Strikers are the most dynamic position in football and also the most recognisable. This is because of a signature number – the number 9 – which they wear on their backs for the team’s they play for.
And just like other numbers in football, the number 9 has also evolved to represent more than the striker’s role on the pitch. It is now a marketing tool as well as a memento for clubs, players and national teams. In some rare occasions, it has also been worn by players who play in the other areas of the pitch.
In this article, we will take a look at some players who have donned the number 9 jersey in the past to great effect, as well as some players who, currently, are wearing and performing very well in the number 9 jersey.
Robert Lewandowski is a Polish footballer who has slowly risen to become one of the best strikers of this generation despite playing in an era that is dominated by freaks of nature. The 34-year-old striker is widely recognised for his time at German Bundesliga club Bayern Munich.
Lewandowski started his career in his home country with Legia Warsaw. He then moved to Znicz Pruszków, still in Poland, where he wore the number 9 shirt for the first time in his career. After one season, Lech Poznan, one of Poland’s biggest clubs, signed him and he was given the number 8 jersey, which he wore for the two years he spent at the club.
A move to Germany via Borussia Dortmund came in 2010 for Lewandowski. After struggling in his first season wearing the number 7 shirt, he was given the number 9 jersey in 2011 and that was the start of the Robert Lewandowski legend. He wore that jersey for three successful seasons which saw Dortmund face an uphill battle to keep the big clubs away from him.
He finally moved to Bayern Munich in 2014 as their new number 9, and took full advantage of the club’s status to solidify himself as one of the best strikers in the world. He is now officially marketed as RL9, a fact Barcelona acknowledged by taking the jersey from Memphis Depay when he signed for them at the beginning of the 2022/23 season.
Robert Lewandowski has won 27 titles, 19 of which were at Bayern Munich where he rose to become the second highest goalscorer in the club’s history. He has scored 511 club goals and provided 136 assists from playing in 678 games.
Karim Mostafa Benzema, known professionally as Karim Benzema, is currently the striker recognised as the best in the world, a status that is years in the making. Just like Robert Lewandowski who is considered his rival at the moment, his was a slow and steady rise to the top.
Benzema debuted as a professional footballer for hometown club Olympique Lyonnais in 2004. He spent five very successful years at the French Ligue 1 club, establishing himself as the best young striker in the world at the time. Real Madrid won a bidding war for him in 2009, signing and unveiling him the same day they did Cristiano Ronaldo. He was given the number 11 shirt upon signing, and the next season, received the number 9 shirt after Ronaldo was given the number 7 shirt.
Benzema would go on to form a lethal partnership with the Portuguese superstar for the next nine years at Real Madrid, but was largely overshadowed by Ronaldo for a good spell. Now, he is the heart and soul of Real Madrid and his number 9 jersey is one of the most fearsome things that a defender can see on a football pitch.
Karim Benzema has played a total of 756 club games so far in his career. He has 391 goals, 187 assists, and 31 trophies to his name, inclusive of five Champions League titles.
Manchester City’s new number 9, Erling Braut Haaland, known professionally as Erling Haaland, is the famous son of former Leeds United and Manchester City midfielder, Alf-Inge Haaland.
He is 22 years old and is considered to be the best striker of the new generation. His goal threat is considered to be elite level, and his physical capabilities are like that of a veteran who has seen many battles on the pitch.
Unlike most players, Haaland is not particular about the number he wears on his back as he is only focused on playing football and scoring goals. He first got the number 9 jersey in the 2020/21 season while he was at Borussia Dortmund and made quite the name for himself wearing it.
Manchester City signed him in 2022 and due to his new found affinity with the number – and the fact that he is a striker – handed him the number 9 jersey. He is expected to do great things wearing it but whatever happens, he has already cemented a place as one of the legendary number 9s of the German Bundesliga.
He has won four trophies in his budding club career from playing 187 games for different clubs. His stats currently stand at 138 goals and 37 assists.
The greatest number 9 of all time, Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima, known professionally as Ronaldo, is currently enjoying life in retirement as a business mogul and football club owner. He currently owns his Cruzeiro Esporte Clube, the team that gave him his debut, and Spanish LaLiga club Real Valladolid.
While he played, Ronaldo was the best striker in the world and the only player who was synonymous with the number 9 shirt. However, there were some seasons in which he had to don other numbers. Upon moving from Cruzeiro in Brazil to PSV Eindhoven in The Netherlands in 1994, he never had a stable squad number until he left the club in 1996 for Barcelona.
He spent only one season at Barcelona with the number 9 shirt before moving on to Internazionale in Italy, where he was first handed the number 10 shirt. They gave him the number 9 shirt in his second season and he went on to wear it for Real Madrid and Corinthians as well, where he retired.
However, it was with the Brazil national team that he was most famous as a number 9. The shirt has become heavy since he retired, with not many players able to successfully wear the number 9 shirt for Brazil.
In his career, he played 452 club games, scored 295 goals and provided 76 assists. He won 19 trophies in total, five of which were with the Brazil national team.
Gerd Müller (1945 – 2021) was one of the best strikers of his generation. He was named Der Bomber by fans for his style of play which would see him appear out of nowhere to win duels and score goals while his team was on the attack.
Upon his retirement in 1981 and his death at the age of 75, he remains the leading goalscorer in the German Bundesliga with 365 goals, all scored for Bayern Munich. Going by this fact, he is also Bayern’s record goalscorer, a record which could have been overtaken by Robert Lewandowski, had he played one more year at the club.
Throughout his club career, he donned the number 9 shirt and looked like the biggest man on any pitch he walked into, despite being only 5 foot 9 inches tall. He broke many records in that shirt for the German club and left a legacy so great that nobody who has played at the club after him has been able to top.
He played 716 club games and scored 654 goals, and won 14 titles as a player. His total trophy count stands at 16, with the other two being titles with the West Germany national team.
Alan Shearer is currently spending his time analyzing the players that came after him in the Premier League, after retiring 2006 as arguably the greatest player ever in the competition’s history.
Shearer began his career at Southampton, where he played with different numbers, including the number 9 jersey. However, it was at Blackburn Rovers that he made his name as the most lethal striker of his generation in England, while wearing the number 9 jersey. His performances helped the minnow club to a Premier League title, their only one to date.
He went on to Newcastle United and made them into a powerhouse team that troubled the traditional big clubs in the 10 years he spent at the club. It was there that he officially became the Premier League’s greatest striker and goalscorer, donning the number 9 shirt majestically.
He won two trophies in his time as a player. He amassed 679 games under his belt before he retired and scored 353 goals while providing a further 90 assists.
The newly signed Bayern Munich player will go down in history as one of the most clinical strikers of all time. The one thing he was missing was the trophies in his career, which is why the great Englishman moved to Bayern with a heavy heart. He did all he could at Spurs but the trophies and titles eluded him.
At Spurs, he wore the no.10 shirt but for the England National team and Bayern Munich, he wore the no.9 shirt. Harry Kane started his professional career at Tottenham Hotspurs and he went through a few loan spells for a game time before breaking through at his childhood club.
Harry Kane’s breakthrough season came in the 2014-15 season, He made vital contributions that season, scoring a hattrick in the Europa League and also helping Spurs reach the League Cup final in his very first season. For his efforts and potential, Kane was awarded the PFA Young Player of the Year award.
Harry Kane’s graph and stock kept getting higher and higher after his debut season. With Kane leading the line, Tottenham Hotspurs came close to winning the league title on multiple occasions. They also reached the League Cup finals twice and the Champions League final once with Kane leading the charge.
Harry Kane won the Premier League Golden Boot thrice in his career and the Playmaker award once. Kane is second as the All-Time Premier League Top Scorer with 213 goals. After 14 fruitful but ultimately trophyless years with Spurs, Kane left his childhood club to join Bayern in the summer of 2023-24 to win trophies.
For England, Harry Kane is the all-time top scorer with 59 goals. He surpassed Wayne Rooney’s 53 goals against Italy in a 2024 UEFA Euro Qualifying match. Kane also has the second-most hat tricks for England after the legendary Jimmy Greaves. Kane came close to winning a major trophy with England but finished runners-up to Italy in the 2020 European Championship.
Harry Kane has scored 221 goals in 323 league appearances during his career and has scored 59 goals in 86 appearances for England.
The Brazilian international was failing badly at Liverpool until Klopp arrived at the club. He was already in awe of Firmino from his time at Hoffenheim, so it was obvious that Klopp was hell-bent on turning Firmino into one of the best strikers in the World.
Roberto Firmino started his career as a defensive midfielder for his first club Figueirense, but his potential was attracting interest. Hoffenheim brought Firmino to Europe and deployed him as an attacking midfielder. He shone in his new role and scored some important goals for Hoffenheim, eventually finishing with 38 goals.
Liverpool came calling in 2015 but he was not wanted by then Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers who instead wanted Christian Benteke and as a compromise Firmino was also signed. Bobby as he is fondly known now, never got a fair chance under Rodgers who kept deploying him in weird positions even playing him as a wing-back in one of the games. Klopp came and Firmino’s destiny changed.
Klopp played the famous gegenpressing system with Firmino central to everything they did. Firmino will not go down as the most prolific striker in the history of the game but he will always be remembered as the striker who redefined the false no.9 position. His pressing game and game intelligence upfront created numerous opportunities for his fellow forwards Mo Salah and Sadio Mane.
Roberto Firmino’s influence helped Liverpool win every single trophy an English club could ever win. Firmino was integral in every trophy win and will be remembered for being part of the squad that finally ended Liverpool’s league title drought for 30 years. Bobby scored the winner in Liverpool’s final in the Club World Cup as well.
Roberto Firmino is most definitely one of the most cleverest and tactically brilliant strikers of modern times. He single-handedly redefined the false no.9 position and made it his own. His technical brilliance allowed him to provide tonnes of assists for his teammates as well. Salah and Mane benefited greatly from the Brazilian forward’s incisive passing.
For Brazil, Firmino never reached his full potential mostly due to Neymar, Vinicius Jr., and Rodrygo ahead of him in the pecking order. Still, Firmino managed to win 55 caps for the Brazilian National team and helped them win the 2019 Copa America.
Firmino has scored 131 goals in 441 league appearances as of this writing and he scored 17 goals in 55 appearances for Brazil. Firmino has won 7 trophies in his career. Bobby is also the highest-scoring Brazilian in the Premier League with 82 goals.
Marco Van Basten
“If I hadn’t had to retire so early in my career, I would have had a similar number of goals to what Cristiano Ronaldo has”. Marco Van Basten recently said and who can argue with one of the greatest strikers the game has ever seen? The three-time Ballon d’Or winner cruelly got his career cut short due to persistent ankle injuries.
Marco Van Basten was signed as a 16-year-old by Ajax and was put in the first-team squad. That was how good he was. After his breakthrough, Van Basten became Ajax’s first-choice striker the very next season. Van Basten’s rise spelled the end of another Ajax wonderkid and European top-scorer Wim Kieft.
Van Basten remained the top-scorer of the Eredivisie for four consecutive seasons. His goal-scoring record was off the charts as he scored 118 goals in just 112 games during that period. Van Basten won 3 Eredivisie, 3 domestic cups, and 1 European Cup Winners’ Cup with Ajax.
AC Milan was Van Basten’s next destination as he was signed for the Italian giants alongside his countrymen Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard. Under Arrigo Sacchi, AC Milan was almost unbeatable, and to this day the Milan side of 1987-1991 is considered as one of the best sides if not the best side in club football history. Milan dominated the European stage and leading their line was Marco Van Basten.
Van Basten scored two goals in the win against Steaua Bucuresti in the 1987 European Cup final. Van Basten and Milan repeated the trick by winning the European Cup again the very next year, making it back-to-back success. Between 1988-92, Marco Van Basten won the Ballon d’Or three times.
Marco Van Basten won the 1988 European Championship with the Netherlands. The Dutch great top scored in the tournament with 5 goals, he even scored a goal in the final against the Soviet Union. In the 1992 Euros, Van Basten was included in the Team of the Tournament despite going out in the semifinals to eventual winners Denmark. If not for injuries, Van Basten would definitely have made even more impact in international tournaments.
Van Basten scored 219 career league goals in just 281 appearances. He also scored 24 goals in 56 appearances for the Netherlands. Van Basten ended his career with 18 trophies.
Batigol was one of the most feared and deadly strikers of his time. Batistuta was a man of honour. He played most of his club career and peak years at Fiorentina. He is their highest-ever goalscorer in Serie A with 151 goals.
Batistuta started his career at Newell’s Old Boys and then moved to River Plate before joining Boca Juniors where he won the league title. Batitusta was garnering interest from all over Europe when he was playing for Boca, Fiorentina won his signature in 1991.
Batistusta scored 13 goals in his debut season at Fiorentina but what happened in the next two seasons is what made him an icon in Florence. Despite Batigol’s 16 goals, Fiorentina was relegated to Serie B but Batistuta didn’t leave the club. He again scored 16 goals the following season in Serie B to get Fiorentina promoted to Serie A.
Batistuta kept scoring for Fiorentina but the big trophies kept evading him at club level although he did win the Coppa Italia and Supercoppa Italiana with Fiorentina. After 9 years and 167 goals for Fiorentina, Batistuta joined Roma for a then-record fee of 30m for a player aged 30 or above.
The heavy-hearted move paid dividends straight away as Batistuta won the Scudetto with AS Roma, he scored 20 goals in the title-winning season and finally got his hand on a major trophy in European football. After the Scudetto win, Batisuta kept scoring and even moved to Inter Milan on loan but his time in Europe was over. Batistuta played two years in the Qatari league for Al Arabi before hanging up his boots for good.
Gabriel Batistuta was a beast for Argentina. He held the record for being his nation’s top-scorer with 56 international goals but was surpassed by the great Lionel Messi in 2016. Batistuta is the only player to score two hat tricks in two different World Cup editions. At the international level, Batistuta won two back-to-back Copa America with Argentina in 1991 and 1993. He also won the 1992 FIFA Confederations Cup with Argentina.
Batistuta ended his club career with 248 goals in 444 appearances and for Argentina, Batigol scored 56 goals in 78 appearances. Batistuta won a total of 12 trophies in his illustrious career.