Chelsea’s track record of no. 9 flops feature in list of cursed Premier League numbers
Do you believe in curses in football? Whether you do or not, these Premier League shirt numbers have a horrendous track record over the years. One has been so bad, players were literally scared to take it on, and when someone did, they became an outcast six months later…
Tottenham – 9
Richarlison joined Tottenham last summer and took on the no. 9 shirt, making him the R9 of the Premier League. In 20 appearances for his new club, the Brazilian has failed to score in 19 of those and is without a goal in the Premier League. That is pretty bleak for a striker who cost his side over £50million.
Nobody ran the risk of wearing this shirt last season after Gareth Bale did just about okay in it during the second half of 2020/21. The three men to occupy the shirt before were Vincent Janssen, Roberto Soldado and Roman Pavyluchenko. Before the Russian it was Dimitar Berbatov, the last true success story to be Spurs’ no. 9.
Manchester United – 7
I actually ranked every player to wear this shirt number since Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure in 2009. It is a bad, bad list. Incredibly, the best replacement for Ronaldo was the man himself, who had a pretty decent 21/22 campaign – though many believed he made United worse despite his goals.
Jadon Sancho may well be the next man to wear this shirt. If not, it will probably be the club’s marquee summer signing, unless Anthony Martial leaves and frees up the no. 9.
The English international looks to be turning a corner under Erik ten Hag and will hope to do better than Memphis Depay, Alexis Sanchez and Angel Di Maria. That shouldn’t be too difficult, mind.
Chelsea – 9
This is the most cursed Premier League shirt number of all. There have been some absolute stinkers to be Chelsea’s no. 9. Where do I begin? Well, the guy who currently wears it makes sense. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang joined last summer and took on the no. 9; six months later he was booted from the Blues’ Champions League squad and can’t even get in the matchday squad for a Premier League match.
Romelu Lukaku wore it before, and we all know how that went. Some of the previous names had comical spells and the actual fact they were given such a prestigious number was equally as funny. Before the Belgian flop, it was Tammy Abraham, Gonzalo Higuain, Alvaro Morata, Radamel Falcao, Fernando Torres, Franco Di Santo, Steve Sidwell, Khalid Boulahrouz, Hernan Crespo and Mateja Kezman.
Speaking last August, then-Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel admitted that “nobody wants to touch” the club’s no. 9 shirt – a few weeks before Aubameyang did just that. He should have listened…
The no. 15 also has a pretty bad track record at Stamford Bridge. Mykhaylo Mudryk took this number on last month, succeeding Kurt Zouma, who succeeded Victor Moses, who succeeded Papy Djilobodji, who succeeded Mohamed Salah, who succeeded Kevin De Bruyne, who succeeded Florent Malouda. So, yeah…not great.
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Arsenal – 9
Gabriel Jesus is looking like he will end the curse, but let’s wait until we see what he is like post-injury. Niall Quinn wore it back in the day, as did Alan Smith and Paul Merson. Unfortunately, the last Arsenal great to have the honour of being the club’s no. 9 was debatably Nicolas Anelka.
Jose Antonio Reyes did wear the shirt and was decent, but since then there has been some absolute tosh. From Lucas Perez to Julio Baptista, Jesus will be hoping he can continue from where he left off before picking up an injury at the World Cup.
A case could be made for the Gunners’ no. 2 shirt. Hector Bellerin left the number unoccupied when he joined Barcelona in 2022. Prior to the Spaniard, it was worn by Mathieu Debuchy and Abou Diaby – who was a truly cursed footballer with the number of injuries he suffered.
Liverpool – 29
Has a good player ever wore this shirt for Liverpool? I genuinely do not think so.
The first to rep it was Brad Friedel, who wore no. 29 11 times for the Reds. Then it was Stephen Wright in four separate seasons. Next up? Goalkeeper Patrice Luzi. Who? You can’t remember the 13 minutes he played for Liverpool? Shame on you. He didn’t concede that day and El Hadji Diouf was sent off. Fun.
Gabriel Paletta dared to try to fill Luzi’s boots. He played eight times for Liverpool. It was then Fabio Borini’s turn, and then Dominic Solanke stepped up. Neither had a good time of it at Anfield, it is fair to say.
After three years without an occupier of the no. 29 shirt, summer signing Arthur Melo went for it. The Brazilian played 13 minutes in the 4-1 Champions League loss at Napoli before a couple of youth-team appearances. He picked up a long-term injury in October and is not close to making a return.
Aston Villa – 9
Like Spurs and their no. 9 shirt, Aston Villa have had some handy players occupy it in the past, but their recent track record is pretty horrendous.
Juan Pablo Angel was decent on his day and is probably the last Villa player to wear this shirt how it should be worn. Since then, Marlon Harewood, Darren Bent, Stephen Ireland, Nicklas Helenius, Scott Sinclair, Scott Hogan, Wesley, Danny Ings and Bertrand Traore have taken it on and struggled.
Villa’s no. 14 shirt has also been pretty cursed over the years. Conor Hourihane was the last to wear it, and he wasn’t *too* bad. But Rudy Gestede, Philippe Senderos, Nathan Delfouneso and Eric Djemba-Djemba were those who preceded him.
Leeds United – 11
It is probably easier to sign underwhelming players if you are in the Championship, though a lot of them will go under the radar in mainstream media, mainly because it isn’t worth reporting on and the transfer fees are usually pretty small. Saying that, Leeds have had some absolute horror shows wearing the shirt number that Gary Speed and Eddie Gray once wore.
Jack Harrison was the club’s no. 22 for four seasons before cutting that number in half, taking on the once iconic and now feared number from Tyler Roberts, who never looked like a Premier League footballer during his time with the Yorkshire side. Lee Bowyer was arguably the last good player to wear no. 11 for Leeds. Harrison has been a solid player during his time at Elland Road but has been nowhere near his best for a while now.
The players to wear no. 11 between Roberts and Bowyer were: Jay-Roy Grot, Souleymane Doukara, Aidy White, Luke Varney, Lloyd Sam, Ian Westlake, Eddie Lewis, Julian Joachim, Jermaine Pennant and Raul Bravo. Ouch.
Everton – 14
This shirt number isn’t as cursed as United or Chelsea’s entrants, but I felt inclined to include it as the last four occupiers of Everton’s number 14 shirt have been Andros Townsend, Cenk Tosun, Yannick Bolasie and Oumar Niasse. Yikes.