The Legacy and Impact of the Number 8 in Soccer

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Written by Daniel Pena, Bachelors in Kinesiology and footballer: Learn More

What is the number 8 in soccer? Jersey squad numbers are a very special part of the beautiful game that were first introduced in the Early 1900’s. Back in the day it became normal to assign a number to a specific position, starting with the goalkeeper as number 1 and the left winger as number 11.

Today fans and players still associate numbers with positions although the players do not have to be matching numbers and positions anymore. Out of all the jersey numbers, one of the most iconic ones is the number 8 which is for the central midfielder role.

In this blog we will explain everything you need to know about the number 8 in soccer.

Number 8 in Soccer

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What is the Number 8 in Soccer?

The number 8 refers to the central midfielders who play as box to box midfielders. The term ‘ number eight’ traces back to this system, where each player was given a number according to their position within the first eleven on the field. Over time, these numbers began to carry more weight and became representations for various styles of play and traits.

Responsibilities of a Number 8 Central Midfielder

In the modern game the number 8 is arguably the most important position on the field because they link the defense with offense through central areas. They also have responsibilities on both sides of the field at any moment, unlike other positions who play more mainly in the first or final third.

There is a common phrase that goes “Whoever wins the midfield wins the match” and that is because the soccer team that is controlling the midfield is usually controlling the flow and tempo of the game.

Attacking Responsibilities

In the attack, players wearing the number eight shirt have many important jobs.

  • Making traditional box-to-box runs
  • Linking play by offering passing options for teammates
  • Switch the ball when necessary
  • Be a ball carrier, move the ball forward, and take risks at the right times
  • Create space for teammates and find gaps and pockets of space
  • Creating scoring opportunities and threats towards the opposition goal

Defensive Responsibilities

The number 8 also has many important defensive responsibilities including

  • Positioning the team properly by being communicative
  • Providing defensive cover for the central defensive midfielder
  • Good at blocking shots from the other team
  • Be able to read game scenarios to intercept passes
  • Make smart tackles when necessary
  • Smoothly transition from defense to attack

Key Traits of a Successful Number 8 Player

All soccer positions require different traits and for a number 8 these are the most important traits to have or to improve.

  • Physical Fitness- Stamina and Seed
  • Technical Skills
  • Passing Skills- long passes, short passes, through ball passes, all types of passes
  • Excellent Positional Sense – stay inside channels and gaps
  • High game intelligence
  • Awareness and scanning

Notable Number 8 Players in Modern Soccer

The number 8 in soccer has been worn by some of the greatest professional players in the history of the game, making this one of the most sought after numbers by central midfielders. Here is a list, in no particular order, of the best players who have worn this legendary jersey.

  • Andres Iniesta- FC Barcelona, Spain
  • Xavi- FC Barcelona, Spain
  • Steven Gerrard- Liverpool FC, England
  • Frank Lampard- Chelsea FC, England
  • Bruno Fernandes- Manchester United, Portugal
  • Toni Kroos- Real Madrid

Number 8 in Soccer
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Frequently Asked Questions

What soccer numbers do the different types of center midfielders and central players wear?

In soccer there are three main types of central midfielders. Based on the given formation that will determine how many of each type of midfielder a team plays with.

  • The central defensive midfielders; They are known as the CDM, the number 6 or as the holding midfielder
  • The central midfielders; They are known as the number 8 or as the box to box midfielder
  • The central attacking midfielders; They are known as the CAM, Number 10 or the attacking midfielder.
  • The central defenders: They usually wear the numbers 5 and 4 and they are usually referred to as center backs
  • The center forwards: The center forward, or the striker, usually wear the 9 striker jersey.

Which squad numbers are associated with certain player positions?

One of the parts that makes soccer, or the beautiful game, so special is the fact that certain traditions have been passed down for generations, such as associating certain squad numbers with player positions. For example, the number 10 is arguably the most iconic jersey number.

Back in the day the first choice goalkeeper would wear the number 1 and the defenders, usually four defenders, would wear 1-5. The midfielders would get number 6-8 and the forwards would wear 9-11. Depending on the formation of the team the numbers would differ but these are the general unwritten rules.

Who is the only player in Spanish Football history to score in the World Cup Final?

The only Spanish player to score in a World Cup Final was Andres Iniesta, arguably the best number 8 in soccer history who scored inside the penalty area during extra time of the World Cup 2010.


In conclusion, the number 8 in soccer is one of the most iconic squad numbers in the world. Worn usually by the box to box midfielders this jersey has been worn by some of the best players of all time. In this blog we covered everything about what makes the number 8 so special and although it was not worn by the GOATS such as Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona, the number 8 was worn by legendary midfielders such as Andres Iniesta, Xavi, Steven Gerrard, and many more.

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