Christian Abbiati wishes you a happy new year

New Year’s Day is 01/01, so perhaps it should be made a special day for goalkeepers.

One netminder who never seemed to carry 1 on his back, however, was the Italian Christian Abbiati, who could lodge a justifiable claim to be the patron saint of squad numbers.

Having been with Milan since 1998, he has donned six different numbers. When he made his name in 1998-99, he wore 12 as he came into the side when Sebastiano Rossi got injured, helping the Rossoneri to win the title.


He kept 12 until the end of the 2000-01 season. For 2001-02, however, the number was given to Valerio Fiori – who had had 40 for the previous two seasons – with Abbiati moving to 18.


After another two seasons, he changed once more in the summer of 2003, to 77, representing the year of his birth, 1977.


That experiment lasted just a year, however, and he was registered as 17 for the 2004-05 season. With the Brazilian Dida now the first-choice keeper, Abbiati’s game-time was limited, meaning that a good picture of him in 17 was hard to source.


Oddly, it wasn’t the only number he wore that season, either. For the Champions League, he was assigned number 46 (we haven’t been able to find out if someone else had 17 – if they did, they didn’t play in the CL). When Dida was struck by a flare in the quarter-final clash ‘away to’ Inter at the San Siro, he had to leave the field, with Abbiati replacing him.


Having played in the final Serie A game of the 2004-05 season against Palermo, when the first-choice players were rested ahead of the Champions League final against Liverpool, Abbiati wouldn’t appear for Milan for three years.

A loan spell at Genoa was aborted almost as soon as it had begun when they were relegated to Serie C1 due to match-fixing, but soon found himself joining Juventus on loan when Gianluigi Buffon suffered an injury which kept him out for the first half of the 2005-06 season. Abbiati spent 06-07 with Juve’s rivals Torino – he wore 32 with both Turin clubs – and then joined Atletico Madrid for 2007-08, wearing 13 there due to the Spanish league’s strict rules on goalkeeper numbers.

On his return to Milan in 2008, he was back in the original number 12:


In both 2008-09 and 2009-10, David Beckham wore 32 for Milan, but Abbiati inherited it for 2010-11 and still has it as 2016 dawns. As he’ll be 39 in July, it’s probably the number he’ll finish with – though we have to admit we’d love to see one last change.



The curious case of Alessandro Costacurta

When discussing our article on World Cup block-numbering with our friend Jay from Design Football, he mentioned that Paolo Maldini was listed as number 5 for AC Milan in the FIFA 96 simulation, as he had worn for Italy at the 1994 World Cup.

It required further examination. The game used 1994-95 squads and, as squad numbers wouldn’t come into force in Italy until 95-96, Milan’s numbers took their cues from Italy’s USA ’94 ones. Franco Baresi was in his usual 6 – he was allowed to buck the alphabetical trend in ’94 – with Alessandro Costacurta 4, Maldini 5 and Demetrio Albertini 11 when their normal club numbers were 5, 3 and 4 respectively.

Costacurta was Baresi’s long-time central defensive partner and wore 5 for the club in European Cup/Champions League finals in 1989, ’90, ’93, and ’95 (he was suspended for the ’94 final along with Baresi and Maldini actually wore 6). However, when Milan issued their numbers at the start of 95-96, he was allocated 29 with Filippo Galli, a career reserve, wearing 5. He wasn’t the only first-teamer with a high number – Zvonimir Boban was 20, Mauro Tassotti 21 and Marco Simone 23 – but, to our minds anyway, 29 seemed incongrouous. After all, it’s in the ‘third’ 11.

Things got stranger the following season. Galli moved on to Reggiana and 5 was free but when Costacurta switched numbers it was to 11, which had been worn by Roberto Donadoni for a part of 95-96. Costacurta did finally move to 5 for 97-98 and kept it until the end of 2001-02, when he announced he would leave the club.

He did – but only for a short time as defensive shortage prompted the club to re-hire him. In the interim, though, Fernando Redondo had taken advantage of 5 lying vacant. When he signed from Real Madrid in 2000, he wore 16 and then, having missed most of his first season, he moved to 30. While he wore 6 for Real Madrid, he always carried 5 for Argentina and took it for Milan too for 2002-03, leaving Costacurta to have to be content with 19 when he returned.

Injury dogged Redondo’s time with the club (he refused to accept a salary while out and tried to return the house and car which the club have given him) and he left at the end of 2003-04, allowing Costacurta to don 5 once more. He would keep it until his retirement, as a European champion once more, at the end of 2006-07.

Why did he choose, or why was he given 29 and then 11 before returning to 5? Sadly, we haven’t been able to find out, maybe you can help us?