Jersey numbers can mean more to a player than simple digits, which originally used to reflect one’s position on the field. Nowadays, most numbers hold a meaning or two for the person donning it on his back, and at Milan, it is no different. Today, Rossella Marrai-Ricco breaks down the beautiful meanings behind some of the Rossoneri jersey numbers.
Times are changing at Milanello, and with it, comes a change of jersey numbers. No longer, do the numbers one through to 11 outline a coach’s preferred starting XI. Instead, a player now has the freedom to select his preferred figures, and a lot of the time; they carry a completely different meaning from a playing position.
Nowadays, the digits at the back often carry a symbolism of some sort, and for this year’s squad, Vincenzo Montella has a number of sentimental players at his disposal.
Andrea Conti – 12
Traditionally reserved for the back-up choice goalkeeper, Andrea Conti hasn’t officially revealed why he chose the number 12 jersey but there has been one notable suggestion – AC Milan legend Marco Van Basten. The Dutchman was known for his suave moves on the field, and after donning the No.12 during the 1988 Euro final against the USSR, where he scored a goal, it seems that the Rossonero legend may hold a special place in Conti’s heart. Conti tries to be equally fluid when it comes to pushing forward with the ball, and perhaps, Van Basten has inspired him somewhat.
Alessio Romagnoli – 13
Since Thiago Silva’s departure for PSG back in 2012, Milan have struggled to have a solid and tactically astute centre-back at their disposal. Alessio Romagnoli’s arrival to Milan, however, has changed that, and whilst still young, he has often displayed characteristics of a traditional Italian defender. Upon his arrival to the club, Romagnoli abandoned the No.46 in order to inherit the famous jersey previously worn by Alessandro Nesta. With a hunger to become as successful as his fellow Laziale, Romagnoli opted to carry the weight of the No.13, and so far he is yet to let down Nesta’s legacy.
Leonardo Bonucci – 19
Highly attached to the number 19, Bonucci even has his own hashtag, #LB19, to give him a distinct trademark. Upon arriving at Casa Milan, the jersey had already been given to Franck Kessie, who also holds an attachment to the figure. Bonucci’s affinity to the integers stems from a number of factors, with him namely having gone through good times and bad times with it on his back. He believes that those times and the number have helped him develop into the man and player he is today. In addition, the number one signifies the sun – the universe’s most powerful source – while the number nine is a tribute to his wife, Martina's, birthday.
Lucas Biglia – 21
For 10 years this jersey was one of the most admired Rossoneri kits in the country, with the name Andrea Pirlo printed across the back. It is because of the way “Trilly” commanded the midfield, created play, and orchestrated movement that Lucas Biglia chose to don the same jersey. Regardless of the way things ended between Adriano Galliani, Milan and Pirlo, the Argentine’s comments on Pirlo certainly helped him win over admirers.
Patrick Cutrone – 63
Even in this day and age, it’s rare to see jerseys surpass the number 35, but in Milan’s case there are few players who have gone for some bold figures. Patrick Cutrone, who donned the No.9 for the Primavera side, opted to sport the No.63 on his back due to his father – who was also a football player. Furthermore, the addition of the two digits accumulates to his previous jersey number.
Ricardo Rodriguez – 68
Throughout his career, the Swiss defender has grown very attached to the number 3 – a figure reflective of his position on the field. However, due to that specific jersey being reserved for the Maldini family, Rodriguez’s second option was 13 – a jersey already owned by Romagnoli. This then left the full-back in a bit of peculiar position, but he didn’t need much time to make his decision – the number 68. His choice was made to honour his late mother, who was born in 1968. Few things get more sentimental than that!
Franck Kessie – 79
Unselfishly, Kessie opted to handover the No.19 to Bonucci, but he could be forgiven for his powerful attachment to the number. Not only did the number 19 reflect the day of his birth; but also, it was the day he arrived in Italy, and the day his father sadly passed away. Like Bonucci, the number had seen him through good times and bad, and he opted to release that figure after a conversation with his mother. The Ivoirian chose to have the No.79 on his back, because, from far, it looks like the No.19 on the field.
Elsewhere on the field, the Donnarumma brothers can be found sporting 90 (Antonio) and 99 (Gianluigi) on their backs, and that is because they chose to sport the year of their births on their back. Coincidentally, Manuel Locatelli scored his first ever Serie A goal for Milan in the 73rd minute – the number he wears on his back.
The sentimentality behind these jerseys is just one of the many reasons why we call it: “The Beautiful Game.”