Traditionally, football numbers started from number 1 and ended with number 11. Numbers 12 and up were introduced when the idea of substitutes were introduced in football.
But those numbers, like all other numbers, have now taken on a life of their own due to certain players who donned them in their careers. The number 14 jersey is the biggest example of this.
In this article, we’ll take a look at some players who have donned the number 14 jersey in the past to great effect, as well as some players who, currently, are wearing and performing very well in the number 14 jersey.
Thierry is a former French footballer who wore the number 14 shirt to great effect. He is considered one of the best strikers in modern football history and is arguably the best foreign player to have ever taken to a Premier League pitch.
Though he made waves wearing the number 14 jersey, Thierry Henry has admitted that it is not his favourite number. During an Instagram Love chat with his former Arsenal teammate Cesc Fabregas, he revealed that number 12 is his preferred number. But upon signing for Arsenal in 1999, Christopher Wreh already had it, so he took the number 14 jersey. That explains why he wore the number 12 upon his return to Arsenal in 2012 and why he wore the number 12 throughout his national team career.
He was iconic in both numbers, finishing his international career in 2010 as France’s all time leading goalscorer wearing the number 12, and finishing as becoming Arsenal’s leading goalscorer while donning the number 14. He also is the man who holds the record for most assists in a single Premier League season (shared with Kevin De Bruyne, who also wore number 14 at one point in his career). Apart from his early days as a youngster at AS Monaco in France and Juventus in Italy, as well as that one season in Arsenal, Henry wore the number 14 shirt to great effect.
In 2007, he moved to FC Barcelona in Spain and was given the number, simply because he had become an icon wearing it. It was done mostly for marketing purposes, as “Henry 14” shirt sales went all the way up at Barcelona’s official stores. In those three years playing alongside Lionel Messi, he made his mark in Spain and became the highest scoring Frenchman in Barcelona history, bagging 49 goals in three seasons at the club.
Thierry Henry won 18 titles in his career, three of which were with the France national team. Among his trophies are the World Cup, UEFA Champions League and the Premier League. He scored 360 goals and assisted 176 others in 791 club matches.
Xabi Alonso is a youth team manager who wore the number 14 as a player. He played as a midfielder for Real Sociedad, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Liverpool before his retirement from football in 2017.
Xabi Alonso was a defensive midfielder by trade, which is a thankless role in football as they often go unrecognized. But he possessed immense talent and quality which saw him play further up the pitch sometimes. He had incredible passing range, and possessed shot power with an accuracy that saw him score from inside his own half on a number of occasions. For all of his talents on and off the pitch – he was an incredibly motivational figure to his teammates despite never being an official team captain – he is regarded as the coolest man in football.
It was at Liverpool he first donned the number 14 jersey and it was also at Liverpool that he became an icon of the game. He is one of the major influences behind the Premier League’s love for players of Spanish origin/players who have played in Spain. He also wore the number at Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and the Spain national team until he retired from international football in 2014.
Xabi Alonso won 17 titles, three of which were with Spain. Among his title collection is the World Cup, the Euro Championship title, and the UEFA Champions League. He scored 43 goals and provided 69 assists in 695 games played for the clubs he represented.
Casemiro is a Brazilian defensive midfielder who plays for Manchester United, signing for them in 2022. As a defensive midfielder, he is an embodiment of the destroyer type midfielder, whose job is to disrupt opposition attacks anyhow and get the ball to the more creative players.
Casemiro played as a striker in his youth and became a midfielder on a whim when, in his youth teams, the striker quota was filled and those not picked were in danger of being axed from the team. He has since grown into a reliable defensive midfielder who is also adept at aiding the attack when needed, pooling from his initial predisposition to attack the goal.
He is also one of the many players to whom numbers do not mean much, having worn number 8, 5 (with the Brazil national team), 28, 38, 16, 6 and 18 – the number he currently wears for Manchester United. But it was his seven years wearing the number 14 for Real Madrid that made him the highly-rated player he is in football today. He was a member of the midfield trio with Luka Modric and Toni Kroos who stormed to five UEFA Champions League titles in his seven years at the club.
Casemiro has played a total of 458 club games in his career. He has scored 42 goals, assisted a further 40, and won 20 titles, one of which is with Brazil.
Hendrik Johannes Cruijff, known professionally as Johan Cruijff or Johan Cruyff, was an attacking midfielder who played the game between 1964 and 1984. He is regarded as one of the greatest players to have graced a pitch and is also regarded as one of the best managers to have ever trained a football team.
Years after his passing, the famous number 14’s philosophy of Total Football is still being promulgated by and among managers, who have tried to adapt it to their own varying styles. As a player, he is one of only five players to have won the prestigious Ballon d’Or award given to the best player in the world, three times. He won those awards in a span of four years, between 1971 and 1974 and is one of a small number to have won it consecutively (1973 and 1974).
However, the number 14 jersey was not his first choice. He donned the number 14 at random when he played for AFC Ajax, and it became an urban legend. The story is that Cruyff gave his teammate his number 9 shirt because the teammate, who wore the number 7 shirt, could not find his. Then he went to the kits’ box and picked the number 14 shirt at random. This happened in 1970 and it started the trend of players choosing their own numbers, as before then, players who were confirmed starters were only allowed to wear numbers 1 to 11 in football.
The originator of the skill move known as the Cruyff Turn, he dazzled fans for 702 club games, scoring 402 goals, winning 22 trophies while at it. He died in 2016 after a brief illness.
Dries Mertens, 35, is a forward who plays for Turkish Super Lig club Galatasaray and the Belgium Red Devils, the national football team of Belgium. He is a versatile forward who can operate as a centre forward, a left winger and an attacking midfielder.
He is not as popular as the names on this list but he has done enough to earn his reputation as a brilliant football player. Standing at only 5 foot 8 inches tall, Mertens possesses quick feet and amazing speed which he uses to get away from challenges or win them in areas that could increase his team’s chances of scoring. Throughout most of his career, he has been trusted as a substitute to come in and harass opposing defenders with his unique talents.
He first wore the number 14 jersey playing for PSV Eindhoven in the Eredivisie. He played there for two years before moving on to Napoli, where he formed a crucial part of their squad for nine good years as their trusted number 14.
In that time, he became their highest goalscorer, scoring a good percentage of his goals off the bench. He is also one of the small number of Belgians who have amassed over 100 caps for the national team. He achieved that feat with the number 14 jersey which he has worn for them for the past 12 years.
Mertens has played 684 club games so far, scored 246 and assisted 181 others. He has won five trophies in his career.
Javier Mascherano is an Argentine youth manager who played as a defensive midfielder between 2003 and 2020. He was a destroyer-type defensive midfielder in his day, and is often referred to as a prime example of midfielders who operate in that role.
He began his career in Argentina and Brazil, before arriving at West Ham United as an unknown in 2006. In just one season, he became known and Liverpool won the bidding war for him, signing him in 2007. He spent three years at the club before moving on to Barcelona, where he wore the number 14 jersey for the first time in his club career.
At that time, he had already worn the number for Argentina for two years and achieved considerable success wearing it. So when he signed for Barcelona, it was a no-brainer to offer him the number which he accepted and made his own. At Barcelona, his versatility as a player increased.
He was fielded as a centre back and a fullback on many occasions, but he still maintained his destroyer persona, terrifying opposition attackers with his strength and reaction speed to break up their play and thread the ball to the club’s more creative players.
By the time Mascherano retired, he had played 594 club games. He scored only five goals because he was almost never around the opponents’ box, sticking to his position behind his attackers to prevent counterattack situations. However, he assisted 27, with some good through balls and over the top balls.
He won 21 titles in his career, including five La Liga titles and two Champions Leagues.