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?

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