The Number 10.
Seemingly a mere numerical classification of a player’s positions on the pitch, the number 10 in football is, in fact, a symbolic representation of leader.
At the beginning of football time and the introduction of kit numeric, numbering used to be relatively basic and straightforward. With 11 players on the pitch, each had their own number – starting from No.1 for goalkeepers, numbers 2 to 5 for the defensive line and so on.
It did not take long for two players to stand out, however, with No.9 and No.10 being perceived as the most important figures in a team.
The classic 9 sits at the very front of the pitch and is tasked with scoring goals but it’s actually the No.10 that’s always carried the biggest weight – with people expecting an attacking midfielder wearing it to make the play and create magic, either from their base in the centre of the pitch or on either flank.
Long gone are years when No.10 actually had to wear that exact number on their back. The number 10 has become a classification of greatness, superiority and creativity – a representation of a leader who will use their passing, dribbling and overall technical ability on the ball to push their team forward and carry the load on their back.
The highly coveted number was often presented to a player as a reward as well. Clubs would install No.10 on their player’s back to symbolize their value and importance. Being rewarded with a No.10 would often bring honour to the player carrying it and inspire them to take up a leadership role in guiding their team forward.
Not in Atletico Madrid’s case, entirely.
The last man to carry now vacant No.10 at Atletico Madrid was Yannick Ferreira Carrasco, the Belgium winger who left Los Colchineros for China this week. The 24-year-old Belgium international joined Atletico Madrid back in 2015/16 season from AS Monaco.
Characterized by speed and agility, Carrasco made a flying start to his Atletico Madrid career with 29 La Liga appearances and 4 goals. Diego Simeone was impressed with a man he mostly used on the wing and went on to reward him with a No.10 shirt at the beginning of the 2016/17 season with Oliver Torres sealing a permanent move to FC Porto.
The personal decline of the 23-year-old Spanish midfielder who only managed 36 La Liga appearances for Atletico Madrid in five years with Los Colchineros was not enough of an omen for Carrasco, who fully enjoyed his first season with a No.10 slapped on his back.
The total of 10 goals in 35 La Liga matches and 2 more in 12 Champions League games spoke volume of Carrasco’s influence at Diego Simeone’s side.
The full weight of Atletico Madrid’s No.10 came back to haunt Carrasco in the 2017/18 season, without breaking the pattern set over the past couple of seasons. The weight on Carrasco’s back was simply too much for Carrasco who displayed a string of poor attitude displays that ultimately saw him fell out of Diego Simeone’s grace and leave the club for China this winter.
A look back through most recent history will be revealing a worrying insight into the weight No.10 carries at Atletico Madrid.
Barcelona outcast Arda Turan was the last Atletico Madrid player to carry the No.10 for three seasons in a row. His fallen football faith and a demise from a leader to a fringe player has been well-documented. A no.10 seems to have placed a curse on Turk’s back from the moment he decided to throw a boot towards the assistant referee in the Copa del Rey quarter-final against Barcelona on January 28, 2015. It was the same year he decided – during the summer transfer window – that Barcelona were worthy of a six-month wait on the stands knowing that Catalans were forbidden from registering new players until January 2016.
The likes of Jose Antonio Reyes, Mateja Kezman or Celso Ayala and Roman Kosecki some time before them are another group of players heavily-burdened by No.10’s weight at Atletico Madrid.
The exception to the rule in the most recent club history is Sergio Aguero – now a Manchester City legend – who carried the No.10 with pride, joy and plenty of success for full five seasons, which makes him the longest-serving No.10 in last 32 years at Atletico Madrid.
Who do you think should be named a new Atletico Madrid No.10?
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