The Number 10 in Soccer – Why it’s so Significant

In every team sport, there are a few words, numbers, or phrases that hold a certain significance above others. In soccer, there are few other numbers that carry the weight and significance or the admiration and joy as the number 10. 

Any soccer fan will know that number 10 has been sported on the backs of the jerseys of some of the greatest soccer players in history.

Some of the most revered and remembered moments in this sport have come from players sporting the number ten on their back.

Yet what exactly gives the number ten this symbolism and makes it such an astounding number that stands out with significance on the field, in the game, and even in soccer trivia?

The number 10 is the given number to the soccer player or attacking midfielder on the soccer team. These play just behind the forwards and are responsible on the field for creating goal-scoring opportunities for the team.

The number 10 jersey has been noted to have been worn by some of the most infamously great soccer players in the history of the game’s existence. 

The journey to how the number 10 came to be so meaningful and significant is a question well-asked. There is a long history of this number and the game itself, the contribution to the significance of the number 10, and the position that it signifies in the game. 

Join us in this article, as we take a look through the history, meanings, and significance of this number, as well as a sneak, peek at some of the skilled players who have worn the number 10 on their backs over the year. 

What exactly does the number 10 mean in Soccer?

Number 10 can either refer to the player on the field who is wearing the number 10 on the back of their jersey in-game, or it can be the position on the field that is associated with the playing number 10.

During a game of soccer, a player is required to wear a number on the back of their jersey to accurately identify them. These numbers usually are from 1-11 but they can really be any number. 

The number 10 often is associated with the position on the field just behind the forwards and in front of the midfielders. In collaboration, this can mean that you will sometimes hear someone refer to the number 10 during a game but the player that responds is not wearing the number 10 and is wearing a different number on their back.

This can be  mind-boggling and leave you wondering, ‘how does anyone know who number 10 is then?’ Don’t worry, it will start to make sense as we go on. 

What is so significant about the number 10?

The number 10 in soccer, got its reputation mainly from the people who have played the number.

As the number 10 jersey was worn by more and more skilled and revered players, the number started to get the reputation of significance and brilliance. Many players in history have accomplished outstanding achievements while wearing this number, and as they rose up the number did so with them also. 

A great example of this would be a player such as Messi and many others of similar popularity and game relevance. These players wore the number 10 while at the pinnacle of their soccer careers, fans watched s they performed outstandingly on the field and reached heights unthinkable to spectators.

They achieved the unthinkable and did so while wearing this one number. With each player that climbed the success ladder, performing outstandingly, the number became more and more powerful in the game, and it has become a symbol associated with greatness and skill in the best players the sport has seen. 

Many kids that grow up playing or enjoying the sport have daydreams while they kick a ball around with their friends, imagining wearing that shirt and living up to the greatness it signifies.

Not only that but we are sure that anyone who has played soccer will agree, number 10 is probably one of the most enjoyable positions to play in. And for spectators, it is often one of the most entertaining to watch as well. 

Number 10 - A Brief History Lesson

When learning about why the number 10 is so significant in soccer, we have to take a little trip back in time. Jumping into our time machine and finding out why soccer plays wear numbers in the first place. 

We go back over 100 years to Australia, in 1911. At this time there was a game played between Sydney Leichhardt and HMS Powerful, this was the first-ever recorded instance in which a soccer team played with numbers on their jerseys. A year later this numbering of players in soccer was ruled mandatory in New South Wales. 

After this, the next recorded use of numbers on jerseys was on March 23rd in 1914. An amateur team of players called the English Wanderers played Corinthians at Stamford Bridge in London.

The first country with numbered jerseys was Argentina, South America. It was during the Scottish Team Third Lanark tour to South America in 1923. A friendly match was played and both squads were numbered 1-11. 

The first soccer match in the United States with numbered jerseys was on March 30th, 1924, when the Fall River Marksmen played St. Louis Vesper Buick during the National Challenge Cup. However, only the local team wore numbered jerseys. 

Numbered jerseys have been around for over a hundred years and only started being regularly used during the first half of the 20th Century. However, the history behind the number 10 jersey is a lot more detailed, however is not all that different from the other numbers worn by soccer players.

Numbers were first used as a form of identification for different positions on the fields. Each position was given a number from 1-11. This number would then indicate the area of the field, and the position a player was in.

This is similar that if they were number 1, you would know they are the goalkeeper, or if they were number 9, then they are center forward, or number 8 would be central midfield. Let’s have a little look at the positions before we move on. 



IN-Game Resposibilities



Most defensive position, required to stop opposition goals. 


Right full-back.

Overlaps and sends crosses into the opposition box. Expected to stay on their touchline.


Left full-back.

Line up with either side of the defense, Marks the opposition wingers.


Right center back.

Race to cover gaps when the defensive line is breached. Join midfield build-up when in possession.


Left center back.

Shuts down, opposition attackers. They may employ zonal or man-marking strategies.


Defending midfielder.

Sit in the front of the defense, win the ball back with tackles and interceptions. 


Right midfielder.

This is the widest attacking player. They often take on opposition defenders.


Central midfielder.

Play the link between offense and defense. They strengthen the team in its core. 


Center forward

The closest player to the opponent’s goal. They are responsible for scoring goals. 


Attacking midfielder.

Dictates play from behind the strikers. Creates goalscoring chances for attackers. 


Left midfielder.

Plays between midfield and attack. Often assists the striker/ central forward in scoring goals. 

The introduction of the numbering system came in very handy for soccer. The first reason that it helped was that it helped in coaching, when explaining tactics to their players the coaches were now able to refer to a specific number of the fields and everyone would know where what and the position being talked about.

It also became very useful for the players on the team, as it helped them to quality identify where they were supposed to be playing, they could also look around them and the numbers on the backs of their fellow player’s jerseys and see where each other player was, where a person was and help with more effective teamwork.

It can also be a great assistance for spectators and fans, when looking at the player lineups before a game, rather than just a list of names. Each player will have their image is shown and their name and number presented so it is easier to know where they are on the field.  

Originally numbers stuck to the position on the field, this means that if one player were to play as a central midfielder in a game then he would wear the number eight and if he was a striker he would be wearing number 9.

It is only more recently that numbers are now associated with specific players rather than positioning. A number is now often allocated to a specific member of the team, at the start of the season and they will then continue to sport that number despite whatever position they are playing in throughout the soccer season. 

It was through the number allocations to positions that the number 10 became so significant, in times prior to numbers being associated with players.

The attacking midfield position, which the number 10 represents, was the most coveted and cheered position for both players and spectators. This position is seen as a creative position, making passes and creating slick moves that no other player can.

They should have an incredible and precise vision to see what a pass opens up as a defense. This position is also capable of scoring and creating some incredible goals that all fans love to see. 

Learning about the role of a number 10 player in soccer?

So, let’s have a look at the role of the number 10 in soccer. The number 10 position in soccer is a role that is responsible for creating goal-scoring opportunities for the team, this can be done through making incisive passes, or creating space for fellow teammates, or sometimes when push comes to shove, scoring goals themselves too. This role is seen as the playmaker. In a sense, they are much like the conductor of an orchestra in how they conduct the play of their team. 

They are often playing the ball into areas in which the team can have the greatest impact on the game. They need to be able to effectively read the game and predict what will happen on the field before it does, this is a skill that is often referred to as ‘soccer brain’, it is really just a talent and experience for the game and education in foresight. A good number 10 player will have great creative thinking abilities. 

The number ten is often the most naturally gifted and creative player, as well as their foresight, they must also have the skills to pass, shoot accurately and also dribble the ball, as well as finding spaces for themselves and for other team players, to cross effectively and control the ball instantaneously.

They are an attacking player, when they receive the ball their first reaction must be to see if they can get the ball into a more advanced and advantageous position. They will be looking to assist the team in creating a goal-scoring opportunity and to score a goal themselves. Some of the most infamous number 10’s are considered to be so talented and good at what they did as not only did they create goals but also scores consistently throughout their plays and matches. 

They must also possess technical talents when encountering the ball. If they see a pass that needs to be made or a move that could open up the opposition's defense then they need the skills to be able to achieve what they are imagining. They must be able to see it, control it and make it happen. 

These players will often have a superior technical skill that allows them to keep hold of the ball for as long as they need to without getting tackled very easily, you may hear people speak of previous number 10’s, as almost having the ball ‘glued to their feet’, or ‘dancing with the ball’, they have a talent for ball control. 

These players are known as playmakers and there is a significant difference between advanced playmakers and deep-lying playmakers. Deep-lying playmakers are holding midfielders, but with a sense of attacking plays who will often specialize in ball skills such as passing rather than defensive skills. 

Who are the best players to wear number 10?

Lionel Messi

Lionel Mesi is seen as one of the world’s greatest soccer players. Although not many may still revere the argentine genius above some of the other great soccer players, Messi rewrote the Barcelona record books, which is quite an achievement when you consider all the amazing plays that came before him. He became the club’s all-time top scorer when he was only 24 years old. 

He also holds the records for the most assists in La Liga history and he always found a way to score that would never do so at the behest of his team. He has eight league titles, four Champions League medals, five Ballon d’Ors, and even more records than Madonna, it is shocking that Messi is so young and with so many achievements. 

Michel Platini

Plantini was exceptional with a ball, he was one of the best players of his generation. He was a dead ball specialist and was deadly on the field from a distance and cool from the penalty spot.

He was unusually quick and able to play anywhere in the attack. He was yet another playmaker that also seemed a sneaky step ahead of the opposition at every turn.

Though he was not blessed physically he never looked like an especially astounding athlete but he was always ready to surprise, if you put a ball at his feet, he would always find a way to beat you. 

Alfredo Di Stefano

Alfredo Di Stefano was a legend and pioneer before his time, he was perhaps even the original support striker. He was even named by Pele and others as the most complete player they had ever seen, his 376 goals in 522 games gave him a much deserved mention as one of soccer's greatest players.

His ability to drop off the front and become a creative force was his forte that made him into a legend. 

This Argentine born player won two Ballon d’Ors and eight Spanish league titles and is considered one of the best players to ever kick a ball. 

Diego Maradona

How you view Diego Maradona is totally dependent on where you live and how old you are. He is somewhat of a pantomime villain in England, but his performance again the Three Lions made him something of a cult hero in his home town of Buenos Aires.

His stocky build and tough frame made him nightmarish to stop when he picked up speed on the field. He had quite a low center of gravity and he was capable of twisting a turning beyond multiple players in the blink of an eye. 

He basically seemed to win the 1986 World Cup on his own, it almost felt like he would have achieved that as well, taking up the opposition on his own.

He was stellar at dribbling, magnetic like close control, and a burst of acceleration when you least expected it. He was the perfect example of the superhuman styled abilities that are envied in a number 10 player. 

Johan Cruyff

Yet another legend here, he became the creator of his own move, the father of total soccer, and an influence of the game as we are unlikely to see again, or at least for a long while. He was a legend for Barcelona and Ajax.

He did some of his best work out wide and would drift into all different areas of the pitch, seemingly finding spaces that the defense didn’t even know was there.  

He had it all; technique, speed, acceleration, vision, and the skill to beat his man when nothing was on. He has a tactical mind of which is yet to be matched. A hero to many players old and new. 

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