Highest squad numbers in the top five European leagues

Disturbingly high squad numbers have been part of top level football for a few years now and squad numbers as high as 99 are seen around Europe. The Premier League isn’t immune from such abominations with numbers in the 40s regularly sighted in stadiums throughout the UK. With this in mind I thought I’d take a look at the biggest culprits from Europe’s “Top Five Leagues”: Serie A, La Liga, Premier League, Ligue 1 and the Bundesliga.  The figures come from this season encompassing all domestic league fixtures that have taken place in the five leagues from last summer until the start of December.

Highest squad number per club in Europe's "top five" leagues, 2011/2012 season (so far).

The worst culprit for squad numbers in the 90s is Serie A. There are seven players in the Italian top flight who have sported the number 99 shirt for their club this season. To give this some context the highest numbers to feature in the other leagues were Premier League (62), La Liga (54), Bundesliga (44) and Ligue 1 (40). Niklas Bendtner is the only player to feature as two clubs highest squad number (52 for both Arsenal and Sunderland).

The "lowest highest" squad numbers in Europe's top five leagues 2011/2012 season (so far).

It’s big-spending Malaga (I believe I’m contractually obliged to call them that) in La Liga who have used the lowest squad numbers so far this season. Their highest squad number was used by Venezuelan striker Solomon Rondon who wears the mind-boggingly low number of 23. The German club with the “lowest highest” squad number used so far this season is Koln’s Odise Roshi who wears number 28, and in Serie A it’s Ceppelini of Cagliari and Matri of Juventus who both wear the number 32 shirt for their respective clubs.

The above stats show the average squad number fielded per side during the current campaign. It’s Bologna in Italy who show the worst average in the top European leagues with an average squad number of over 33. German giants Bayern Munich are the only side outside of Italy to break it into the top ten of “worst offenders”. Sevilla in Spain are the side with the lowest average of 10.702. Unsurprisingly no Italian sides make the “lowest” top ten.

Average squad number in each of the "top five" leagues in Europe in the 2011/2012 season (so far).

There are many reasons to criticise the Premier League brand, but in the field of squad numbers they aren’t pushing the decency boundaries as much as the Bundesliga or Serie A. It is the Italian league that has shown least regard for the traditional 1-11 so far this season.



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7 thoughts on “Highest squad numbers in the top five European leagues

    • Author gravatar

      Cracking article and research…It riles me these days the complete disregard teams have for the numbers 1-11. I was very suprised to see Hull lining up the tonight and at the weekend with 24,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10 and 12. Almost the full 1-11 which is unheard of these days. Unfortunately there is little that can be done about this and it will only get worse, to the extent that it will one day look like we are watching the NFL

    • Author gravatar

      Few years ago in French Cup the starting line-up:s had to be from 1 to 11 regardless who played or which were their numbers normally. I don’t know if the tradition still continues.

    • Author gravatar

      You know my thoughts on the Steve. Superb work and research as ever!

    • Author gravatar

      Nice work. Carlos Fierro has been known to wear 104 for Chivas. Won’t be long before we see 3 figures in Europe I’m sure.

    • Author gravatar

      Nice work. However, I have two additional points:

      First, it should be noted that A-squad players in La Liga are assigned 1-25 as squad numbers. This practice is mandatory. Therefore, players with higher squad numbers are B-squad/reserve team players. Other leagues clearly don’t have this rule, which explains why Spanish teams have the lowest numbers.

      Second, higher squad numbers might (in some cases) reflect that a team features more young players. Since lower squad numbers usually, at least more often than not, are claimed by older players, or players that have been in the club longer—younger players will have to occupy higher numbers.

      For example, Bayern, the worst culprit in Germany, have Müller at #25, Contento at #26, Alaba at #27, Luiz Gustavo at #30, and Kroos at #39. Although they also have Gómez at #33 and Tymoshchuk at #44, and some numbers up for grabs in their 1-11, the squad number inflation could explain a positive tendency, namely, featuring more young players.

      On the whole, there seems to be a talent boom in Germany at the moment, which might explain—IN PART—the number inflation over there. But of course, this is not the fact in Italy, with their late-blooming footballers and ancient sides such as AC Milan.

      All this quibble aside, I do of course support your ultimate point. The ridiculously high squad numbers only reflect big egos and inflated self-worth, and players with #99 or their birth date as squad numbers, aren’t just an embarrassment to themselves but also to their clubs and fans.

    • Author gravatar

      Before Australia joined Asia, they drafted in many players to play vs lesser teams like Samoa and Fiji. I saw Tommy Oar (another new Harry Kewell) with a number of sth like 127.

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