Monday, 22 Jul 2024

The Number 9 In Soccer: Role, Position, and History

In the realm of soccer, there is a legendary reputation associated with the Number 10 jersey. The creative ingenuity displayed by players like Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi has captivated fans worldwide. However, it is often the players who benefit from these iconic playmakers that receive more attention.

At the forefront of this group is the Number 9, the attacker positioned in the most advanced area of the soccer field. This article will focus on the key responsibilities and duties associated with the Number 9 role, as well as delve into its origins and history. We will also highlight some of the most iconic players who have donned the Number 9 shirt over the years.

What Is a Number 9 in Soccer?

In soccer, each position on the pitch is traditionally associated with a specific number. For center-forwards, the iconic Number 9 jersey is reserved. A Number 9 is a striker or center-forward who operates at the top end of the pitch and is relied upon by their teammates for goals.

As the focal point of their team’s attack, a skilled Number 9 primarily operates in the final third of the pitch, aiming to connect with other attacking players and create and finish goal-scoring opportunities. They are usually the top goal scorers on their team, as the Number 9 position is known for its attack-minded nature.

However, the role of the Number 9 has evolved over time. Nowadays, not all players who wear the Number 9 jersey are strictly goal poachers. Some, like Firmino, embrace a slightly deeper, more creative set of striking responsibilities known as the False 9 role.

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To understand the essence of the Number 9 role, let’s take a brief look at its origins.

The Origins of the Number 9 Position in Soccer

Soccer formations have evolved throughout history, with coaches and strategists constantly adapting and tweaking them. One common thread is the presence of at least one central striker capable of causing problems in the opposition’s defensive third.

The idea of assigning squad numbers to distinguish players on the field originated during a match between Arsenal and Sheffield Wednesday in 1928. The advanced position occupied by the center-forward led to the decision to assign them the Number 9 shirt.

Since then, the Number 9 shirt has gained significant prestige, instantly recognized as the position it represents. It carries a level of glamour attached to the goal-scoring prowess of those who wear it. But what makes this role so special? Let’s explore the main skills and responsibilities associated with the Number 9.

The Number 9 Role: Key Skills and Responsibilities

While goals are the ultimate objective for any center-forward or striker, there are other essential facets to their game. Here are the key skills and responsibilities of the Number 9 role:

1. Finishing

A traditional center-forward should possess clinical finishing skills. They should be able to convert a variety of chances with accuracy and consistency. Whether it’s penalties, close-range tap-ins, strikes from outside the box, or powerful efforts, a Number 9 must be proficient in converting goal-scoring opportunities.

2. Providing an Outlet

Hold-up play is crucial for the Number 9 role, particularly for more old-school center-forwards. They serve as an outlet for their teammates, receiving the ball under pressure and holding it to bring other players into the game. The center-forward should also be available to chase and receive a ball further up the pitch, creating an outlet for midfielders.

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3. Movement

Effective movement is key to being a successful target man. A striker’s timing and positioning during different phases of play are crucial. They must know when to drop back to link up with playmakers, when to shift wide and create space for wingers, and when to position themselves to receive crosses in the penalty area. Clever movement can make the difference between a modest goal tally and a prolific scoring record.

4. Physicality

While modern-day strikers can be effective without being physically imposing, old-school Number 9s often possess a set of physical attributes that make them formidable opponents for defenders. Aerial ability is advantageous, along with a degree of physical strength to outmuscle competing defenders. Speed, especially in bursting past the defensive line, is also valuable.

Who Are the Best Number 9s of All Time?

Numerous players have left an indelible mark on the Number 9 position throughout the history of soccer. Here are a few of the most iconic Number 9s:

  • Alan Shearer: The Premier League’s all-time top goalscorer, known for his prolific goal-scoring ability, physical strength, and clinical finishing.
  • Robert Lewandowski: A well-rounded striker with strong hold-up play, intelligent movement, and an impressive goal-scoring record for top-tier European clubs.
  • Ronaldo: A Brazil legend renowned for his lightning-fast dribbling skills, impeccable ball control, and razor-sharp finishing.
  • Marco Van Basten: A prolific Dutch striker who represented the focal point of the Dutch Euro 88-winning side, known for his spectacular strikes and graceful attacking play.

In the ever-evolving world of soccer, the Number 9 position continues to captivate fans with its unique blend of skills and responsibilities. To further explore the sport’s iconic roles, consider diving into our guide on the box-to-box midfielder role, which unveils the contributions of legendary players like Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard.

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Q: What is the role of a Number 9 in soccer?

A: A Number 9 is a striker or center-forward positioned at the top end of the pitch. They are responsible for scoring goals and serving as the focal point of their team’s attack.

Q: How did the Number 9 position originate in soccer?

A: The Number 9 position emerged when squad numbers were introduced to distinguish players on the field. The advanced position occupied by the center-forward led to the assignment of the Number 9 shirt.

Q: What are the key skills of a Number 9?

A: The key skills of a Number 9 include clinical finishing, providing an outlet for teammates, effective movement, and physicality to outmuscle defenders.

Q: Who are some of the best Number 9s of all time?

A: Some of the best Number 9s of all time include Alan Shearer, Robert Lewandowski, Ronaldo, and Marco Van Basten.


The Number 9 position in soccer holds a legendary reputation, with players like Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi showcasing their creative ingenuity. As the attackers stationed in the advanced areas of the field, Number 9s play a vital role in their team’s success. They are relied upon for goals and possess a unique set of skills, including clinical finishing, hold-up play, movement, and physicality. The origins of the Number 9 position date back to the early 20th century when squad numbers were introduced. Throughout history, several players have left their mark on this prestigious role, solidifying their place among the best Number 9s of all time. To explore more iconic soccer roles, be sure to check out our guide on the box-to-box midfielder role. Now, it’s time to embrace the legacy of the Number 9 and witness the artistry of soccer’s finest.