Changing numbers mid-season

Note: We revisited this topic in 2016.

In Spain, as far as we can see, players are allowed to change numbers during the mid-season break. In 2004-05, Henrik Larsson switched from 17 to 7 when the previous incumbent, Javier Saviola, joined Monaco. A year later, Lionel Messi would swap his number 30 for 19, though of course his destiny as number 10 wasn’t too far away.

Messi had to continue to wear 30 in Europe that season, however, as UEFA’s rules are far stricter. So strict are they, in fact, that no number can be used more than once in the same season. This meant that when Andy Carroll joined Liverpool in 2011, he had to wear number 29 in the Europa League, despite the fact that he had inherited the number 9 from Fernando Torres domestically.

Back to mid-season changes, though – in the the Premier League handbook, section M4 states that:

While he remains with the Club a Player will retain his shirt number throughout the Season
for which it was allocated.

By and large, this has unsurprisingly been the case (we do have a fuzzy memory at the back of our heads though that Chris Sutton began 1996-97 wearing 16 for Blackburn before realising Alan Shearer had left and then changing to 9), but Aston Villa in 2010-11 are a massive exception.

No fewer than four players finished the season wearing different numbers than those with which they began it:

Player                                   Old Number       New Number

Moustapha Salifou               17                       37

Andreas Weimann                42                       26

Barry Bannan                        46                       25

Ciarán Clark                          47                       21

Why were they allowed to do so, and in such relatively high numbers, when the practice would seem to be outlawed, and why are there seemingly no other examples? Please get in touch if you know.

10 thoughts on “Changing numbers mid-season

  1. Players may switch numbers in the first few weeks of the season, the list is finalised when the club’s name their 25 man squad in September.

    In 2012/13 Rafael van der Vaart wore 10 for the first two games of the season, Emanuel Adeboyor wore 25 in those games. When vd Vaart was sold on 31/8/12 Adeboyor took the no. 10 shirt for the rest of the season and Hugo Lloris took the vacant 25 shirt.


  2. Good spot Andrew, and, as mentioned on Twitter, Erik Lamela wore 33 for one game in the 2013-14 PL before taking 11 when Gareth Bale left. He still of course had to wear 33 for Europe while Vlad Chirches had 12 in Europe and 6 in the league.

    Looking at Villa pics from 2010-11, the changes would seem to have taken place at the start of September too


  3. Ibrahimovic wore 18 for his first six months at PSG, before getting the number 10 that had evaded him his whole career after Nene left in January 2013. He had to keep wearing 18 in the Champions League, of course.


  4. Paulo Futre was reistered for the 1996/97 season as no 16 for West Ham, in the build up to the first game of the season he refused to wear no.16 and insisted on wearing 10, this was already taken by John Moncur. Futre walked out.

    It is claimed, Futre offered him 2 weeks in his luxury villa to switch, which Moncur did and Futre made his debut 4 days later off the bench wearing no 10. In Harry Rednapp’s Autobiography, he claims Futre was willing to pay £100,000 to switch and compensate anyone who had “Futre 16” on their replica shirt


  5. When Pascal Chimbonda rejoined Spurs from Sunderland in January 2009, his old number 2 shirt had gone to Alan Hutton and so he took the 21 (vacated by Cesar Sanchez) – but due to that number already being registered in the UEFA Cup, he too had to choose an alternative – and, bizarrely, went for 97!


  6. Technically, I reckon it must be possible as players like Francis Jeffers at Arsenal in 2003-03 and Nathan Ake at Chelsea last season have gone and loan and had their numbers given away. If this happened and a player was recalled in an emergency…


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