What is a Number 10 in Soccer?

Within the beautiful game of soccer, certain numbers hold a special significance.

From the commanding number 9 to the agile number 7, each jersey number carries its own aura and responsibilities.

However, none captures the imagination and creativity quite like the iconic number 10.

Revered and celebrated, the number 10 has become synonymous with the orchestrators of the game, the midfield maestros who possess an unparalleled ability to influence and shape the course of a match.

In this article, we embark on a journey to explore the enigmatic world of the number 10 in soccer.

We delve into its historical context, examine the traits and qualities associated with this iconic number, and celebrate the influential players who have etched their names in the records of soccer greatness.


What is the meaning of number 10 in soccer?

In soccer, a number 10 represents an offensive midfield player who thrives in the intricate zones that lie between the central midfield and the forward line. Positioned strategically, they adeptly exploit the gaps between the opposition’s midfield and defense, often referred to as the coveted “between the lines” space.

what is a number 10 in soccer - central attacking midfield player

The term “number 10” can be interpreted in two distinct ways:

  • It pertains to the player donning the jersey with the number 10 printed on their back during a specific game. This individual carries the responsibility of embodying the creative and visionary qualities associated with the iconic number.
  • It encompasses the position itself, symbolizing the role played by the player occupying that specific area on the field.

This position is renowned for its association with skillful playmaking, intelligent movement, and the ability to unlock defenses with incisive passes and clever runs.


Where does the “number 10” name originate from?

The tradition of numbering jerseys in soccer dates back to Australia in 1911, where the first documented instance of a team wearing numbers on their backs occurred during a match between Sydney Leichhardt and HMS Powerful.

Following this, Argentina embraced numbered jerseys in 1923, with the practice eventually reaching the United States in March 1924 during a game between the Fall River Marksmen and the St. Louis Vesper Buick.

Remarkably, England, widely regarded as the birthplace of modern soccer, did not adopt numbered jerseys until 1928.

The inclusion of numbers on jerseys was initially intended to facilitate identification of players’ positions on the field.

Each position was assigned a specific number from 1 to 11, serving as a clear indication of their designated area of play.

For instance, the number 1 was exclusively worn by the goalkeeper, while the number 9 denoted the center forward.

Initially, these numbers were strictly tied to their corresponding positions on the field.

Therefore, if a player operated as a central midfielder in one match, they would don the number 8, whereas if they played as an attacking midfielder in the next game, they would proudly display the number 10.

The history of the number 10 jersey is intricately intertwined with the broader context of numbered jerseys in soccer.

Each number carried specific significance, representing a particular role and area of expertise within the team.

As the game evolved, players and teams began to associate certain numbers, like the number 10, with the playmaking and creative responsibilities on the field, further adding to the mystique and importance of these iconic jersey numbers.


What role does the number 10 player have in the game?

The traditional archetype of the number 10 was primarily responsible for bridging the gap between the defense and midfield, acting as the conduit to connect the two with the front line.

what is a number 10 in soccer - link and creative outlet

Their ingenuity shone through as they skillfully executed dribbles, deft touches, precise crosses, incisive passes, through balls, and intricate combinations to create scoring opportunities for their teammates.

Operating in confined spaces and often facing pressure from opponents converging from multiple directions, they thrived in such challenging conditions.

However, as the game has progressed and evolved, the role of the number 10 has expanded significantly.

Their duties extend well beyond solely creating chances for others through their ball-handling skills.

The modern-day number 10 must exhibit versatility and adaptability in various aspects of their gameplay.

This entails making purposeful movements into the penalty area to support the center forward(s), as well as venturing out wide or infiltrating the inside channels to provide assistance to wingers or full-backs.

Here’s a neat video which breaks down the sort of movement you should expect to see from a player in this role:

Facilitating wide overloads to enable teammates to find spaces for crossing becomes a crucial aspect of their contribution.

Additionally, the contemporary number 10 may adopt a deeper central position to receive the ball, particularly in situations where there is limited space between the lines of the opposition’s defense and midfield.

Moreover, an integral expectation placed upon number 10s is their ability to pose a goal threat themselves.

They are required to make penetrating runs beyond the striker(s), attack crosses, and provide support during the second phase of play following a ball played into a center forward.

In essence, the role of the number 10 in modern soccer has expanded to encompass a broader skill set and a multifaceted approach to the game.

Alongside their playmaking prowess, they must exhibit tactical intelligence, positional versatility, and the goal-scoring instinct of a forward-thinking midfielder to fulfill the dynamic demands of the contemporary football landscape.


Which famous players have performed best in the number 10 role?

Here’s a quick list of players who have thrived as number 10s over the years gone by:


1. Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi’s remarkable achievements and statistical accomplishments are a testament to his unrivaled brilliance on the soccer field.

The numbers surrounding Messi’s career paint a truly extraordinary picture.

In La Liga, Messi boasts an astounding record of 474 goals, establishing himself as the all-time leading goal scorer in the league.

On top of that, he has also provided an impressive 193 assists in the Spanish league, showcasing his exceptional playmaking abilities.


2. Diego Maradona

Maradona possessed an unparalleled mastery of the ball, showcasing his technical brilliance whenever he graced the field.

His extraordinary speed and exceptional dribbling skills allowed him to effortlessly bypass any opponent in his path.

With an innate ability to envision and create opportunities, Maradona exhibited remarkable creativity and vision while in possession.


3. Johan Cruyff

Johan Cruyff possessed an unparalleled tactical acumen that sets him apart as one of the most brilliant minds in the history of soccer.

His ability to not only perceive the flow of a game but also shape it according to his own vision was truly remarkable.

Cruyff’s mastery extended beyond his exceptional game reading skills.

He had a remarkable knack for creating and exploiting spaces on the field, leaving defenders bewildered as he effortlessly slipped past them.

His ability to elude markers at will showcased his unrivaled understanding of movement and positioning, making him an elusive and unstoppable force.


Why is the number 10 position considered so special?

The allure surrounding the number 10 jersey stems from its association with some of the most legendary figures in soccer history, who achieved extraordinary feats while adorned with this iconic number.

Renowned players such as Pele, Maradona, Messi, and countless others have left an indelible mark on the sport while donning the number 10 jersey during the pinnacle of their careers.

As these exceptional individuals captivated audiences worldwide with their awe-inspiring performances, the number 10 became synonymous with greatness, further solidifying its prestige.

Imagining themselves as one of these revered icons, young aspiring players across the globe aspire to wear the number 10 jersey, emulating the greatness that has been associated with it for generations.

In dreams and friendly matches alike, children yearn to embody the essence of these legends by sporting the coveted number 10 on their backs.

Moreover, the position of a number 10 offers a unique blend of joy and entertainment, both for those who play in it and for those who watch the game unfold.

The role grants players the freedom to express their creativity and showcase their skills, making it one of the most exhilarating and captivating positions on the field.


Concluding thoughts

In conclusion, the number 10 jersey in soccer embodies a rich legacy and carries immense significance within the sport.

It has become synonymous with greatness, owing to the remarkable achievements of iconic players who have worn it throughout history.

From Pele to Maradona, Messi to countless other legends, the number 10 has adorned the backs of those who have dazzled audiences with their unparalleled skills and game-changing abilities.

Beyond its symbolic value, the position of a number 10 holds a special allure.

It represents a realm of creativity, artistry, and tactical influence on the field.

Players in this role possess the power to shape the game, orchestrating attacks, and unlocking defenses with their vision, technique, and ability to create scoring opportunities.

Samuel Waihenya
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