Squad numbers in European football

Following on from the piece on nationalities in European competition I thought I’d take a look at the squad numbers used during the opening week of European football (Europa League and Champions League). There were forty games across Europe last week so it gives us a decent data set to look at which numbers are popular in Europe, and which are not so popular. The dataset used is of players who started matches in the Europa League or Champions League last week (that’s 880 players). Conventional wisdom suggests that the most popular numbers are the lowest and this is borne out by the results. However all is not as simple as it first seems…  I will list out some of the more interesting aspects of the data.

  • Of the 99 possible shirt numbers permitted 66 were used.
  • The lowest number not to be used was 41.
  • The 11 most popular numbers were:  1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 21.
  • 21 was the most popular number outside the first 11.
  • Of the 80 teams that played European football last week 30 of them featured a number 21.
  • Number 2 was the most unpopular number from the first 11. Clubs were more likely to start a player wearing 21, 19, 15, 14, 17 and 18 than 2.
  • The number 12 appears to be an unpopular shirt across Europe. It was the 28th most likely to be used.
  • Players with numbers 11, 22, 33, 44, 55, 66, 77, 88 and 99 all started games in European football.
  • Five players wearing number 99 started European matches.
  • One player Brazilian William of APOEL wore a number 98 in his side’s 2-1 victory.
Taking another look at the stats, the following two tables show the top ten lowest and top ten highest squad numbers for each club that played European football last week. (That’s all the numbers in the starting XIs of teams divided by 11).