The number 15 jersey has stayed true to the initial reason it was added to football squad numbers over six decades ago. It has been worn by players who are mostly substitutes for their teams.
However, there have been a few outliers who have made their mark in football wearing the number 15 jersey. This has elevated the status of the jersey at those clubs and national teams where such players played.
In this article, we look at some players who have donned the number 15 jersey in the past to great effect, as well as some players who, currently, are wearing and performing very well in the number 15 jersey.
Nemanja Vidic is a Serbian former footballer who played as a centre back for the Serbia national team. He also played for Manchester United, where he achieved his legendary status in football. Other clubs he played for, include Internazionale Milano in the Italian Serie A and Spartak Moscow in Russia.
As a centre back, Vidic was a no-nonsense defender who would go into challenges, sometimes without regard for his well being. He was physically imposing, even against attackers who were taller than he was. This allowed him to win lots of aerial duels for the clubs he played for as well as the Serbia national team.
He started his career in his home country of Serbia in 2000 with Red Star Belgrade, the most popular club in the country. He spent four years at the club before moving to Russia to play for Spartak Moscow. Two years later, in 2006, he would be wearing the number 15 jersey for Manchester United. That was the start of the legend of Nemanja Vidic at the club, as he gained a cult following for his defensive ability.
Being a defender who focused on maintaining the backline while his partners played the role of attacking centre backs, Vidic did not score many goals. However, he was two shy of 50, scoring 48 in 491 club appearances.
He won 18 titles in his stellar career, 15 of which were with Manchester United, where he became their legendary number 15. Among them is a UEFA Champions League title.
Peter Crouch is a football media personality who works as a pundit with various networks, analysing the players that came after him. In his 21-year career, he played as a striker for a host of clubs in England.
Crouch wore different numbers during his career, including number 16, number 9, number 14 and number 25. Number 15 was one of his more popular numbers, however, having worn them at Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur, the two biggest clubs he represented in his career.
Standing at 6 foot 7 inches tall, Peter Crouch was one of the tallest strikers to have ever played the game. He is a lanky figure and this made him develop a conservative style of play. Tall strikers were known for being physically imposing but Crouch was an outlier in that area. To compensate for his lack of a solid physique and pace, he had a great first touch which he used to great effect to set himself up for a shot or to play a pass to a better positioned teammate.
He also had incredible ability in the air and a penchant for bicycle kick goals. He holds the record for the most headed goals in Premier League history with 53 goals. He is recognised as one of the players who had a great run with the number 15 shirt.
Peter Crouch won three titles in his career including the FA Cup. He scored 205 goals in his club career and assisted 80 more in 716 games played.
Milan Baros is a striker from Czech Republic who currently plays for FK Vigantice, an amateur club in Czech Republic. However, he has since retired from professional football. During his professional playing days, he was a journeyman who strutted his stuff in a number of countries for different clubs.
Baros started his career in his home country with Banik Ostrava, where he played for two seasons before moving to Liverpool in 2002. At Liverpool, he wore number 5, which was a very unusual number for a striker. That was one of the many numbers he donned in his professional career. He first wore the number 15 in the Czech Republic national team in 2003 and maintained it until 2012 when he retired.
But at club level, he wore the number 15 first at Galatasaray, who gave him the number in 2008 when he joined them from Olympique Lyonnais. He was a popular figure at Liverpool, but he took to Turkey like a fish to water. As Galatasaray’s number 15, he was very impressive and played a key role in their 2011/12 league title win.
As Czech Republic’s number 15, he scored 41 goals in 93 games to finish as the nation’s second leading goalscorer of all time.
Excluding his amateur career, Baros has played a total of 556 club games. He has scored 177 goals, assisted a further 61, and won eight titles, one of which is the UEFA Champions League.
Sunday Oliseh is a Nigerian manager who once played as a defensive midfielder for the Super Eagles of Nigeria and several clubs across Europe. He was also the captain of the Nigeria national team and is considered one of Africa’s greatest midfielders.
He is famous as a number 15 because of his exploits for Nigeria in international tournaments. He was the captain of the famous Nigeria Olympic squad that stunned the world at the 1996 Olympics, held in Atlanta, USA. Nigeria beat a Brazil team that had players like Bebeto, Rivaldo, Dida, Roberto Carlos, and a young Ronaldo De Lima in the semi-final. They then went on to dispatch an Argentina team that had players like Diego Simeone, Hernan Crespo and Roberto Ayala.
Oliseh’s captaincy was key in Nigeria’s victory at the record-breaking tournament. He was also the captain of the Nigeria squad that played in the 1994 World Cup, which was also hosted in the United States of America. That was Nigeria’s first outing in the tournament and he led them to make a statement to the world.
At club level, he donned the number 15 jersey for FC Köln, AFC Ajax and Borussia Dortmund.
He won seven titles in his career, one of which is the Africa Cup of Nations. He scored 22 goals and assisted 22 more from the defensive midfield position in 382 club matches.
Ray Parlour is an English football media personality who works as a pundit for various networks analysing English football with a special focus on the Premier League. In his 20-year career, he played as a midfielder and spent most of his career at Arsenal.
Ray Parlour was a squad player – one of the substitutes who was on regular rotation – for Arsenal but his work rate and technical qualities did not go unnoticed by fans who nicknamed him The Romford Pelé. The nickname paid homage to his hometown in England and to his solid performances when called upon by the Arsenal coaches on matchdays.
He was a box to box midfielder whose technical ability was one of the best in the team. He was also the team’s workhorse, called upon in gruelling games to help the team fight for control of the ball. He made the number 15 a number to be cheered for at Arsenal and a shirt to be revered. To date, no other player has been able to wear the shirt as gracefully and as humbly as Parlour did in his time at Arsenal.
Before his retirement in 2012, he played 519 club matches, scored 29 goals and assisted 27 others. He was a part of the Arsenal Invincibles squad of the 2003/04 season. He also won 11 other titles with the club.
Mats Hummels is a German defender who plays for German Bundesliga team Borussia Dortmund and the Germany national team.
He made his debut for Bayern Munich in 2007 after coming through their academy. He played on the fringes at the club for two seasons, before securing a loan move to Borussia Dortmund in 2008. It was there he first wore the number 15 jersey, and it was there his career took off. Dortmund made his loan move permanent in 2009, and he played a key part in toppling the Bayern Munich hegemony in the Bundesliga.
By 2016, he had become a stalwart in the Germany national team and in typical Bayern fashion, they added him to their ranks. He helped his boyhood club to a few more titles but his heart had found its home with Borussia Dortmund, who signed him again in 2019 and handed him his number 15 shirt.
He is one of their modern legends along with club captain Marco Reus, having gathered a cult following with the supporters. He is also regarded as one of the best defenders in Germany.
He has played 627 club career games so far and has scored 54 goals, which is quite the return for a centre back. He has also assisted 33 others. His title haul stands at 15, one of which is the FIFA World Cup won with the Germany national team in 2014.