8 Best Players To Wear Number 5 In Football History

As football fans, we cheer for our favorite players, but sometimes, it’s the number on their backs that steals the spotlight.

From legendary comebacks to unforgettable moments, the football narrative is made with iconic jersey numbers that resonate with fans across the globe.

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Best Number 5s In Football History

  • Fabio Cannavaro
  • Claudio Gentile
  • Rio Ferdinand
  • Zinedine Zidane
  • Franz Beckenbauer
  • Carles Puyol
  • Sergio Busquets
  • Michael Essien

1. Fabio Cannavaro (SSC Napoli, Real Madrid, Juventus)

Fabio Cannavaro

Fabio Cannavaro is one of the famous soccer players who wore the number 5 jersey. Growing up in Bagnoli, Cannavaro’s journey to football stardom kicked off in his hometown, catching the eyes of Napoli scouts.

Cannavaro, initially a midfielder emulating Marco Tardelli, soon found his true calling as a center-back. His breakthrough moment was a robust challenge on Maradona during a Napoli training session.

The rough tackle ruffled feathers but earned him Maradona’s respect, who handed him his boots as a souvenir. Despite promising performances, Napoli’s financial woes led to Cannavaro’s move to Parma, where he clinched the UEFA Cup and Coppa Italia, earning the Serie A Defender of the Year title.

His journey continued with Inter before a transfer to Juventus. Joined by defensive stalwarts like Thuram and Buffon, they formed an impenetrable wall, securing two consecutive Scudetti in 2005 and 2006.

The Calciopoli trial threw Juventus into Serie B, prompting Cannavaro’s move to Real Madrid under Fabio Capello. Three seasons, two Liga titles, and individual honors like the FIFA World Player of the Year marked his Spanish sojourn.

A hero’s return to Juventus in 2009 saw Cannavaro reunited with Buffon, but the romance faded. Struggling form, a red card defeat against Fulham in the Europa League, and a disappointing seventh-place Serie A finish spelled the end. Regardless, he’s one of the best defenders to have ever graced the pitch.

2. Claudio Gentile (Juventus F.C)

Claudio Gentile

Claudio Gentile, the man who brought grit and resilience to the Juventus defense is one of the best football players to wear the number jersey.

His journey to football stardom began in Arona, and by the age of eight, Gentile’s family had relocated to the Lombardy region in Italy.

Gentile’s Serie B stint with Varese in the 1972–73 season laid the foundation for what would become a great career. His Coppa Italia debut against Ascoli Calcio in August 1973 marked the start of a footballing journey that spanned over a decade.

During his illustrious tenure at Juventus, Gentile played the best football in the club’s triumphs, clinching two major European club competitions, six Serie A championships, and two Coppa Italias.

His defensive prowess was instrumental in reaching the 1982–83 European Cup final, even though the Turin giants faced heartbreak against Hamburg.

In 1984, Gentile took a surprising turn by joining rivals Fiorentina, contributing over 60 appearances in Serie A. His football journey concluded with a brief stint at Piacenza in Serie B, retiring at the end of the 1987–88 season.

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3. Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United, QPR)

Rio Ferdinand

Rio Ferdinand carved his legacy across two Premier League giants: Manchester United and Queens Park Rangers wearing the number jersey.

In 2002, Ferdinand made headlines, joining Manchester United on a record-breaking deal, marking him as the world’s costliest defender at the time.

His impact was immediate, securing the Premier League title in his debut season and adding silverware like the League Cup in 2006.

However, Ferdinand’s journey wasn’t all glitz. In 2003, a missed drug test led to an eight-month ban, leaving him sidelined for crucial fixtures, including Euro 2004.

Nevertheless, his return against Liverpool showed his resilience, earning praise from manager Alex Ferguson. The twists continued, with contract disputes and fan backlash.

Boos echoed in stadiums, but Ferdinand, undeterred, signed a new deal, using criticism as motivation. His on-field contributions spoke louder than any off-field controversies, and this earned him a spot in the PFA Premiership Team of the Season in 2006–07.

From crucial goals to defensive prowess, Ferdinand’s career was a rollercoaster, with highs like captaining United to Champions League glory in 2008. His journey extended to Queens Park Rangers, where he wrapped up his illustrious career in 2015.

4. Zinedine Zidane (Real Madrid)

Zinedine Zidane

Zinedine Zidane is one of the best number 5 players In football history, making his name into Real Madrid’s storied history in 2001 with a record-breaking transfer fee of 150 billion Italian lire.

As a beacon in the Galácticos era, Zidane’s arrival was a turning point for the club. In the 2002 UEFA Champions League Final against Bayer Leverkusen when he unleashed a left-footed volley from the edge of the 18-yard box, securing a 2–1 victory.

Zidane’s balletic goal not only sealed a Champions League triumph but also solidified his status as one of the game’s greatest.

In the following season, Zidane showcased his brilliance, guiding Real Madrid to the 2002–03 La Liga title and claiming his third FIFA World Player of the Year award.

Fans, acknowledging his skills, voted him the best European footballer of the previous 50 years in UEFA’s Golden Jubilee Poll.

Despite retiring after the 2006 World Cup, Zidane left an unforgettable impact on Real Madrid, capping off his illustrious career with a hat-trick against Sevilla and a farewell match that saw the Santiago Bernabéu crowd express their gratitude with a banner reading, “Thanks for the magic.”

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5. Franz Beckenbauer (Bayern Munich)

Franz Beckenbauer

Franz Beckenbauer is renowned as one of the greatest players in history, and he is also one of the best number 5 in the game.

Starting as a midfielder, Beckenbauer became a central defender, earning acclaim for pioneering the modern sweeper role.

He was twice crowned European Footballer of the Year, and he played 103 times for West Germany, featuring in three World Cups and two European Championships.

Beckenbauer’s leadership began in 1974 when he lifted the World Cup trophy as captain and replicated the feat as a manager in 1990.

At Bayern Munich, he secured the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1967 and a historic three consecutive European Cups from 1974 to 1976.

His managerial prowess extended to guiding Germany to host the 2006 World Cup.

6. Carles Puyol (Barcelona)

Carles Puyol

Carles Puyol is another fantastic player to wear the number 5 jersey, and he’s regarded as one of the greatest defenders In football history. Puyol spent his entire football career in Barcelona.

Renowned for his defensive sense and exceptional leadership, Puyol earned the moniker “El Tiburón” (“The Shark”) from both teammates and fans alike. From August 2004 until his retirement in 2014, he proudly wore the captain’s armband for Barcelona.

Puyol’s legacy boasts an impressive collection of 18 major club titles, including six La Liga trophies and three Champions League triumphs. His 593 appearances in competitive matches for Barcelona underscore his enduring impact on the team.

7. Sergio Busquets ( F.C Barcelona, Inter Miami F.C)

Sergio Busquets

Sergio Busquets Is a joy to watch, wearing the number 5 both in the iconic Barcelona jersey and now in the colors of Inter Miami in Major League Soccer.

He’s one of the most Intelligent that I’ve ever seen In the game and one of the best In the number 5 jersey. Busquets is known for his calm demeanor and precise passing, rising through Barcelona’s ranks.

He made his debut in July 2008, but his breakthrough year came in 2009, earning him the La Liga’s Breakthrough Player title.

From the 2009–10 season onward, he formed a legendary midfield trio with Andrés Iniesta and Xavi, orchestrating Barcelona’s success.

With over 700 appearances and 32 trophies later, including nine La Liga titles and three UEFA Champions Leagues, Busquets bid farewell to Barcelona after an incredible 14-year journey in 2022–23.

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8. Michael Essien (Chelsea F.C)

Michael Essien

Without a doubt, Essien is one of the best number 5 In football history. In August 2005, his record-breaking £24.4 million move from Lyon to Chelsea raised eyebrows.

However, Essien’s debut against Arsenal told fans about his prowess, and this was how he set the stage for a stellar Chelsea career. He integrated into José Mourinho’s squad, displaying versatility in both defensive and midfield roles.

Notable moments include his crucial assist against West Bromwich Albion and his goal against Tottenham Hotspur in March 2006.

The Ghanaian powerhouse quickly became a fan favorite, earning accolades such as Chelsea Player of the Year for the 2006–07 season.

The following seasons saw Essien’s influence grow with memorable goals in the Champions League, recognition in FIFA and Ballon d’Or nominations, and a remarkable streak of performances.

And overcoming injuries to deliver vital goals, including a left-footed volley against Barcelona in 2009. Essien’s commitment to Chelsea was extended in 2008 with a new five-year deal.

Despite facing setbacks like a knee injury in 2008 and a ligament rupture in 2011, Essien’s determination won. His return to the pitch, and scored a goal against Sunderland.

In the 2011–12 season, Essien faced challenges under André Villas-Boas but found renewed support under Roberto Di Matteo. His key role in the Champions League run topped Chelsea’s historic triumph over Bayern Munich.