Mesut Ozil chose squad number 67 when he joined Fenerbahce as an indication of his family’s hometown zip code. Photo by Burak Milli / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Almost eleven months after his last appearance in competition, Mesut Ozil made an eagerly anticipated appearance in football this week when he made his debut for Fenerbahce.
The former Arsenal playmaker, who joined the Turkish club as a free agent last month, came off the bench for the final 15 minutes of Wednesday’s 2-1 away win against Hatayspor.
– Stream ESPN FC Daily on ESPN + (US only)
– ESPN + Viewers Guide: Bundesliga, Serie A, MLS, FA Cup and more
The 32-year-old Ozil dared to go out onto the field wearing the No. 67 jersey. Previously, Ozil was number 10 at Real Madrid and Arsenal, and he was number 67 at Fener as a nostalgic reference to the postcode of his family’s hometown, Zonguldak in northern Turkey.
While high roster numbers have been the norm in other sports in the U.S. and elsewhere for years, it’s rare for a marquee enrolling in football willingly to be listed in their 20s, 30s, or beyond. Here’s a look at some of the other players who have picked odd squad numbers in the past and their reasons for doing so.
18. Ivan Zamorano (1 + 8)
Zamorano, one of the most formidable strikers in the world, wore his favorite No. 9 jersey when he joined Inter Milan from Real Madrid in 1996. The following year, the Italian team broke the world transfer record to win Brazilian star Ronaldo took the No. 10 jersey. Everything was fine and even until Robert Baggio arrived in 1998 and wanted Ronaldo’s number. Ronaldo was then moved to # 9, and while Zamorano accepted the exchange with good grace, unwilling to give up on his lucky number entirely, instead conjuring up a ploy to make sure he was * technically * still on # 9 his had back. All it took was a rummage through the replacement vinyl lettering in the kit man’s workshop and do some simple arithmetic.
23. David Beckham
Beckham, who wore the fabled No. 7 for Manchester United, couldn’t match that number when he moved to Real Madrid in 2003 as it was already taken over by Los Blancos star striker Raul. Sporting director Jorge Valdano offered Beckham # 4 or # 23, the England international picking the latter based on his wife Victoria’s suggestion that “it never hurt Michael Jordan”. He also wore the No. 23 jersey for LA Galaxy before moving to No. 32 on his later loan stints with AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain.
52. Nicklas Bendtner
Shortly before the start of the 2009/10 season, Arsenal striker Bendtner decided to double his squad number from 26th to 52nd. As was to be expected, some fans were injured, especially those who had already decided on a replica shirt with “Bendtner No.26” on the back. However, the forward offered to personally reimburse anyone who made the mistake.
As the Danish international later explained in his autobiography in “Both Sides”: “I’m switching from jersey No. 26 to jersey No. 52 because my mother knows a professional fortune-teller. Or a psychic, as she calls herself. She thinks 26 is an s — number for me because 2 + 6 = 8, which is my so-called “bad number”. She found that out … somehow. According to the friend, 7 is my lucky number. My strength Unfortunately, 7 is already taken . And 25 (2 + 5 = 7) was Adebayors, which means that everything is connected with bad karma. We end up settling for 52. When it is made official everyone thinks that it is an indication of my new one Wage: £ 52,000 a week. “
He may be well-established as Liverpool’s first choice right-back, as well as a Premier League and Champions League winner, but Alexander-Arnold is still eschewing the more orthodox No. 2 jersey in favor of his old squad number No. 66. Like the Reds’ kitman, Lee Radcliffe , revealed, the number contains neither a cache specific to Alexander-Arnold nor an attempt to forge a numeric identity for itself.
“When you see him lifting trophies and celebrating with a 66 on his back, it’s a strange feeling and I can’t really describe it,” said Radcliffe. “It’s strange to see such a high number and that someone is happy with it!” Someone like Trent was just happy to be on the first team and obviously doesn’t realize how good he is. He’s not really asking for anything to be honest. I think he’s so relaxed that he obviously got the number and thought, “Yeah, I’ll do that. I’ll keep this and not realize how iconic it has become over the years. “
69. Bixente Lizarazu
At the height of his career at Bayern Munich, Lizarazu wore the traditional jersey of the No. 3 left-back with great appreciation. He then spent six months in Marseille in his native France before returning to the Bundesliga giants for a final business trip before the 2005/06 season. After his famous No. 3 jersey was transferred to Brazilian center-back Lucio in his absence, Lizarazu had to choose a new number for himself. The then 35-year-old veteran full-back chose No. 69, which he claimed was merely an indication of his year of birth (1969), height (1.69 meters) and weight (69 kg).
When Ronaldinho showed up at AC Milan in 2008, he first requested the jersey No. 10, which he had worn with such distinction in Barcelona and which had also become part of his personal branding (“R10”). Unfortunately Clarence Seedorf already had this number in Milan and did not want to give it up. In fact, Milan also had an unwritten rule preventing their players from hacking and changing the shirt numbers. The Brazilian striker instead opted for the number 80 in relation to the year he was born. Ronaldinho’s trick of putting his date of birth on his back was still copied by two more signings in Milan that summer. Returning Andriy Shevchenko chose the # 76 jersey and midfielder Mathieu Flamini chose the # 84.
96.2. Mika Lehkuosuo
Most unusual number in history: Finn Mika Lehkosuo used 96.2, a Hensinki radio dial pic.twitter.com/L6jsHqi72X
– Luciano Wernicke (@LucianoWernicke), May 16, 2015
Not many footballers have successfully added a decimal point to their shirt number, but Finnish midfielder Lehkuosuo did just that after signing a sponsorship deal with a local radio station. For this reason, the man from HJK Helsinki wore shirt No. 96.2 in relation to the frequency of the station in question. The deal was short-lived, however, and ended when UEFA regulations prohibited Lehkuosuo from wearing his unauthorized shirt in Champions League matches.
99. Antonio Cassano
Cassano took pride in bowing to Congress during his time in Sampdoria. The striker had wanted the number 18 as his shirt number of his first choice (because 9 plus 9 equals 18), but Hungarian winger Vladimir Koman has already done that. Unfortunately, his second choice, No. 10, was already worn by Francesco Flachi. Cassano was forced to resort to his third pick and picked the number 99 when introduced as a Sampdoria player that this was in part a tribute to Brazilian powerhouse Ronaldo, who was wearing the same number at AC Milan at the time .
121. Tommy Oar
Famous or perhaps infamous Australian midfielder Oar wore the No. 121 jersey on his international debut during an Asian qualifier against Indonesia in 2010. In a squad that already had a No. 60, 61, 66 and 89, it was kind of Oar , who still managed to come out with the most ridiculous number of them all. As bizarre as it sounds, it was a direct result of the rules of the Asian Football Confederation that all players likely to be fielded must be assigned a jersey number that they must keep for the entire qualifying campaign. We can only assume that Socceroos coach Pim Verbeek was not particularly confident that Oar would be used at any point.
Alvarez belongs to a select group of players who played with not one, not two, but three digits on their backs. The center-back appeared in the # 282 jersey when he made his debut for Club America in 2016 at the age of 19. This is due to the rule in Liga MX that all players, including those of the reserve and youth teams, must be assigned a number. As a result, Alvarez rose quickly while maintaining his three-digit number. The Mexican international, who signed for Ajax in 2019, is now number 4 for club and country.