Squad numbers go beyond indicators to show player positions on the pitch, they sometimes represent a player’s identity and legacy. The number 21 is traditionally not the starter’s number but the players on this list made themselves undroppable regardless of the fact.

Philipp Lahm

Philip Lahm was a leader for so many years as Bayern Munich’s no 21. He became a symbol of excellence in Germany and a player who epitomized the dominance of Bayern Munich, one which they still enjoy after he left the club.  

A praise-worthy 13 seasons at Bayern Munich saw him make 517 appearances and win every trophy that was available to him throughout his club career.

Eight Bundesliga titles, six DFB Pokals, three DFL Supercups, one FIFA Club World cup, a UEFA Champions League and Super Cup to go with two FIFPro world 11 selections, five UEFA team of the year nominations, one UEFA Champions League team of the season selection and a German player of the year award in 2017 makes up for one of the greatest trophy cabinets in football.

Ben Chilwell

Ben Chilwell is a 25 year old left back that plays for Chelsea Football Club. Chilwell signed for the Blues in 2020 for £50m from Leicester City, in a deal that made him the most expensive English left back. 

The Milton Keynes born fullback has worn the number 21 jersey throughout his three year spell with the Blues and is a key part of Thomas Tuchel’s set up, where he plays as a wing back these days.

So far for Chelsea, he has appeared in 58 matches, with eight goals scored as well as seven assists. He is a UEFA Champions League winner, a UEFA Super Cup winner and a FIFA Club World Cup winner. 

David Silva

David Silva plays his club football for Real Sociedad these days but the Premier League, especially Manchester City will never forget the impact he made. David Silva was a midfield genius and is one of the greatest players to ever put on the blue of Manchester City. He is also regarded by many as one of the greatest midfield players of this generation. 

Silva who hails from Arguineguín has worn the number 21 for most of his 18 year career for club and country. Silva started his career as a Valencia youth player. After spending a couple of seasons on loan, he became a mainstay in the Valencia midfield and helped his team win the Copa Del Rey in 2008. He played 119 times for Valencia, scoring 32 times and assisting 35 times. 

He became a Spain international and made his debut in 2006. He went on to make 124 appearances, the seventh most in the national team, scoring 37 goals, which ranks him fourth highest as well as assisting 32 times, which is the second highest in the Spanish team. He was part of the Spain team that won a World Cup in between two European Championships. 

In 2010,Silva sealed a £30m move to Manchester City. The 34 year old spent 10 seasons with Manchester City and was part of the core group of players that orchestrated the club’s success after the Qatari takeover. David Silva played 436 games for Manchester City and helped City win four Premier League titles, two FA Cups, five League Cups and three Community Shields. He scored 77 goals and assisted 140 times along the way. 

His current spell at Real Sociedad has seen him win one Copa Del Rey. 

Andrea Pirlo 

An enigmatic midfielder, known for his ice-cold composure and immaculate passing, Andrea Pirlo won trophies and showed his class throughout his career with the number 21 on his jersey. 

Pirlo began his career playing for Brescia, the same place he was born. He spent six years at his boyhood club before moving on to Inter Milan in 1998. His spell at Inter didn’t go as planned after playing 40 times in two years. 

His next stop was crosstown rivals AC Milan, where became one of the best midfielders on the planet. 10 years as AC Milan’s number 21 saw him play 401 games with nine trophies won.

Juventus signed Pirlo on a free transfer in 2011 and he helped the Old Lady win four straight League titles in four years. 

Pirlo made his Italy debut in 2002 at the age of 23 and went on to play 116 times for the Gil Azzurri, scoring 13 goals. He played nearly every minute of every game for Italy in the 2006 World Cup, with his goal and three assists crucial as Italy won the world title. He was named man of the match three times during the tournament, the most of any player. He was also given the Bronze ball as the third best player at the World Cup and was named in the FIFPro World Eleven later that year. 

Pirlo won six Serie A titles, two UEFA Champions League trophies, two Coppa Italia, three Supercoppa italiana, two UEFA Super Cups and one FIFA Club World Cup. 

Nemanja Matic

Nemanja Matic enjoyed a successful spell with Chelsea and Benfica, the two teams he wore the number 21 shirt. 

His first spell at Chelsea between 2009 and 2011 saw him make only two appearances for the club as well as go out on loan to Vitesse. He left Chelsea for Benfica in 2011 where he first wore the number 21. Four years at the club saw him play 99 times and win one Primeira Liga and one Trinca De Liga. 

Matic returned to Chelsea in 2014 for £21m as a better player. He instantly slotted into the midfield and won the Premier League in his first season. He made a total of 123 appearances at the club and won two Premier League titles and one FA Cup. 

Matic also wore the number 21 jersey for Serbia where he won 48 caps and took his country to a FIFA World Cup in 2018. 

Paulo Dybala 

The Argentine forward, who currently wears the number 21 for AS Roma, is next on this list. Dybala first wore the number for Juventus after completing a move to Turin for €32m. He wore the number for two seasons at the Old Lady before switching to the number 10

While at Juventus, he spent seven seasons and made 293 appearances, scoring 115 goals and assisting 48 times. He has won five Scudetti, four Coppa Italia and three Supercoppa Italiana titles. 

Dybala has been named Serie A player of the year once and has been selected in the Serie A team of the year four times. 

Frenkie De Jong 

For Barcelona, Ajax and The Netherlands, Frenkie De Jong has made the number 21 a huge part of his identity so far in his young career. 

De Jong began his career at Willem II Tilburg before moving to Ajax’s youth set up. He made his Ajax first team debut in 2016 wearing the number 21 shirt. Within three years of his debut, De Jong established himself as a future great midfielder in Dutch and European football. 

He was instrumental in a young Ajax side that shocked the world by beating Real Madrid, Juventus and the world on their way to the 2019 Champions League Semi-finals. His performances in that competition earned him an £80m move to Barcelona. 

De Jong has made 281 career appearances so far and in that time, he has won one Eredivisie, one KNVB Cup and one Copa Del Rey title. Individually, he has been named UEFA Club Midfielder Of The Season, Eredivisie player of the season and has been selected in the FIFPro World 11.