Shirt numbers are not just digits to represent positions on the pitch, over the years they have become symbols, a reminder of the person who wore them and the emotions they conjured up in people. Be it for club or country, some players wear that number everywhere they go and it becomes their trademark.
In this piece, we look at those players who have made the number six their own in the past as well as those who continue to do so presently, as at the time of writing.
We couldn’t think of a better way to start this list than with one of the greatest midfielders of all time. Born in Terrassa, Catalonia, Xavi was trained in La Masia where he learned how to play the Barcelona way.
He made his debut for the club in 1998 and was given the number six shirt in the 2000/2001 season. Xavi became a key component in Barcelona’s midfield with the number six on his back and he quickly became one of the world’s greatest players. He was part of the one in a generation Barcelona team that dominated European football in such a manner that nobody had ever seen.
A respectable 17 seasons at the Blaugrana saw him play 767 games and win 25 trophies. He was an indispensable member of the midfield that helped win eight La Liga titles, three Copa Del Reys, Six Supercopa De Espana, four UEFA Champions League trophies, Two UEFA Super Cups and Two FIFA Club World Cups.
He has been voted among the top three in the Ballon d’Or rankings, he made six straight FIFPro world 11 selections between 2008 and 2013 and five straight UEFA Team of the Season selections between 2008 and 2012. He was also named La Liga midfielder of the year for three straight seasons between 2009 and 2011 and won the La Liga Spanish player of the year award in 2005.
Arguably the greatest left back of all time, Roberto Carlos continues this list of great players to wear number six. The Sao Paulo born former footballer wore this shirt number predominantly throughout his international career.
He made his Brazil senior debut in 1995 in a friendly match against England in a 3-1 win for the South American nation. He immediately became a key component of the Selecao.
He played 125 times for the nation, currently with the second most caps in the country’s history, scoring 11 goals and assisting 14 times from left back. The most famous of those goals is of course that incredible 40 yard freekick against France in the Tournoi De France. The freekick is the single most incredible freekick of all time and it is still unexplainable how it was able to curl that much. Fabian Barthez in the France goal could only watch it go in and that goal still looks brilliant till date.
Roberto Carlos represented Brazil at three world cups, four Copa America, the Olympic Games and a FIFA Confederations Cup. He is a World Cup winner, a two time Copa America winner, FIFA Confederations Cup winner and an Olympic Bronze medalist.
He is a certified legend of the sport and one of the greatest to ever wear the number six jersey.
Born in Travagliato, Franco Baresi grew to become a symbol of AC Milan, a club he spent his whole career at.
He spent 20 seasons at the heart of the AC Milan defence, playing 719 times for the Rossoneri and forming a formidable partnership with Paulo Maldini and retired as one of the greatest defenders to ever play the game. His ability to read the game as a sweeper, his strength, stamina, tenacious spirit and will to win was like none other.
He was voted AC Milan player of the century in 1999 and his legendary number six Jersey could be seen at the San Siro museum.
Baresi led his team to six Serie A titles, four Super Coppa Italianas, three UEFA Champions League titles, three UEFA Super Cups and two Intercontinental cups.
Thiago Alcantara was born in San Pietro Vernotico, Italy, and started his youth career in Brazil. He played one season with Flamengo’s national team before moving to Ureca and then Kelme before his prodigious talents brought him to La Masia.
The midfielder spent six years at his club before moving to Bayern Munich in 2013 where he was given the number six jersey as well as the keys to the German midfield engine room.
Seven seasons spent at Bayern saw him become one of the great midfielders of this generation with the Spaniard playing a key role in his club’s dominance in the League. Throughout his stay at the club, they never failed to win a League title.
Now at Liverpool, Thiago continues to be one of the best in his position when he plays. His passing ability, vision, tempo control and composure puts him a level above when he plays and his impact is confidently felt in games.
In his 19 year career so far, he has played 461 games, with 48 goals scored and 63 assists provided. He is in his 30s now but still has some years to go at the top level.
He has won seven Bundesliga titles, four DFB Pokals, three DFB Super Cups, one FA Cup, One Carabao Cup, one Community Shield, one UEFA Champions League and one FIFA Club World Cup.
Another midfielder that could be regarded as one of the greatest of this generation, the Italian has spent most of his senior career at the heart of the PSG midfield and is regarded as one of the best in the world today.
Born in Pescara Italy, Veratti started his career at Montebello Vicentino before moving to Pescara where he made 74 appearances for his hometown club. He then secured a move to French Giants PSG in 2012. He has been a key member of the Parisian team since the start of their dominance over the French League up until now.
He has played 460 games in his career, scoring 13 goals and assisting a further 71 but his ability to control games with poise and elegance is what makes him an important member of the PSG midfield.
He has won one eight Ligue 1 titles, six Coupe De France, six Coupe De La Ligue and nine Trophée Des Champions.
A legend of West Ham United and England, Bobby Moore wore the number six Jersey for club and country with pride and grace. He was regarded as one of the greatest defenders of his generation and was described by Pele as the greatest defender he had ever played against.
He was born in Barking, Essex and spent 18 years at West Ham United, playing 647 games, the third highest in the Club’s history. He went on to play for Fulham, San Antonio Thunder, Seattle Sounders, Herning Fremad and Carolina Lightnin.
He was named England captain at the age of 23 and till today is still the only one to lead the nation to a World Cup triumph. He played 108 times for England, scoring twice.
At club level, he was an European Cup Winners Cup winner, an FA Cup and FA charity shield winner. His number six shirt was retired by West Ham and will never be worn by any other player at the Club.
He sadly passed away at the age of 51 on the 24th of February 1993 due to cancer.
Jorge Resurrección Merodio, popularly known as “Koke” is Atletico Madrid’s legendary number six. He has been at the club all of his life and represents what it means to play for that great club. Koke is Madrid born and raised and has played 547 games on the senior team, scoring 47 goals.
He has played everywhere across the midfield due to his versatility and adaptability. Whether it’s creating from deep or looking for chances to score, Koke excels at everything.
A respectable 14 stellar seasons with Los Colchoneros has seen him win two La Liga titles, one Copa Del Rey, one Supercopa de España, two UEFA Super Cups and two UEFA Europa League trophies.