- This article was originally published in 2018, but we’ve re-upped it today as 23-3-23 illustrates his journey even better
It’s somewhat fitting that, given he has been in the news lately, today is Luke Shaw Day.
If you’re wondering why you hadn’t already heard that, it’s because we’ve only just made it up – but the left-back’s squad-number change in August 2015, from 3 to 23, fits perfectly (okay, maybe arrange the date the way Americans do, with the month first).
When Shaw arrived from Southampton – where he had worn 34 and then 23 – in 2014, the departure of Patrice Evra had freed up the number 3 and he was set for a long career as first-choice for club and country, so it seemed like a perfect fit. However, a year later, he availed of another transfer outwards to move to the digits in which he felt more comfortable.
I wanted to be 23 last season when I came but Tom Cleverley was already that number so I couldn’t take it. Obviously he’s left, so I thought I’d go back to my original number, 23.
It’s where I started from. It’s the number I feel comfortable with and it’s probably the number that I want to carry on with until I finish my career.
The change did actually seem to work as he played his best football for United in late 2014 but a leg-break meant a long period out and he has since struggled to get back to the same level.
For people with old-fashioned views like ourselves though, the idea of switching from a 1-11 number – which should be the aim for all players – to a higher one seems like anathema, but Shaw is by no means alone. Here is an inexhaustive list of players who have made similar switches.
Andy Linighan and Eddie McGoldrick (Arsenal) – 5 to 12 and 11 to 21, 1995
Linighan wore 5 as he scored the winner in the 1993 FA Cup final replay and retained it for the 1993-94 and 1994-95 seasons, with Steve Bould 12 despite being the first-choice partner for Tony Adams. When Bruce Rioch arrived in 1995, he made a number of changes, including the swapping of Bould and Linighan. Given that it reflected the players’ status, this one was fairly acceptable.
McGoldrick hadn’t really established himself in the two years since his transfer from Crystal Palace, though the new number 11, Glenn Helder, wouldn’t last long, either.
Paul Stewart (Liverpool) – 8 (or 4) to 28, 1995
In the summer of 1995, Stan Collymore became the most expensive player in Britain, joining Liverpool from Nottingham Forest for £8.5m. Collymore had worn 10 at Nottingham Forest but was never likely to take that from John Barnes, while 9 was still in the possession of Ian Rush.
Instead, he was given number 8, with its previous occupant, England international Paul Stewart – who hadn’t played for the club since 1993-94 – apparently moved to 4. Early in 1995-96, Stewart went on loan to Sunderland and, while he was gone, Jason McAteer was signed from Bolton Wanderers and given 4.
When Stewart returned, he was assigned the number 28 though he wouldn’t play for the club again. Given recent revelations, numbers were probably of little import to Stewart, though the decline of his career is a sad indicator of how powerful inner turmoil can be.
Radhi Jaidi (Southampton) – 2010
As mentioned in last Monday’s quiz, he likes 15. He wore it for two years at Bolton Wanderers and all through his international career with Tunisia and when he joined Birmingham City he first wore 24 before moving to 15.
Then he joined Southampton and was given 6 but after a year he once again got his favoured number.
Brian McClair (Manchester United) – 9 to 13, 1996
Manchester United (and Liverpool) undertook a big numerical re-arrangement in 1996, and McClair had to surrender 9 to Andy Cole, in the process becoming the first outfield Premier League player to have 13 as a squad number. Again, hard to argue with the logic.
Dani Alves (Barcelona) – 2 to 22, 2013
You could write a whole article about the Brazilian’s number changes – and we have. His switch was a tribute to Eric Abidal, but two years later he opted to take 6 when Xavi left.
Chelsea in the mid-1990s
Andy Myers was given number 3 in 1993-94 but lost it to Scott Minto the following year and wore 15 for two seasons before, oddly, switching to 8 in 1996-97 and then again to 20 a year later.
Just below Myers in that inaugural squad number list in 1993 was young sweeper David Lee. Jakob Kjeldberg, wearing 35, established himself as first-choice centre-back alongside Erland Johnsen and so was given 4 for 1994-95, with Lee moving to 25.
In the summer of 1995, Chelsea signed Ruud Gullit, who took 4, leaving Kjeldberg to move again, this time to 19. Incidentally, Lee missed 1995-96 with injury and came back in 1996-97 wearing 15 but another injury meant the premature end of his career.
Jordan Ayew (Swansea City) – 3 to 18, 2017
It’s a philosophical question for number aficionados – is it better for a player to wear a ‘wrong’ low number or a high one? Probably the latter in Ayew’s case.
Daniele de Rossi (Roma) – 4 to 16, 2005
Started with 26, then wore 27 and for one glorious season wore the correct number for a midfield destroyer. His move was a mix of a tribute to Roy Keane and his daughter’s birthdate, which is almost fair enough.
Various Arsenal number 9s
Alan Smith, Chu Young Park and Lucas Perez, to 19, 30 and 28 respectively – see more here.
Lassana Diarra (Real Madrid) – 10 to 24, 2011
Another that can be easily justified. The number 10 never really suited him and was a better fit for Mesut Ozil.
Peter Ndlovu (Coventry City) – 9 to 14, 1996
Assigned number 12 in 1993-94, he switched to 9 for the following two seasons but the arrival of Gary McAllister in 1996 saw him take the number 10, which had been the property of Dion Dublin, who moved to 9 with Ndlovu having to change to 14. We did try to ask him about it:
Is that bad?
— Peter Ndlovu (@OfficialNdlovu) February 26, 2018 (tweet since deleted)
Robert Lee (Newcastle United) – 7 to 37, 1999
The aforementioned Ruud Gullit became Newcastle United manager after Chelsea sacked him but on Tyneside he fell out with Robert Lee, so much so that he didn’t even assign him a number for 1999-2000.
New signing Kieron Dyer had Lee’s old 7, so when Bobby Robson replaced Gullit and reinstated Lee, the midfielder had to wear 37. He was restored to 7 the following year, with Dyer moving to 8.
Xabi Alonso (Bayern Munich) – 3 to 14, 2015
Having worn 4 at Real Sociedad, he was handed 14 when he joined Liverpool and grew to love it, wearing it at Real Madrid after a season in number 22.
There were few options when he joined Bayern but Claudio Pizarro’s departure meant 14 was free for his second season.
Alvaro Arbeloa (Liverpool and Real Madrid) – 2 to 17, 2007
The right-back joined Liverpool in January 2007 and was given number 2. That should have been the end of it but instead he switched to 17 – which he had worn for the first half of 2006-07 at Deportivo La Coruña, having been 27 and 26 at Real Madrid.
He re-joined Real in 2009 and was given number 2, but the following season he repeated the trick and again donned 17.
Abou Diaby (Arsenal) – 2 to 24, 2013
A better example of a player vacating 2, though as Diaby didn’t play much in his final season it wasn’t really noticed.
The midfielder was given it when he joined in January 2006 – presumably they opted against 4 to avoid comparisons with Patrick Vieira – and it had a knock-on effect in 2007 when right-back Bacary Sagna was forced to wear 3.
Incidentally, in 2001, centre-back Igors Stepanovs gave up the Arsenal number 3 after less than a season so that left-back Ashley Cole could take it.
Various 1990s Premier League goalkeepers, 1 to 13
Erik Thorstvedt (Tottenham Hotspur), Nigel Spink (Aston Villa) and Bobby Mimms (Blackburn Rovers) all found themselves superseded, by Ian Walker, Mark Bosnich and Tim Flowers respectively. More preferable than Thibaut Courtois keeping 13 at Chelsea while various reserves wear 1.
Antonio Valencia (Manchester United) – 7 to 25, 2013
Just a year after being upgraded following the departure of Michael Owen, Valencia reverted back to the number he had left.
I think it turned out to be a very good number for me when I first arrived at the club as I was just given the no.25 more or less.
But things went really, really well. I played well wearing that shirt so I think it was a decision I came to in the summer. Maybe if I can get back to the form I showed before, why not? It is a good idea to start wearing it again.
It had been something I had been thinking about for quite a long time. I’d been considering a change back and maybe it is psychological or maybe it is just all about a good-luck symbol, if you like. We get a lot of that in Ecuador, maybe superstition, and l hope it continues and still brings me more good luck this season.
Valencia’s u-turn meant that Nick Powell had to go from 25 to 32.
Alessandro Costacurta (AC Milan) – 5 to 19, 2002
Not a perfectly pure example – the defender had originally decided to leave and when he re-signed, Fernando Redondo had nipped into take 5.
Costacurta, who also wore 29 and 11 for the Rossoneri, regained 5 two years later.
Allan Nielsen and Chris Armstrong (Tottenham Hotspur) – 6 to 22 and 11 to 15, 1999
George Graham renovated the Spurs numbers in 1998, perhaps inspired by the repositioning of Justin Edinburgh from 3 to 12 the year before.
Sol Campbell went from 23 to 5, Darren Anderton 9 to 7, Tim Sherwood 24 to 8, Les Ferdinand 10 to 9 and Steffen Iversen 18 to 10 while new signing Willem Korsten was given 11.
That displaced Chris Armstrong, who had to move higher with the rest of the attacking numbers taken. New defender Chris Perry was a better fit for 6 than midfielder Nielsen. Ledley King remained unchanged at 26 and kept it for the rest of his career.