The Legacy and Impact of the Number 9 in Soccer

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

What is the number 9 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 on the soccer team, 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 no longer have to be matching jersey numbers and positions. Out of all the jersey numbers, one of the most iconic ones is the number 9 which is for the striker role.

In this blog we will explain everything you need to know about the number 9 in soccer.

Number 9 in soccer Image by Source

The Prestige of Number 9 in Soccer

In soccer, the number 9 jersey is reserved for the striker, the player whose main job is to score goals for their team and lead the attack in the final third. Back in the day, numbers were assigned based on positions, not personal preferences and during this time the number 9 became associated with being the team’s best goal scorer.

Since then it has basically become tradition to give this number to the team’s main striker, which may boost their confidence since all players know what this number truly represents, but it can also add some pressure to players.

Key Skills and Responsibilities of the Number 9 in Soccer

Although scoring goals is the main goal of any traditional number 9, they also have many other responsibilities and key attributes needed to succeed.

Clinical Finishing:

    • The most obvious skill needed for any striker is being clinical and lethal in front of goal. This means being able to score a wide range of goals, from different areas on the field, and and on a regular basis

Positional Sense:

    • Off the ball movements and being in the right position on the field at the right time is also important for a number 9. A number 9 must make intelligent decisions and movements off the ball to exploit space, create space for teammates, and anticipate where the ball will be delivered, giving them the advantage over defenders.

Hold-Up Play:

    • Number 9’s must also be able to do a good job in holding up play and being an outlet for the team. What this means is that if the number 9 gets the ball on top and they are by themselves, they should be to hold the ball, keep it, and wait for the rest of the team to come support.

Physicality:

    • Number 9s, no matter what type of striker they are, must be physically strong, athletic, and not be afraid to be physical with the central defenders, or center backs, as well as with the fullbacks, who are usually tasked with guarding the strikers and not letting them score goals.

Work Rate:

    • While goal-scoring is a primary focus, a complete number 9 contributes defensively and is involved in the overall team play with their high work rate and work ethic.

Leadership:

    • Number 9s often assume leadership roles on and off the field because they inspire teammates with their work ethic, determination, ability to step up in crucial moments, and change the outcome of the game.

Different Types of Number 9s

Most formations in the modern game will have a striker, but the role of the striker can vary based on different factors such as the team’s formation, tactics, and the player’s playing style. These are the different types of number 9s and the best strikers for each specific role.

Poacher:

The poacher is a clinical finisher known for their ability to score from close range. They often have a sharp sense of positioning and can capitalize on loose balls or rebounds in the penalty area. Their job is to sniff out goal-scoring opportunities and convert them with precision.

Notable examples include:

  • Ruud Van Nistelrooy- Manchester United
  • Miroslav Klose- Bayern Munich (World Cup all time leading goal scorer)
  • Inzaghi- AC Milan

Target Man:

A target man is a physically imposing striker who excels in their heading ability, scoring skills, and holding up play. They are often used as a focal point in the attack, where teammates can play off them. Target men are effective at bringing others into the game and can also score with their head or feet.

Notable Examples include:

  • Erling Haaland- Manchester City
  • Marcus Thuram- Inter Milan
  • Lewandowski- FC Barcelona
  • Harry Kane- Bayern Munich
  • Karim Benzema- Real Madrid
  • Luis Suarez0 FC Barcelona

False Nine:

The false nine, often referred to as a second striker, is a tactical innovation in which a forward plays deeper than a traditional striker, often dropping into the midfield. This positioning disrupts the opposition’s defensive shape and creates space for onrushing midfielders or wingers. False nines are valued for their creativity, vision, and ability to link play.

Notable examples include:

  • Roberto Firmino- Liverpool FC
  • Lionel Messi- FC Barcelona
  • Dries Mertens- Napoli

Number 9 in soccer Image by Source

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is the best number 9 in football history?

The Brazilian Ronaldo, often confused with the Portuguese Cristiano Ronaldo, is widely regarded as the greatest striker in football history?

Who is the best number 9 in Premier League football history?

Alan Shearer is often referred to as the greatest number 9 in Premier League history and he is a legendary figure of English football.

Who is the best number 10 in football history?

Arguably the two greatest number 10s of all time are Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona who have both played for the Argentinian national team of South America.

Who are some of the best defenders in football history tasked with stopping the number 9s?

Some of the best four defenders of all time include John Terry, Fabio Cannavaro, Rafa Marquez, and Sergio Ramos to name a few.

What is the best soccer training program?

The best online soccer training program and soccer app is Football Entangled. There is no other program like Football Entangled on the market and this community, much more than just an app, will help you get closer to making your dreams a reality.

How can I learn more about the game?

To learn more about soccer the most important thing is to join a team and play the game as much as possible. If possible, analyze high level games as much as you can and your own games as well by recording them with a soccer camera. Also read soccer books, listen to podcasts and interviews watch soccer documentaries, as well as some movies, tv shows, and anime.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the number 9 in the beautiful game refers to the striker or centre forward who plays in front of the attacking midfielders and leads the line of attack. The striker position is one of the most important soccer positions and they can play in different formations as a lone striker, with a right winger and a left winger, or with two strikers, either playing side by side or one acting as a second striker, or more like an attacking midfielder.

Whether you are an adult or youth soccer player, understanding the role of the number 9 is crucial for understanding squad numbers and the roles of your different team mates on the field. In this blog, I covered all the basic information you need to know about the number 9 in soccer.

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