Football numbers have come to mean a lot more than identifiers for the position which a player occupies on the pitch. They are now marketing tools and are also mementos of club sides as well as national teams. They also hold some sentimental value for players.
In this article, we will look at some players who have donned the number 8 jersey in the past to great effect, as well as some players who, currently, are wearing and performing very well in the number 8 jersey.
Martin Ødegaard is a Norwegian footballer who started his career as a teenager in his home country, Norway. After grabbing international headlines for his skill, a move to Real Madrid followed a year after his debut as a professional footballer.
Several loan spells followed as he had an amazing squad of players to battle with for the limited spots in Real Madrid’s team, until he finally signed with Arsenal permanently in the 2021/22 season. It was at the club he was given the number 8 jersey.
Ødegaard has since performed excellently well in that number for the Gunners and is one of the top talents in world football aged 23 and under. He captains both the Norway national team and Arsenal.
Over the course of his career, he has won one title: the 2019/20 Copa del Rey, which he won playing on loan at Spanish LaLiga side Real Sociedad. He has scored 42 goals and provided 49 assists from playing in 279 club games.
Arsenal’s manager, Mikel Arteta, is the man who manages Ødegaard and is the last great player to wear the number 8 jersey for the Gunners and a predecessor to Martin Ødegaard.
He started his playing career at the famed Barcelona La Masia academy but failed to break into the first team. He moved on to Paris Saint-Germain, where he played for three seasons before moving on to Glasgow Rangers. After two seasons with the Scottish club, he went back to Spain to play for Real Sociedad for one season before moving on to England.
He spent eight years at the Merseyside club before moving on to join Arsenal, where he received the number 8 jersey which he has become synonymous with. After six years as an Arsenal player, he retired in 2016 to begin his coaching journey, and returned in 2019 as the club’s manager.
As a player, he won five trophies playing all across Europe. He appeared in 488 total club games and scored 70 goals while he provided 56 assists.
Pedro González López, known professionally as Pedri, is another youngster who is currently making waves in world football.
He is 19 years old and is the most recent recipient of the Raymond Kopa trophy for the best young player in the world. He started his career in 2019 at UD Las Palmas in Spain before moving to Barcelona in 2020.
He was handed the number 16 jersey at first but at the start of the 2022/23 season, he was handed the number 8 jersey. He is believed by Barcelona to be the rightful heir to that number, which was once worn by one of the greatest midfielders of the outgoing generation of footballers.
His professional career is barely five years old but he has picked up a Copa del Rey (won with Barcelona) from playing 113 games so far. In those games, he has scored 13 and assisted a further 14.
Andrés Iniesta Luján, known professionally as Andrés Iniesta, is Pedri’s predecessor at Barcelona and one of the greatest midfielders in modern football history.
He started his football career at Barcelona and played for the club for 16 years. In that time, he established himself as a brilliant attacking midfielder whose unique set of skills were mostly beneficial for his teammates rather than his personal statistics.
He debuted in the 2002/03 season for Bar Elina wearing the number 34 jersey, before getting the number 24 a season later. In the 2007/08 season, he first wore the number 8 jersey and it has become synonymous with him since then. He moved to Japanese club Vissel Kobe in 2018 and was handed the number upon his arrival there, having made a name for himself in the number 8 jersey.
So far, he has played 839 games in his over two decades as a professional football player, and has scored 88 goals while providing 163 assists. He has won 35 trophies in his career, including nine La Liga titles, four Champions Leagues and one World Cup.
Everton manager Frank Lampard was one of the biggest Premier League players ever. “Super Frank” Lampard as he was fondly called by Chelsea fans, made a mark in football wearing the number 8 jersey.
Upon his retirement in 2017 and afterwards, he remains one of the highest goal-scoring midfielders in football history. His 211 goals scored for Chelsea between 2001 and 2014 is the most goals scored by a player for the club in their history. He is also their record assist provider with 92.
He started his career at West Ham United in 1996 and played there until 2001 when he left for Chelsea. After wearing the number 18 throughout his stay at West Ham, he was given the number 8 at Chelsea upon signing for the club. He went back to wearing number 18 for one season after he left Chelsea in 2014, before wearing and retiring in the number 8 jersey at American club New York City FC in 2017.
He played 894 games and scored 268 goals, providing a further 171 assists in club football. He won 14 titles as a player, including three Premier League titles, four FA Cups and one Champions League.
Aston Villa manager Steven Gerrard is Frank Lampard’s rival for the greatest English midfielder in modern history. Frank Lampard edges him in goals and assists, however, but Gerrard is an icon who donned the number 8 jersey with pride.
He began his career at Liverpool in 1998 and remained at the club through thick and thin until 2014, the same time Lampard departed Chelsea. Upon his debut for the team from Merseyside, England, he was handed the number 28 jersey. He went on to wear the number 17 jersey before he put on the number 8 for the first time in the 2004/05 season.
He wore that number until he left the club in 2014 for American side, Los Angeles Galaxy, where he was also handed the number 8 jersey. Gerrard retired in 2016 after two years in the MLS.
He won 11 trophies in his time as a player but sadly never won the Premier League. He amassed 749 games under his belt before he retired and scored 191 goals while providing a further 169 assists.
Toni Kroos is going to go down as one of the best midfielders in football, a feat he has achieved while wearing the number 8 jersey.
The Real Madrid man is one of the most accomplished German players on the European stage in history, winning five UEFA Champions League titles as one of the famed midfield trio that Madrid has dominated games with in the past decade.
He made his career debut with Bayern Munich, Germany’s biggest club, wearing the number 39 jersey. He spent some time at fellow German Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen with the same number before returning to Bayern Munich, where he also wore the same number.
But his move to Madrid saw him get the number 8 jersey and with it, a new lease on his football life. He is currently in his ninth year in the Spanish capital and has become one of the most iconic number 8s in football today.
He has amassed 655 club games so far in his career and has won 26 titles in total. In those games, he scored 70 times and assisted others 150 times. He has also won the World Cup with Germany, where he also wore the number 8 jersey before he retired from international duty. That takes his total titles won to 27.
Arsenal legend Ian Wright is currently enjoying himself analyzing the players who came after him as a pundit on various television networks these days. In his time though, he was a lethal striker who donned the number 8 jersey.
While the number is not synonymous with strikers or center forwards, Wright wore it and became one of the players to make it a number that strikers took when they couldn’t get their hands on the number 9 jersey.
He made his debut in 1989 for Crystal Palace where he played for four years before moving to Arsenal in 1991. After four seasons of alternating between the number 11 and number 8 jersey, he wore the number 8 from 1993 until 1998 when he left the club to join West Ham United, where he retired from football.
He is Arsenal’s second leading goalscorer of all time despite retiring in 2000. He scored 185 goals and provided 13 assists in 332 career games. He won eight titles in his career, just like the number he wore on his back.