a dearth of true number 10s but it does annoy me to see a box to box player put on the jersey as he is a number 8.
on the 4th October, 2012 at 6:47pm
Who cares? The fixation on squad numbers was (and is) a remnant of an era where there was only 1-11, no substitutes, and no names on shirts. Hence numbers were an easy way to identify key areas of the squad. 5 - water carrier (holding midfielder) for example. No. 10 does not have any match value any more, only merchandise. Asamoah Gyan uses No.3, yet he is a striker, what's wrong with that?? You complain about stadiums, star players, non-EU quotas, now numbers -- when are you ever happy Antonio?
on the 4th October, 2012 at 5:55pm
I agree with this article. The number 10 is no more a special number for the player only. For juventus the only one that deserved the 10 is marchisio. Sad that del piero left juventus, cuz of him I'm a juve fans!!!
on the 4th October, 2012 at 3:29pm
I know he's just an attacking midfielder, but despite what he says I believe Marchisio deserves the #10 for Juve.
on the 4th October, 2012 at 2:22pm
I find it interesting that Totti, Miccoli, and Di Natale are the only true number tens around nowadays - number tens not only in ability and tradition, but in quality and consistency as well. Kind of scary.
on the 4th October, 2012 at 2:21pm
I think Pirlo Deserves #10
on the 4th October, 2012 at 2:04pm
Too Bad Del Piero Retired :(.I miss him so much.I watched Del Piero Play In Juventus 19 Years And Now He Is Gone.I wish he stayed 2 more years.Now he is in Sydney F.C. For 2 Years.Alessandro Del Piero,I miss you So Much!!!
on the 4th October, 2012 at 2:02pm
Give me a break. 'Cause he is scoring goals at the moment he deserves the #10? That's a joke. Nobody in Serie A is worthy of a number ten other than Sneijder and Totti.
on the 4th October, 2012 at 1:51pm
agreeing with RossoneriFido, prince can be amazing on hs day but right now the only player worthy of the number is el shaarawy
on the 4th October, 2012 at 1:33pm
Although Napoli retired the number 10 shirt in honour of the greatest and no one in the present Napoli colours can fill his boots we do have creative players that can and have won games with their creativity, scored great goals and can pass the ball well.....Hamsik! However I doubt he or any fan would appreciate being given the number 10 shirt!
on the 4th October, 2012 at 12:50pm
the 10......who cares numbers these days seem to be chosen on personal belifs ect like my wife birthday or date of my son birth or lucky numers, the days of 1-11 are dead, 10 isnt special anymore Messi is the only one I can think of who is world class at the moment.
on the 4th October, 2012 at 10:08am
An excellent point, Antonio. But one other factor to consider: there are fewer players capable of turning a game with a single pass, and hence fewer players to inspire the upcoming generation. Like many others, I have been a Juventino since seeing Platini play, but youngsters will know him only as the controversial head of UEFA. There are some good players but none that can compare with 8 players you mention at the height of their game.
on the 4th October, 2012 at 9:58am
Could not agree more. No one at Juve deserves the number 10 shirt tbh. At Milan only Stephan El Shaarawy deserves it. Football have changed.
on the 4th October, 2012 at 9:57am

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