Lionel Messi’s transfer from FC Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain was one of the biggest developments in the ongoing summer transfer window.
The Argentine superstar ended his 21-year long relationship with the Catalan giants after his contract ended with the club in the summer of 2021. After issues with his contract renewal, Messi ended up moving to the French capital and joined the Ligue 1 giants on a free transfer.
It was an emotional break-up between the two parties. Though both parties wanted to renew the contract, financial constraints forced Barcelona to let go of their most accomplished footballer ever. The club loyalists too were extremely morose watching the departure of the Argentine star. There were even demands among several quarters of the fanbase to retire Messi’s iconic number 10 shirt.
Retiring a club legend’s jersey is not uncommon in the world of football. Napoli retired Diego Maradona’s number 10 shirt after the legend left the club, New York Cosmos also retired Pele’s number 10 jersey. Italian clubs like AC Milan and AS Roma also did the same when Paolo Maldini and Francisco Totti retired from their respective clubs.
But unfortunately, despite the popular demand, Barcelona couldn’t retire Messi’s jersey and there is a reason behind it.
La Liga rules on squad number clearly state that players in the senior team of all clubs have to be handed jerseys between 1 to 25 with one being assigned to a goalkeeper. Each club is allowed to register a total of 25 players in their squad including three goalkeepers. Other than jersey number 1, goalkeepers can also be assigned jerseys 13 and 25.
If a club decides to register a player from the reserves side in the middle of the season they can be assigned any number between 26 to 50.
Thus, even if Barcelona wants to retire the number 10 shirt in honour of Messi, they won’t be able to as they are bound to assign the number to a senior squad player. If they retire the number, they will not be able to register more than 24 players in the league squad.
It is a similar case for Real Madrid who also parted ways with star defender and club legend Sergio Ramos this summer. Ramos, like Messi, has also joined PSG. So even if Real Madrid want, they will not be able to retired Ramos’ iconic jersey number 4.
The rules in England, Italy and Germany regarding squad numbers of players are much more lenient compared to that of La Liga.
In the Premier League, any squad number can be assigned to a player. Legendary English defender John Terry wore the number 26 shirt throughout his time at Chelsea. Italian forward Mario Balotelli wore the number 45 shirt at Manchester City and Liverpool.
There are even instances in Premier League clubs where a defender has donned a number 9 shirt which is traditionally reserved for the club’s main striker. Dutch defender Khalid Boulharouz wore the number 9 jersey at Chelsea when he joined the Blues in 2006.
In Germany, the rules were very strict regarding assigning squad numbers to players. Until the 1994/95 season, players of Bundesliga clubs were not assigned any number as they would get a squad number according to the playing eleven of the clubs. The rule stated that 1 to 11 jerseys were assigned to the 11 players who played in a particular game that too as per their positions. So only if a player featured in the starting lineup or a matchday squad, they would get a jersey number.
Since the 2011/12 season, the rules have been relaxed and the league started allowing clubs to assign any number between 1 to 40 to their players with 1 being reserved for a goalkeeper.
In Italy, the rules are completely relaxed as the clubs can assign any jersey number to a player. When Brazil legend Ronaldinho joined AC Milan in 2008, he chose to wear the number 80 shirt. At Parma, legendary Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon wore number 77 shirt.