What criteria should be used for a given player to wear the number 10 shirt of a team? The question is necessary, mainly because the mystique, here in Brazilian football, started kind of by chance. Until the 1958 World Cup, those who wore it played in midfield, more on the left side. The head of the field wore shirt number 5; in the right half he played the 8; and shirt number 10 was for the left midfielder. But the football gods decided to interfere in history and, until today, for unconfirmed reasons, Pelé, the boy called up for the 1958 World Cup, got the 10th. And from there, we already know the story.
The number 10 shirt became that of the team’s star. But it is true that other players used other numbers, especially abroad, where we see other numbers with the same idolatry. But let’s stay here in Brazil. Mainly because, last weekend, Flamengo, the most popular club in the country, indicated that, in 2023, striker Gabriel Barbosa, Gabigol, or Gabi, will wear the shirt that was once immortalized by Zico.
Sunday (13), in the program No Mundo da Bola da TV Brazil, I questioned the choice. Not because of the quality of the player, who scored decisive goals in the two Copa Libertadores (2019 and 2022) that Flamengo won. But because of his behavior, and I based it on the image of the commemorative event held by the club, in which Gabigol already got on the electric trio shirtless, unlike all the other players.
The discussion heated up in the following days in the newsroom, with viewers and friends. Favorable and contrary opinions. I decided to extend it here. And I’m going to turn to the club’s history.
For the original reasons, Evaristo de Macêdo and Dida wore Flamengo’s number 10 shirt. Zico, who played in the same position, was a natural heir, but he also did a lot to deserve the shirt, which he turned into an icon, like Pelé in Santos and in the Brazilian national team. After him, several were “assigned” to the role, including Sávio, Petkovic, Renato Augusto, Adriano Imperador, Ronaldinho Gaúcho and, more recently, Diego Ribas.
As you can see, different profiles and, if I had to put in order those who best knew how to use 10, I would put Petkovic, Adriano and Diego. The latter, mainly, for having embraced the red-black cause in 2016, and being one of the leaders in the project that today it is solidified.
The story of the other two blends together. Pet was number 10 in 2001, in that famous free kick against Vasco. And it was also in 2009, when Adriano was hired. The Emperor wanted the number 10, but in an internet poll the fans gave him the number 9 shirt. However, due to a marketing option, the fans’ vote prevailed for a few games. Adriano wore 10, and Petkovic fit 43.
if today there was a vote between Gabigol and Arrascaeta, who would be the most voted to wear the 10? I would choose the Uruguayan, also because Flamengo had other great decisive scorers, like Nunes, who honored the number 9 shirt, legitimate for the attackers. Adriano wore the number 10, but in his favor weighed the fact of having appeared in the base rubro-negra, of having been in the Brazilian national team in a World Cup and also for being, until todayan idol abroad.
What about Gabigol? Without a doubt, he is one of the greatest idols of Flamengo football. This is undeniable. He goes down in history as a true number 9. Isn’t that enough? Let’s remember that, in Brazil, Romário, Ronaldo and Bebeto entered the selection’s gallery of idols wearing other shirts. Gabigol also wore Pelé’s 10 at Santos, as well as Petkovic and Diego Ribas. If this counts as a resume, I might consider it. But since I’m from the old school and I don’t get carried away only by the media behavior of the players, I say that he needs to adjust to what is required of a legitimate 10. And off-field behavior, and at club events, is part of that portfolio.
* Sergio du Bocage is host of the program No Mundo da Bola, on TV Brasil