Dani Alves’ tribute to Carlos Alberto

While he has had an up-and-down relationship with squad numbersquite literally – there’s no denying that Dani Alves knows how to pay tribute with what he wears on his back.

Switching from 2 to 22 at Barcelona was in honour of recently retired team-mate Eric Abidal while, apparently, the 23 he has at Juventus now is reflecting the choice of LeBron James.

He continued that pattern on Thursday night as Brazil beat Argentina 3-0 in their World Cup qualifier, the first game the country had played since the death of Carlos Alberto Torres, the captain of the 1970 World Cup-winning side.

While the rest of the Brazil players wore black armbands commemorating Carlos Alberto, as captain of the side Alves wore an inverse edition:

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In addition, the right-back also switched from his usual number 2 to 4, which Carlos Alberto had worn in 1970. A look at the development of the Brazilian numbering system, written by Alexander Howells, can be read here.

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Alves swapped with Gil, who had worn 4 in the previous qualifier against Venezuela, but the centre-back was an unused substitute for both games as Brazil (and Argentina) now availing of the option to use squad numbering for qualification games.

It’s also worth noting that Argentina now have a deviation from their traditional style too, as Lucas Biglia, who would be regarded as a classic ‘5’ in his native country, prefers to wear 6, the number his position would correspond to in mainland Europe.

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Kevin Keegan’s disingenuous reasoning

Martin Hardy has a new book, Tunnel of Love, about the goings-on at Newcastle United over the past 20 years or so.

Today’s edition of The Sunday Times featured a number of extracts, all eye-opening to varying degrees about the treatment of Bobby Robson, the Dyer-Bowyer fight and Craig Bellamy’s all-round difficulty. And there was a little snippet which naturally caught our eye – Alan Shearer taking the number 9 off Les Ferdinan when he signed in 1996.

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Alan Shearer’s £15m record move from Blackburn Rovers to Newcastle in 1996 was agreed at the home of England teammate David Platt’s parents.

“I’m not going to say this and that,” said Shearer by way of introduction. “The only thing I want to know is, can I have the number 9 shirt? That all I want to know, the rest I’ll leave to Tony [agent Tony Stephens].”

Kevin Keegan stood up. “You’ve got it,” he said.

Manager Keegan then had to tell Les Ferdinand he would not be wearing the shirt. “It’s not about the shirt for you, Les, it’s not that important.

“It’s a number and it was part of the deal to get Alan here. You’ll be a great partnership. It [the shirt] is not that significant.”

Ferdinand looked at Keegan and pointed at the gold pendant that hung from his chain. “How come you still wear the number 7 then, boss?” he asked.

Incidentally, David Ginola later reckoned that the re-assignment of the shirt had affected team morale.

Munster’s tribute to dearly departed coach Foley

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It promises to be an emotional day at Thomond Park in Limerick as Munster take on Glasgow Warriors in the European Rugby Champions Cup.

Last Sunday, as Munster were in Paris for a game against Racing 92, their head coach and former captain Anthony Foley sadly died. The former Ireland international was buried on Friday and the game against Glasgow is to be a tribute to him.

As part of the commemorations, Munster will stand down the number 8 shirt Foley wore for the majority of his career.

In addition, the players of Welsh club Scarlets will carry small ‘8’ insignias on the front of their shirts when they play Saracens. In this day and age, the phrase ‘classy gesture’ is overused, but it’s certainly applicable here.

Wearing 10 for his coin-try means a lot to Robbie Brady

 

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We’ve already mentioned that Robbie Brady has inherited the Republic of Ireland number 10 shirt in the wake of Robbie Keane’s retirement, fearing that he might wear it at left-back.

An upcoming international week – Ireland host Georgia and then travel to Moldova – brings about that possibility again, but Brady’s presence at a press conference on Monday allowed him to reveal how he actually ended up moving from 19 to 10, as reported in The Irish Examiner.

There was a few of us wanting it. Me and Jonny Walters were the last two and he sort of said, ‘You have it’. I said, ‘No, it wouldn’t be fair’. So we flipped a coin for it and I ended up getting it. I texted Rob to say, ‘I’m taking it over and I’ll try not to dirty it too much’.

He said, ‘All you have to do is score 69 goals!’. Nah, he’s a top man. I just thought it was an opportunity not to be missed and I want to do as much as I can for this country. It’s near enough impossible to do what Robbie has done but I’ll do as best as I can.

Throughout the ages of my Ireland career I’ve scored goals, I like scoring goals. I want to score as many goals as I can for Ireland but I don’t think a number on a jersey will make a difference.

Having worn 14 for much of the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign and the finals tournament, Walters then took advantage of Brady’s switch to move to the vacant 19 – which he used briefly in 2014 for his country and which he also wears for Stoke. So everybody’s happy.

Dele Alli’s possibilities

Bambidele ‘Dele’ Alli’s first three England caps were as a substitute and on each occasion he wore 20, which is his number for Tottenham Hotspur.

His first start came against France in November, when he wore 7, and last Friday against Germany he shone in the number 10 shirt as England came from 2-0 down to win 3-2. With the days of your Gerrards and Lampards gone and Jack Wilshere sadly looking like becoming the player who is a bonus when fit and little else, there are spots up for grabs and the former Milton Keynes Dons player is intent on taking one.

All season, he has been instrumental in Tottenham’s title challenge, displaying considerable maturity in midfield, and England manager Roy Hodgson believes that his all-round skill levels are such that he can play in a variety of midfield roles.

Dele Alli could do anything in those midfield positions. He could be box-to-box. He could be a number 10, or a number 6. He could be any of them. He has genuine all-round ability.

He can challenge, run, fight for the ball, see a pass, score a goal. You mention Bryan Robson — that’s the player I’d like to think he could become.

Robson of course wore 7, for West Brom, Manchester United and England, but it’s the other part of Hodgson’s quote which is interesting, when looking at it through an English prism.

While Alli was 10 against Germany, it’s normally a striker’s number for the England team. Geoff Hurst wore it when scoring a hat-trick in the 1966 World Cup final and it was also favoured by Gary Lineker while it’s almost a certainty that Wayne Rooney will wear it at Euro 2016.

We would imagine that Hodgson referring to “a number 6” comes from his time coaching on the continent, where it is used as a shorthand for a half-back-type midfielder. In England, of course, it means only one position, and, while he may carry the national team on his back, we would be very surprised if Alli ever carried the number 6 too.

Players of this type, including one former Tottenham and England hero, often end up as number 8s in England, so this may well be the case.

Marko Grujic, conservative or coward?

The Serbian midfielder, who will join Liverpool in the summer, has expressed reservations about taking the number 8 shirt, last worn by Steven Gerrard. Of his other suggestions, we’d certainly consider 35 a lesser evil than 88.

Last summer, Danny Ings also decided he’d prefer a higher number so as not to invite pressure from the off. Is it indulging players to allow them do this, or are they being given a free pass to shirk responsibility?