By Jim Hearson
- Jim has carved out something of a niche for himself with previous #1to11ify efforts for the FA Cup and World Cup and he’s back for more
Following our thought exercise into what if winning teams were numbered 1-11 in the finals of the FA Cup and World Cup, we’ve continued that to the next big trophy – literally and figuratively – the Champions League. It’s not like UEFA to be late to the party, but it took until 1996-97 for teams to wear squad numbers in their premier competition, so that’s where we begin our flight of fancy.
1997: Borussia Dortmund 3 Juventus 1
As with our World Cup odyssey, we begin in western Germany and an internal conflict about who wears 2. With the right wingback sporting 7, the least maddening option would be to give it to a centre half, and given that Jurgen Kohler would wear 5 later in his Dortmund career IRL, he can have it now, meaning Martin Kree is the lucky recipient of 2.
Fortunately, everything else is relatively straightforward. Left wingback Jorg Heinrich takes the 3 that he often wore for Germany, Karl-Heinz Riedle wears his Euro 92-era 11, and Paul Lambert and Paulo Sousa assume their position-appropriate numbers (in some nations) of 4 and 8, respectively.
1998: Juventus 0 Real Madrid 1
Spoilers: we’re going to see quite a lot of Real Madrid during this, so let’s buckle up and get on that particular numerical horse. In truth, it’s more a gentle beachside donkey trek this time around, rather than racing in the Grand National, largely thanks to La Liga’s relatively strict squad numbering rules.
Bodo Illgner, Christian Panucci and Fernando Morientes would all sport 1, 2 and 9, respectively, later in their Madrid careers (and most other places they played), so it’s completely logical to assign them now. By contrast, Christian Karembeu never wore 11, but that’s all there is left, so ya know… sucks to be him.
1999: Manchester United 2 Bayern Munich 1
Everyone remembers David May’s post-match antics, when he was pretty prominent in many photos despite not being involved in the match, other than doing a few stretches on the sidelines as an unused sub. Well, his shadow – or more accurately, that of his number 4 shirt – looms large over an almost exemplary line-up from United.
With Dwight Yorke being the best option to take Teddy Sheringham’s 10, that leaves Jesper Blomqvist in May’s shirt. It’s not completely without precedent, however – Ryan Giggs once wore 4 for the Red Devils, while Lee Sharpe was assigned an awkwardly low number for much of his time at the club.
2000: Real Madrid 3 Valencia 0
Oh look, it’s Los Merengues again, and after sweetening us up with their last entry, they’ve left a much sourer taste in the mouth this time around. Obviously, Iker Casillas will take 1, but then we have 4, 5, 10 and 11 to go between three central defenders and a striker.
The soundest reasoning we can come to is to give Iván Campo and Aitor Karanka 4 and 5, respectively, as they were the common-or-garden centre backs, while Ivan Helguera was notionally more of a sweeper and it’s not unheard of for them to have ideas above their stations and wear 10. That leaves Nicolas Anelka with 11, which is a damn sight more suitable than his general number of choice.
2001: Bayern Munich 1 Valencia 1 (aet, Bayern won 5-4 on penalties)
For the second season in a row, Valencia came up short against a team playing with three central defenders, but at least this time they can take some solace from Bayern not causing us as much of a headache as Real did.
No silliness or fuzzy logic required here, just popping Thomas Linke in 6, Owen Hargreaves in 8 and Hasan Salihamidzic in 10. Next!
2002: Bayer Leverkusen 1 Real Madrid 2
It doesn’t matter that he was one of the greater players to play the game, Zinedine Zidane wearing 5 for Madrid was just never right. That said, it does get us out of a bit of a hole here, albeit one that wouldn’t have been the hardest to climb out of had we needed to.
As it is, we just need to give Cesar Sanchez 1, Santiago Solari 11 and Calude Makelele 8, although it wouldn’t be too outrageous to suggest that had he and Zidane switched their numbers over, a lot of people would’ve breathed a huge sigh of relief.
2003: Juventus 0 AC Milan 0 (aet, Milan won 3-2 on penalties)
Alessandro Costacurta has had quite the career in numbers, and while it would be tempting to give him 11 here, it feels more natural to have him in the 5 that he wore far more often. Granted, that does leave Alessandro Nesta wearing 2 at centre back, but that’s the average of familiar 13, so that will do here.
Playing towards the left means that it should be Clarence Seedorf who actually wears 11, while there’s something quite appropriate that Milan would break out Franco Baresi’s long-since-retired 6 shirt for another giant of the game, Andrea Pirlo.
2004: Monaco 0 Porto 3
Jose Mourinho’s Porto didn’t just disrupt football’s top table in 2004, but squad numbers took a hit too – a goalkeeper wearing 99? A leftback wearing 8? Absolute madness. Fortunately, there’s enough wiggle room was left to rectify things to some degree of satisfaction, albeit probably not one to send you sprinting down the touchline.
Obvious, Vítor can say Baía to 99 and take 1 instead, while Paulo Ferreira is a victim of circumstance and needs to wear 3. He would later be handed that shirt in the 2010 World Cup, so there’s some plausibility there. Similarly briefly, Maniche wore 7 when on loan at Mourinho’s Chelsea. That leaves Carlos Alberto sporting the striker’s 9, while Pedro Mendes in 5 is the best we can do – blame Nuno Valente.
2005: AC Milan 3 Liverpool 3 (aet, Liverpool won 3-2 on penalties)
Numbers 3 and 5 are causing a headache again, but this time it’s from where they were actually assigned, rather than trying to square-peg them into round holes. Thank you, Rafa Benitez, for your freeform jazz approach to handing out squad numbers.
In keeping with this – and Liverpool’s history for unusual numbering – we’re going to lean into it, rather than trying to do anything remotely rational. So, that’s why we’re having Xabi Alonso wearing 2, Djimi Traoré taking 9 and Jamie Carragher sporting 11. If it’s already broke, why try to fix it?