Friday, July 18 th, 2014
Mission  |  Team  |  Contact Us
Zanetti, Baresi, Riva... a retired jersey is a rare honour
Inter decided to retire the number 4 of their glorious 16-year captain. In Calcio's history other iconic footballers had this privilege
by Federico Formica
A noble act of gratitude or the theft of hope for the children who dream of becoming legends of their favourite team? Born in the American NBA, the ritual of retiring a jersey's number has entered in the Italian football when the mandatory numbers from 1 to 11 were dismissed. Now, retiring a jersey (with a specific number, of course) is a trend in Italy as well.

Inter's president Erick Thohir announced that Javier Zanetti's number 4 will be retired as a sign of gratitude for his 18 seasons (16 as a captain) and 615 Serie A caps for la Beneamata. It seems a right decision for the player who won the most trophies with Inter and who played the most Serie A, UEFA competition games and derbies with the Nerazzurro jersey. Zanetti is not the first Inter player to be honoured this way: another jersey which disappeared from the backs of Inter players is the #3, Facchetti's one.

Facchetti was an insurmountable sweeper of the great Inter of the 60's lead by Helenio Herrera. When he died at 64 in 2006, Inter former president Massimo Moratti decided to honour his memory.

But one of the first club in removing a shirt's number was Inter's rivals of AC Milan. It was number 6. The legendary number of Franco Baresi. Baresi was the center-back of the Invincibili lead by Arrigo Sacchi and, then, Fabio Capello. In 2003, AS Roma retired another #6: the 'property' of Aldair, the brazilian centre back who won a Scudetto with the giallorossi and played on the team for 13 years.

But ten years later, the number 6 of AS Roma returned on the back of the new arrival Kevin Strootman, with the 'blessing' of the same Aldair. Such a hard legacy!

And while in Roma people talk about the destiny of Totti's number 10, another great number 10 took his decision one year ago: Alessandro Del Piero also known as Pinturicchio. When Juventus jettisoned him not renewing his contract, Del Piero left for Sydney but asked the team not to retire the number 10 (that in the past was worn by Omar Sivori and Michel Platini). “It would not be fair. When I was a child I dreamed of wearing that shirt. And so many children have the same dream I had” Pinturicchio said. So, after an year of vacancy, the new owner of the bianconera #10 is Carlos Tevez. There's another #10 that does not exist anymore in Serie A. Is Napoli's one.

Explaining the reason why that is so, is almost unnecessary: that shirt is a memento of the magic years of Diego Armando Maradona, from 1984 to 1991.

Curiously, after it was been retired, Napoli's number 10 returned on the pitch for two years from 2004 to 2006. In that period Napoli played in the Italian third division and the rules of that league were clear: numbers had to be from 1 to 11. No exceptions were permitted, not even out of respect of Maradona. That “heavy” shirt ended on the back of another Argentinian, Roberto “El Pampa” Sosa. Another number 10 in blue, but a bit deeper blue, is Brescia's one. After four seasons spent painting football and leading Brescia to a legendary seventh place in Serie A, the club of rondinelle wanted to remember Baggio in that way.

Milan chose to suspend a number. It happened to the number 3 of Paolo Maldini, that left football in 2009 after 25 seasons in rossonero. For many years Maldini was one of the best left backs in the world, and without any doubt, the best in Milan history. His number 3 can be worn only by one of his sons, if any will become a Milan player. Will the descent of Maldini continue in the Italian football? The father of Paolo, Cesare Maldini, was a Milan legend in the 50's and 60's.

Another symbol of Italian football in the 60's is Gigi Riva. The great striker who chose to stay in Cagliari for all his career, despite great offers from the best Italian clubs. At Cagliari, Riva won a historical Scudetto (the only won by Cagliari so far). To reward his loyalty, Cagliari decided to retire Riva's number, the 11.

Genoa, the oldest Italian football club, retired the #6 of Gianluca Signorini. Signorini was the captain of the great Genoa of the 90's and he died at only 42 after a short battle against Als, the amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, best known as Lou Gehrig disease.

After 2002 Chievo Verona does not assign number 30 anymore. It was the number of the Congolese striker Jason Mayélé, passed away in a car accident while he was reaching the team bus to go play against Parma. Two months before Mayélé, another Serie A player died in a car accident: it was Vittorio Mero of Brescia. He wore the number 13, which has been retired to honour his memory.

The last fatal circumstance that lead to a posthumous shirt retirement was the death of Piermario Morosini, a Livorno player who died on the pitch during a match because of a rare cardiac disease. His number 25 will never be worn anymore.

Tuesday, July 1 st, 2014
For discussion of this topic and many more, join more than 10,000 fans at R/Football