Atlético get their man, Gavi gets his number
One notable change during the transfer window didn’t involve a player moving clubs.
Instead, Barcelona were able to take advantage of the fact that La Liga allows players to switch numbers during a campaign – this used to be more common but now it’s only allowed if the number the player is moving to has not already been worn during the campaign.
Since making his breakthrough to the Barça first team in 2021-22, Gavi has worn number 30 – classified as a youth player, he had to wear a number outside of the 1-25 reserved for the ‘senior’ squad.
He quickly became a key member of the side, jarring with his official status. For 2022-23, he remained listed as number 30 though he did sign a new deal in September – however, the club were unable to register it with the league due to salary-cap issues. Those problems were finally sorted this week and the club made a big show of the fact that he was inheriting the number 6, worn with such distinction by current coach Xavi Hernández. It had been unoccupied since another La Masia graduate, Riqui Puig, left Barcelona for LA Galaxy last summer.
With fellow home-grown midfielder Pedri having switched from 16 to 8 during the summer, Barcelona will now hope that they can match the success of Xavi and Andrés Iniesta in the same numbers.
One quirk is that, while Uefa have removed the prohibition on a number being worn by more than one player in a season, they continue to prevent players switching during a European campaign and so Gavi will continue to wear 30 when they take on Manchester United in the Europa League. Also, don’t expect Gavi and Pedri to do a number-swap at international level like Xavi and Iniesta – Gavi wears 9 for Spain while Pedri currently has 26 for his country.
The room on the Barcelona wage bill was created by the departure of Dutch attacker Memphis Depay, who has joined Atlético Madrid. There, he will wear the number 9 shirt, freed by the loan move of Matheus Cunha to Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Memphis has also played the numbers game during his career. He is of course one of those who took on the mantle of the Manchester United number 7 shirt and then at his next club, Olympique Lyonnais, he went from 9 to 11 to 10.
When he joined Barcelona, he took number 9 – Martin Braithwaite had to move to 12 as a result, but then Memphis found himself in a similar situation last summer as he gave new arrival Robert Lewandowski the 9 and moved to 14.
- On Saturday, we hope to publish a squad numbers quiz based on the happenings in the January transfer window