Bellingham omitted, Saka over Ronaldo and France defenders dropped in one-per-number Euro squad

Dave Tickner
Harry Kane, Kylian Mbappe and Florian Wirtz in Euro 2024 squad numbers squad.
Harry Kane, Kylian Mbappe and Florian Wirtz in Euro 2024 squad numbers squad.

So what we’ve done here is come up with an all-star squad for the Euros but the catch is that we can only have one player per squad number. No, you’ve run out of Euro 2024 feature ideas.

You can check out the full squads with their squad numbers here and try to come up with your own versions that don’t absurdly manage to overlook William Saliba at 17, if you like.


1) Jan Oblak (Slovenia)
In part this is a selection born of desire to just make things slightly more interesting given the inevitable big-team bias this very silly feature entails, but it’s no token pick either. Oblak has been an integral part of Atletico’s big-two bothering antics in Spain for years now, and has kept over 200 clean sheets for the club.

At international level, he is Slovenia’s greatest asset and a presence certain to make life difficult for Harry Kane and co during the group stage.

Honourable mentions: Manuel Neuer (Germany), Gianluigi Donnarumma (Italy)


2) Kyle Walker (England)
While rogue number twos are out there – Antonio Rudiger, we’re looking at you – we’re essentially looking for our starting right-back here, despite some out-there alternatives. You’ve got Joshua Kimmich in the number six for Germany, Joao Cancelo wearing 20 for Portugal and the Netherlands with an embarrassment of non-number-two right-back riches thanks to Jeremie Frimpong (12) and Denzel Dumfries (22).

Those lads outside the 1-11 may well come into consideration later, but Kimmich has done himself out of a chance. We’ve already got to decide whether we want a centre-back six or a midfielder six. We can’t be chucking right-back into that mix as well. It’ll melt our tiny minds.

We’re left with three, really. Benjamin Pavard, Kyle Walker, Dani Carvajal. And from those, we’re still taking Walker and his point-blank refusal to lose even a single inch of pace. We’ll just ignore the Iceland game.

Honourable mentions: Dani Carvajal (Spain), Benjamin Pavard (France)

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3) Andy Robertson (Scotland)
There are going to be a frankly unacceptable number of centre-backs striding around Germany with 3 on their back this summer, but again we’re not in the mood to make this more complicated than it already is. We’re only on number three and already regretting a number of our life choices.

This is our left-back and that’s that. We’re going with Robertson not because we think he’s necessarily the best of the three main contenders we’ve identified but because it keeps things interesting and gives us another country like Slovenia who – and we don’t think this is too much of a spoiler – are unlikely to feature again further on in the list.

We did initially think of making this very silly task absolutely impossible with the addition of a one per country criterion, and it’s really only the fact that 24 is less than 26 that kept us away from that ledge. Thank heavens UEFA gave in to those demands from weak managers who weren’t willing to cut their squads to 23. But we already know we’re going to do the full idiot version of this for the 48-team World Cup in two years’ time.

Honourable mentions: Federico Dimarco (Italy), Ferland Mendy (France)


4) Ruben Dias (Portugal)
A quick glance around the general numbering policy of the squads tells us this needs to be one of our starting centre-backs, so it’s bad luck to Declan Rice right from the start. But after that it’s an absolute fiend of a decision. We’ve got to leave out either Van Dijk or Ruben Dias along with plenty of other entirely worthy contenders.

Reluctantly and with absolutely zero certainty that we’re making the right call and with only the fact that it literally doesn’t matter one iota saving us from sleepless nights, it’s Virgil who misses out by the barest of margins.

Honourable mentions: Nacho (Spain), Josko Gvardiol (Croatia), Simon Kjaer (Denmark), Declan Rice (England), Virgil van Dijk (Netherlands), Dayot Upamecano (France)


5) Nathan Ake (Netherlands)
For some reason there’s just nowhere near the same depth at number five as number four. Ake’s starting place will come under serious threat from the bench options, that’s for sure.

Weirdly, especially given who we picked from our options at number four, there’s a powerful Manchester City flavour to the available number fives. We’re going to say it: Pep Guardiola is a better football manager than we are, and for the most part on the run-in he went for Ake as Ruben Dias’ partner. If it’s good enough for Pep, it really should be good enough for us.

We also found ourselves thinking that the familiarity between the centre-backs in this thrown-together squad would be a major boon until we remembered it’s not real and they won’t actually be playing any games.

Honourable mentions: Manuel Akanji (Switzerland), John Stones (England), Jules Kounde (France)


6) Eduardo Camavinga (France)
Choice of two sixes for the six role, although in truth they face a pretty tough battle to get a starting spot ahead of our number 16. Camavinga gets the nod because him being a 21-year-old who has won two La Liga titles, two Champions Leagues and been to the World Cup final is just silly.

Joao Palhinha is class, but he also plays for Fulham. Sorry if that offends. Kimmich, as previously discussed, is just too confusing an option to be wearing number six. We’re trying desperately to keep on top of things and that’s too daft.

Although we are increasingly tempted by Rudiger and Kimmich knowing we’ve got Rodri to start. No. Be strong. First instincts are usually right.

Honourable mentions: Joao Palhinha (Portugal), Joshua Kimmich (Germany)


7) Bukayo Saka (England)
Okay, this one is quite funny. We will never make a single apology for the vast quantity of love we have for Bukayo Saka, but even we concede he is beating an absurd number of European football heavyweights here.

But there’s method to our undeniable madness. One of the themes of this tournament more generally than in daft features hanging by a thread on a very stupid hook is how the wide players skew significantly left. There are brilliant left-wingers everywhere you look in this tournament but a lot less of them on the right. And only one of them who’ll be wearing the number seven shirt, which needs to be our starting right-winger if we are to keep any semblance of our sanity.

Yes, there are a hilarious number of brilliant players wearing this shirt in Germany, but only one who does what we need. Sorry, Cristiano, sorry, Kevin, but it’s all about squad balance. You understand.

Increasingly funny honourable mentions: Alvaro Morata (Spain), Dusan Vlahovic (Serbia), Antoine Griezmann (France), Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium), Khvicha Kvaratskhelia (Georgia), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)


8) Toni Kroos (Germany)
We’ve already explained how he’s going to be player of the tournament and he gets a well-deserved fictitious send-off in our fake squad to go with the very nearly as meaningful one he gets in the actual tournament on actual home soil.

Tchouameni is a bit unlucky, Wijnaldum a bit less unlucky and Alexander-Arnold is someone we’d absolutely earmarked for a place in this squad as multi-faceted cover for right-back and midfield until Gareth Southgate spoiled everything by giving him a 1-11 number.

Bruno Fernandes loses out, like so many of those number sevens earlier, by just not quite being the right kind of player we need. Again, we’re sure he is very upset about that but will completely understand where we’re coming from. Keen reader of the site, is Bruno. That’s right, he’s read every single one of the mean mails and comments you lot have sent about him over the years.

Honourable mentions: Trent Alexander-Arnold (England), Georginio Wijnaldum (Netherlands), Aurelien Tchouameni (France), Bruno Fernandes (Portugal)


9) Harry Kane (England)
We all know what’s required from a number nine, but there are surprisingly few genuinely elite ones knocking around in this tournament. Partly that’s due to some wrong-number antics. Marcel Sabitzer and Leandro Trossard, for instance, are fine players with notable attributes but will never, ever be number nines, come on. But it’s also just a really hard job.

You can look at the promise of your Rasmus Hojlunds or the astonishing international record of the Aleksandar Mitrovics of this world, but really you’re overcomplicating things if you’re looking anywhere beyond Kane, Lewandowski and Giroud: a trio of all-timers heading to Germany with 372 international caps and 202 international goals between them. And you’re being equally overcomplicated if you don’t quite quickly settle on Kane as the best of them at this time. Especially as The Curse only operates in our universe.

Honourable mentions: Robert Lewandowski (Poland), Olivier Giroud (France)

10) Kylian Mbappe (France)
Perhaps the single-most stacked number in Germany this summer and yet one of the easiest actual selections.

There’s a pretty wide range of players wearing 10 from midfield enforcers (Xhaka) to people who should surely really be wearing eight (Szoboszlai) to silky smooth former Tottenham playmakers (Modric, Eriksen) to second-strikers (Depay) and first strikers (Lukaku).

In terms of actual number 10s you’re probably looking at Musiala and Bernardo Silva and Bellingham but let’s be honest, there’s no decision to make here is there. You pick Mbappe, start him on the left and source a number 10 from elsewhere.

Honourable mentions (deep breath): Jamal Musiala (Germany), Dominik Szoboszlai (Hungary), Granit Xhaka (Switzerland), Luka Modric (Croatia), Christian Eriksen (Denmark), Jude Bellingham (England), Memphis Depay (Netherlands), Romelu Lukaku (Belgium), Bernardo Silva (Portugal)


11) Phil Foden (England)
And there’s our solution to the above. Foden is entirely correctly numbered at 11 given where he’ll start for England, but he’ll start at 10 for us with Mbappe in the actual 10 shirt from the left. Perfect. Not actually that many standouts in the number 11 shirts elsewhere, frankly. Shout out to Marcelo Brozovic for being such a rogue number 11, while Ferran Torres’ international record deserves respect and Cody Gakpo has bountiful potential for future tournaments.

Honourable mentions: Ferran Torres (Spain), Marcelo Brozovic (Croatia), Cody Gakpo (Netherlands)

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12) Guglielmo Vicario (Italy)
So here’s where things get interesting. Never ideal words to be writing almost 2000 words into a feature, but you see what we mean. We picked our 1-11, for reasons of our own sanity, with a view to it coming out as a coherently feasible starting XI even though it doesn’t really need to. We think we’ve got that, and now it gets a bit more uncertain with even looser guidelines about the post-11 numbering protocols.

What we do really need from either our 12 or 13, though, is a back-up keeper. We thought we had a belter until we realised the fool had taken the same number as Rodri, so we’re left with Spurs keeper Guglielmo Vicario looking the best bet of the 12s and 13s, with Jose Sa losing out to him here while among outfield players both Alex Grimaldo and Jeremie Frimpong are unfortunate.

Honourable mentions: Alex Grimaldo (Spain), Jeremie Frimpong (Netherlands), Jose Sa (Portugal)


13) Thomas Muller (Germany)
None of the goalkeepers at 13 are grabbing us by the bollards, so what we’re going to do here is simultaneously declare the returning 33-year-old N’Golo Kante too old and instead select a 34-year-old Thomas Muller as a general back-up option full of nous and experience to slot in anywhere across our stellar frontline and deliver press conference zingers. And there really is nothing you can do about it.

Honourable mentions: N’Golo Kante (France), Illya Zabarnyi (Ukraine)


14) Aymeric Laporte (Spain)
Couple of high-quality centre-back options here, with Laporte getting the nod over Slovakia captain Milan Skriniar.

A fully-fit Ivan Perisic would have been tempting, but it’s unclear how much he’ll be able to contribute for Croatia after his comeback from a serious knee injury, while Federico Chiesa is another eye-catching name among the Euro 2024 14s.

Honourable mentions: Ivan Perisic (Croatia), Federico Chiesa (Italy), Milan Skriniar (Slovakia)


15) Micky van de Ven (Netherlands)
Potentially and weirdly the weakest number at the whole tournament. We’ve got a couple of centre-back options at different stages to go for, along with a forward who sounds like he should be a defender but isn’t.

Micky van de Ven becomes the second Spurs player to secure a back-up spot in our squad. Spurs might not have many players heading to Germany this summer, but you have to give the ones who are going credit for picking canny numbers to get themselves into our thoughts. Apart from Radu Dragusin, anyway, who gave himself absolutely no chance by donning number three. Rookie error.

Honourable mentions: Marcus Thuram (France), Thomas Meunier (Belgium)


16) Rodri (Spain)
A nice easy choice outside the first 11 for us here, with Rodri an absolute penalty-kick of a selection, albeit one that does deny us the chance of selecting an absurdly overpowered back-up keeper.

The retirement of Hugo Lloris left a vast experience gap in the French goal, and the fact Maignan has opted against stepping into the former captain’s No. 1 jersey despite being a pretty clear first-choice allows us a pretty daftly overpowered back-up keeper, albeit one in an entirely rogue shirt number.

We have long accepted that there could be no reconciliation or common ground between those who believe 12 is the correct number for a second-choice keeper and those who know in their bones that only 13 is right. But when did 16 sneak into that particularly niche front of the culture war?

Maignan is one of five goalkeeping number 16s heading to Germany, albeit the only one who gave us any pause at all over our selection. We didn’t look too closely at any of the other outfield options either, truth be told. It just has to be Rodri, doesn’t it? He’s arguably the best player outside 1-11 shirt numbers at the entire tournament.

Honourable mentions: Mike Maignan (France), Matheus Nunes (Portugal)


17) Florian Wirtz (Germany)
This is perhaps the clearest example of how the random factor outside the first 11 numbers can play out. Even in the squad number era, there are still loose rules about 1-11 and who goes where. There are variables and exceptions, but as a general rule most teams are going to have a right-back at number two and a striker at nine and so on.

Beyond 11, as we’ve established, there’s no longer even a clear consensus on goalkeeper numbers, never mind the rest. And here at 17 we find ourselves absurdly deciding to leave out William Saliba because we want options from the bench who can change games going forward.

Look we’re obviously going to hypothetically regret this when we hypothetically lose one of our hypothetical centre-backs to hypothetical injury midway through the second hypothetical game of the hypothetical group stage, but them’s the breaks.

Florian Wirtz is a game-changer and we want him in even if it is at really quite startling cost. And we’ve not even mentioned the brilliant Nico Williams at all, with his name like someone with more caps for Wales than he has Premier League appearances. All Saliba had to do was pick literally any other number between 12 and 26 (with the possible exception of 16), but he didn’t. Makes you wonder, doesn’t it? How much does he really want a place in this squad? Hmm? We’re better off without him, we continue to insist as we slowly shrink and transform into a corn cob.

Honourable mentions: Nico Williams (Spain), Daley Blind (Netherlands), William Saliba (France)


18) Ruben Neves (Portugal)
We don’t want to get all old man yells at clouds about it, but we are not happy about the selection of players wearing the 18 shirt nowadays. In our day, 18 was a squad number for a striker because of its relationship with the number nine. Maths fans will already know this, but it’s two times nine, isn’t it? And one plus eight also equals nine. Or maybe it’s just because of Jurgen Klinsmann.

Either way, we want to see strikers in this shirt and we quite simply don’t. As a result, we’ve got Ruben Neves bolstering some weirdly strong central-midfield options we’ve got in this squad outside the 1-11, with Anthony Gordon the only other name to really catch the eye at all.

We always try to convince ourselves that there is a meaningful lesson in even our tishiest fipsy, and the learning from this one is that Portugal have a really very impressively deep squad with all manner of eye-catchers outside the first 11 numbers.

Honourable mentions: Anthony Gordon (England), Nicolo Barella (Italy)


19) Leroy Sane (Germany)
It’s a nothing of a number, isn’t it, 19? If it weren’t for Gazza at Italia 90 it would have almost nothing to recommend it at all. We’ve got ourselves a lovely Leroy Sane for the collection, though, as he beats off desperately limited competition in this section.

Honourable mentions: Ollie Watkins (England), Christoph Baumgartner (Austria)


20) Joao Cancelo (Portugal)
Some very good players at number 20, but we’ll waste little time here and simply have ourselves a lovely bit of Joao Cancelo cover for both full-back positions, please and thank you. Pep isn’t right about everything, you know.

Honourable mentions: Pedri (Spain), Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Serbia), Kingsley Coman (France)


21) Ilkay Gundogan (Germany)
The temptation to go with the wonderful Eberechi Eze is simply vast but we’ve got pretty good options out on the left already in Kylian Mbappe and Leroy Sane, and the chance to add another experienced midfielder to the squad is not one we can really afford to pass up.

There isn’t much Gundogan hasn’t seen in this daft old sport of ours and despite all our mucking about we’re actually ending up with an absolute wealth of experience among our engine-room options as well as some younger legs to do all the unpleasant running and such as and when required.

Honourable mentions: Eberechi Eze (England), Frenkie de Jong (Netherlands), Diogo Jota (Portugal)


22) Theo Hernandez (France)
Another number with a weird number of eye-catching options, but we do need another full-back really because we’ve currently got just Cancelo covering both flanks.

We’re not going to get a better option than Theo Hernandez anywhere else outside the 1-11 so we have to grasp that chance and alas go without the dash of Jeremy Doku, the steel of Tomas Soucek or the comically overpowered third-keepery of Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Honourable mentions: Marc-Andre ter Stegen (Germany), Fabian Schar (Switzerland), Jesus Navas (Spain), Denzel Dumfries (Netherlands),Jeremy Doku (Belgium), Tomas Soucek (Czechia)


23) Unai Simon (Spain)
There is almost no scenario where presented with a list of options including Xherdan Shaqiri we would even consider looking elsewhere. But we do need a third goalkeeper because it’s the done thing, isn’t it? Unai Simon, well done, you’re in the squad and we will do our level best to look happy about it.

Honourable mentions: Xherdan Shaqiri (Switzerland), Alessandro Bastoni (Italy)


24) Cole Palmer (England)
Are we really leaving out another high-quality France centre-back? Yes we absolutely are. Cole Palmer is a pretty straightforward choice here. He offers cover at number 10, which we need, and also wide on the right and potentially for Kane after an absurd breakthrough season at Chelsea.

A wonderfully versatile option in great form. It’s the sensible, percentage play. It’s what smart managers do. Definitely.

Honourable mentions: Ibrahima Konate (France), Amadou Onana (Belgium)


25) Pedro Neto (Portugal)
Pedro Neto offers us some pretty high-quality cover on the right-hand side of the attack and he gets the nod over Adam Wharton – for whom this One Player Per Shirt Number Euros comes just too early, sadly – and Steven Bergwijn, who we would pick only in the very specific event of finding ourselves a goal down in injury-time against Leicester. It’s not an eventuality we can waste a squad spot on here, because this is Very Important Work.

Honourable mentions: Adam Wharton (England), Steven Bergwijn (Netherlands)


26) Ryan Gravenberch (Netherlands)
Another young England midfielder just misses out in the high numbers here, with Ryan Gravenberch’s greater experience meaning he edges this Liverpool-Man United tussle for the coveted No. 26 shirt. Deniz Undav was tempting too but you don’t need tournament back-up for Harry Kane. It’s a waste of a space. You certainly don’t need two strikers in your squad as back-up for Kane. Only a fool would do such a thing.

Honourable mentions: Deniz Undav (Germany), Kobbie Mainoo (England)