Gareth Bale is to wear the number nine shirt after re-signing for Tottenham, which will be the Welshman’s fourth different squad number at the club.
So why has Wales’ top scorer changed his squad number four times?
Let’s take a look.
Number 16, 2007-8…. the jinx years
The jinx who hit the jackpot.
It is no wonder Bale did not opt to take his original shirt number at Spurs, 16, which is currently free.
It took 25 attempts for Bale to be on the winning side for Spurs, over the course of two years, after Martin Jol signed the Southampton number 22 in the summer of 2007, with most considering Bale to be an attacking full-back.
In the summer of 2008, Lee Young-Pyo departed White Hart Lane, leaving Bale and Benoit Assou-Ekotto to battle it out for the left-back role, so Bale got a new squad number.
So why did he not opt to stick with number 16? The 100% drawing or losing record, you would assume.
Three, it’s the magic number, 2008-2012
For the next four seasons, in a blur and whirl of pace and power, Spurs fans would become used to seeing their number three bombing down the left touchline, as he became virtually unrecognisable from the slight teenager who had first arrived at the club.
Harry Redknapp brought Bale on with Spurs 5-0 up against Burnley in September 2009. There went the jinx and once Bale and Spurs started finding success under Redknapp, both pushed on.
Bale’s breakthrough moment – some stunning free-kicks aside – came in the Champions League against Inter Milan in the group stage in 2010.
Bale dazzled in both games, scoring a hat-trick at the San Siro and torturing Maicon in the return game.
Bale won the PFA players’ player of the year award in 2010-11 and it was increasingly clear to all that he was probably was not going to be a left-back ever again.
Spurs have now given their number three shirt to another signing from Real Madrid, Sergio Reguilon.
Number 11, 2012-2020
In his final season at Spurs Bale “went into pre-season one day and said I’m not wearing number three anymore, that’s not me,” according to teammate Jermaine Jenas.
And since the retirement of Bale’s international manager Ryan Giggs, perhaps no player in club football has been a more famous number 11 than Bale has for the past eight years.
He left Spurs with another PFA award, 31 goals in his last season and then won the lot in Spain, becoming British football’s most successful export of all time, with four Champions League wins.
Bale has been Wales’ number 11 for the past decade and in 2013 he applied to trademark his ‘Eleven of Hearts’ goal celebration logo. If that was not enough, in 2017 he opened a bar in Cardiff called Elevens Bar and Grill.
It makes you think Bale is quite attached to the number… But he cannot wear it at Spurs this time.
Number nine, 2020-?
When Bale departed for Madrid for a world-record fee, they went on a spending spree that saw seven new players arrive at White Hart Lane, including Paulinho, Christian Eriksen and Roberto Soldado.
BBC pundit Garth Crooks said that his former side had “sold Elvis and signed the Beatles.”
However, of the seven Beatles signed with the Bale money seven years ago, only one remains at Tottenham, the man recruited to be a direct replacement for Bale, Erik Lamela, Tottenham’s current number 11.
So numbers three and 11 are taken, 16 is a jinx and Bale will therefore wear the Spurs number nine shirt, a number associated with the likes of Alan Gilzean, Martin Chivers, Chris Waddle and Dimitar Berbatov (Grzegorz Rasiak not so much).
Bale has worn it once before, in a pre-season friendly in New York in 2012 (he says he still has the shirt), although he said seeing his name on Spurs’ number nine shirt again “seems weird”.
Jenas, however, thinks Bale’s bluffing. “He wanted the number nine, he’s got it now!,” he said.
Oh and oh course, his Elevens bar name will remain the same. It’s Wales. Golf. Madrid, remember?
He’s still Wales’ number 11.