Tuesday, 28 May 2024

The Greatest Number 4s in Football History

Sergio Ramos, Javier Zanetti, Patrick Vieira, and more! This article is about the greatest number 4s in football history.

The number 4 jersey in football holds a special place in the sport’s history, signifying leadership, composure, and defensive prowess. Over the years, remarkable players have donned this iconic number. From commanding the defense to orchestrating the game from midfield, these footballers have etched their names into the annals of the sport’s rich tapestry. In this exploration, we pay homage to the legacy of those who wore the number 4 jersey.

Who is the greatest player to wear jersey No. 4? Read this article to find the answer to this question. Before we start, we’re not talking about the number 4 role or anything like that over here. We are just talking about the number on the back of the shirt.

Greatest Number 4s in Football History

Who is the greatest player to wear jersey number 4s?

Honorable mention:

  • Sammi Hyypia
  • Vincent Kompany
  • Virgil Van Dijk
  • Steve Bruce
  • Rafael Marquez

Here’s our list of the greatest number 4s in football history:

Fernando Hierro

Let’s start off our list of the greatest number 4s in football history with Real Madrid legend, Fernando Hierro.

Fernando Hierro
Credit: Thesefootballtimes

Fernando Hierro wore the iconic number 4 jersey during his illustrious career at Real Madrid. His versatility shone through as he adeptly occupied positions such as central defender, sweeper, and defensive midfielder.

Hierro’s playing style was characterized by a remarkable ability to seamlessly blend solid defensive tactics with an expansive passing range and unexpected goalscoring prowess. His commanding presence on the field, coupled with physical strength, tenacity, and precise timing in challenges, made him a highly sought-after player worldwide. Hierro’s unique skill set set him apart, earning him recognition as one of the world’s premier football talents.

In a career spanning 14 years with Real Madrid, Hierro’s contributions were monumental. He secured five La Liga titles and three Champions League trophies with the club.

On the international stage, Hierro represented Spain 89 times. His participation in four World Cups and two European Championships underscored his influence. Transitioning to a managerial role in 2016 with Oviedo, Hierro’s leadership journey reached new heights. He assumed the helm of the Spanish national team two years later.

Cesc Fabregas

The next in line in our list of the greatest number 4s in football history is Cesc Fabregas. He wore the number 4 jersey for Arsenal, Barcelona, and Chelsea.

Cesc Fabregas
Credit: Getty Images

Cesc Fàbregas, primarily functioning as a playmaker, is renowned for his exceptional passing range. Fàbregas brought vision, creativity, and an innate understanding of timing and space into the game. He is one of the most famous football players who wore the number 4 jersey.

Starting his journey at La Masia, Barcelona’s youth academy, Fàbregas transitioned to the Premier League club Arsenal at the age of 16 in September 2003. His breakthrough came in the 2004-05 season, capitalizing on injuries to key midfielders and establishing himself in the team. Fàbregas’s stellar performances also earned him two UEFA Team of the Year and two PFA Team of the Year recognitions.

In a significant move, Fàbregas returned to Barcelona in 2011 in a deal worth up to £35 million. His three-year spell at the Camp Nou saw him play alongside football legends Xavi and Andrés Iniesta, achieving success with a La Liga title, the Copa del Rey, the FIFA Club World Cup, the UEFA Super Cup, and two Spanish Super Cups. He then made a move to Chelsea in June 2014 for £30 million. Cesc also contributed to League Cup and Premier League triumphs in his debut year with the club.

Internationally, Fàbregas made his debut for the Spanish national team in March 2006. He represented Spain in multiple FIFA World Cups and UEFA European Championships. Fabregas played a key role in their victories in Euro 2008 and 2012, as well as the 2010 World Cup, where his pass set up Andrés Iniesta’s winning goal in the final.

Josep Guardiola

A Spanish Midfielder again! The next player on the list of the greatest number 4s in football history is Josep Guardiola. He wore the number 4 jersey for Barcelona and the Spain national team.

Josep Guardiola
Credit: Getty Images

During his playing days, Guardiola showed his skills as a defensive midfielder, often occupying a deep-lying playmaker’s role. His illustrious career was predominantly associated with Barcelona, where he played a pivotal role in Johan Cruyff’s Dream Team, securing the club’s first European Cup in 1992 and clinching four consecutive Spanish league titles from 1991 to 1994.

Serving as the team’s captain from 1997 to 2001, Guardiola also had playing stints with Brescia and Roma in Italy, Al-Ahli in Qatar, and Dorados de Sinaloa in Mexico. He earned 47 caps for the Spanish national team. Pep participated in the 1994 FIFA World Cup and UEFA Euro 2000, in addition to friendly matches for Catalonia.

Guardiola, as a player, was characterized by his creativity, hard work, agility, and elegance. Excelling as a central or defensive midfielder, he demonstrated good anticipation, tactical awareness, and an ability to read the game. While competent defensively and adept at pressing opponents, he was known for giving away fouls. His slender physical build often saw him function as a deep-lying playmaker in front of the defense, showcasing technical prowess and intelligent passing.

In his managerial career, Guardiola has attained remarkable achievements, including being the only manager to secure the continental treble twice. He holds the record for the most consecutive league games won in La Liga, the Bundesliga, and the Premier League. Recognized as one of the greatest managers of all time, Guardiola’s impact extends beyond his playing days.

Claude Makelele

Our list of the greatest number 4s in football history continues with an iconic midfielder from France: Claude Makelele. He wore the number 4 jersey for Chelsea and PSG.

Claude Makelele
Credit: Thesefootballtimes

Claude Makélélé made his mark as a defensive midfielder, earning recognition as one of the greatest in his position. He is one of the best football players with the number 4.

Known for revolutionizing the defensive midfielder role in English football, the position came to be colloquially referred to as “the Makélélé role.” His combative and hard-working style, coupled with the ability to read the game, break down plays, and execute aggressive tackles, positioned him as a defensive foil in front of his team’s back-line. Despite occasional forays into more advanced positions, Makélélé’s primary focus was on providing a defensive backbone for his more attacking teammates.

Makélélé’s illustrious playing career included stints at Nantes, Marseille, Celta Vigo, Real Madrid, and Chelsea before concluding at Paris Saint-Germain. Throughout his journey, he secured league titles in France, Spain, and England, along with the prestigious 2001-02 UEFA Champions League triumph with Real Madrid. Makélélé’s defensive prowess earned him a spot in the FIFPRO Men’s World 11 while representing Chelsea.

Born in Zaire, Makélélé represented the French national team for 13 years. He played a pivotal role in France’s journey to the final of the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Additionally, Makelele participated in the 2002 FIFA World Cup, two UEFA European Championships, and the 1996 Summer Olympics.

Ronald Koeman

He was great in defense and attack. Our next choice in the list of the greatest number 4s in football history is Ronald Koeman. He wore the number 4 jersey for Barcelona, PSV, and the Netherlands.

Ronald Koeman
Credit: Thesefootballtimes

Ronald Koeman is renowned for his remarkable career that saw him score over 250 goals while primarily playing in defense. Koeman’s versatility allowed him to excel both as a defender and midfielder, often occupying the sweeper position. What set him apart was not just his defensive prowess but also his exceptional goalscoring ability, long-range shooting, and precision in free kicks and penalties. This established him as one of the best attacking center-backs in the history of football.

Starting his career at Groningen, Koeman’s journey led him to Ajax in 1983. There, he contributed to winning the Eredivisie title in 1984-85. A move to rivals PSV in 1986 brought three consecutive Eredivisie titles (1986-87, 1987-88, 1988-89) and the coveted European Cup in 1988. His stint at Barcelona from 1989, under Johan Cruyff’s “Dream Team,” witnessed four consecutive La Liga triumphs and the 1991-92 European Cup, where Koeman scored the decisive goal in the final against Sampdoria.

On the international stage, Koeman shone as a star for the Netherlands national team. He featured alongside football luminaries like Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit, Frank Rijkaard, and Dennis Bergkamp. His contributions were instrumental in securing victory at UEFA Euro 1988. Koeman’s international journey extended to UEFA Euro 1992, the 1990 FIFA World Cup, and also the 1994 FIFA World Cup, where he captained the team.

Demetrio Albertini

Italy stylish midfielder. The next player on our list of the greatest number 4s in football history is Demetrio Albertini. He wore number 4 for AC Milan and the Italy national team.

Demetrio Albertini
Credit: Getty Images

Demetrio Albertini, the iconic midfielder, is celebrated as one of the legends of the ’90s A.C. Milan side and a crucial figure for the Italy national team during the same era. He is one of the best number 4s in football history.

Albertini, characterized as a complete, experienced, and composed midfielder, possessed a formidable set of skills, including stamina, power, technique, and class. Regarded among the best midfielders of his generation, his mental strength, excellent vision, tactical acumen, game-reading ability, and exceptional ball control were standout features. Additionally, his powerful and accurate long-range shots added a goal-scoring dimension to his contributions, along with his adeptness at providing assists.

The majority of Albertini’s illustrious career was spent with Milan in Italy’s Serie A, where he garnered numerous honors, including five Serie A titles and two UEFA Champions League titles. In his final season, he donned the jersey of FC Barcelona, securing the Spanish League title before retiring from professional football.

A key presence in the Italy national team, Albertini played pivotal roles in the World Cups of 1994 and 1998, as well as the 1996 and 2000 European Championships. Notably, he reached the finals of the 1994 World Cup and Euro 2000, contributing significantly to Italy’s endeavors on the international stage.

Patrick Vieira

We reach the top 3 in our list of the greatest number 4s in football history. Number three is Patrick Vieira. He wore the number 4 jersey for Arsenal, Juventus, and the France national team.

Patrick Vieira
Credit: AP

Patrick Vieira is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest midfielders of his generation and holds a prominent place among the best in Premier League history.

In 1996, he made a significant transition from Italy to English football, joining forces with fellow countryman Arsène Wenger at Arsenal. Over his remarkable nine-year tenure in the Premier League, Vieira emerged as a dominant box-to-box midfielder, renowned for his aggressive and fiercely competitive playing style. Serving as Arsenal’s captain from 2002 to 2005, he played a pivotal role in the club’s success, securing four FA Cups and three league titles, including an unbeaten season. Vieira’s exceptional contributions were duly recognized with six consecutive appearances in the Premier League PFA Team of the Year from 1999 to 2004.

Following his time at Arsenal, Vieira ventured to Italy, representing Juventus and later Inter Milan, where he clinched four consecutive league titles. His journey continued with Manchester City, where he added another FA Cup to his illustrious career before retiring in 2011.

Internationally, Vieira showcased his prowess over twelve years, representing France with distinction. A key figure in France’s victorious 1998 FIFA World Cup campaign, he also played a crucial role in their triumph at UEFA Euro 2000. Vieira’s international journey included appearances in the 2002 World Cup, Euro 2004, the runner-up finish in the 2006 World Cup, and Euro 2008. His impactful international career concluded in 2010, retiring with 107 appearances for the French national team.

Javier Zanetti

Our choice for the second spot on the list of the greatest number 4s in football history is Javier Zanetti. He wore the number 4 jersey for Inter Milan. Zanetti is regarded as one of the best defenders of all time.

Javier Zanetti
Credit: SkySports

Javier Zanetti, the esteemed Argentine footballer, stands out as one of the finest players of his era, leaving an indelible mark primarily at Inter Milan. Renowned for his versatility, Zanetti showed his skills on both the left and right flanks, excelling as a Right Wing-back and midfielder. His remarkable career, spanning from 1995 to 2014, saw him play a pivotal role in Inter Milan’s historic treble-winning 2009-10 season, solidifying his status as a club legend.

Zanetti’s journey commenced in Argentina, where he began with Talleres and later joined Banfield. His Italian sojourn with Inter Milan, lasting nearly two decades, culminated with him captaining the team from 2001 until his retirement in 2014. Zanetti’s legacy at Inter includes a record 858 appearances and an impressive trophy haul of 16, including Scudetti, Coppa Italia, Supercoppa Italiana, UEFA Cup, Champions League, and the FIFA Club World Cup.

Javier Zanetti represented Argentina with distinction, amassing 145 appearances and earning the title of the third-highest appearance maker in the history of La Albiceleste. He played a key role in Argentina’s journey to the finals of the Copa América in 2004 and 2007, as well as the Confederations Cup in 1995 and 2005.

Upon his retirement, Inter Milan paid tribute to Zanetti by retiring his iconic number 4 jersey and appointing him as the club’s vice president.

Sergio Ramos

He is the one. Our choice for the greatest number 4 in football history list is Sergio Ramos. He wore the number 4 jersey for Real Madrid, PSG, and Sevilla.

Sergio Ramos
Credit: Getty Images

Sergio Ramos, the renowned Spanish defender, is one of the best number 4s in soccer history. He is also recognized for his outstanding tackling prowess, aerial abilities, and robust leadership qualities.

The majority of his illustrious career, spanning sixteen seasons, was dedicated to Real Madrid, where he clinched four UEFA Champions League titles. His memorable moments include a crucial equalizer in the 93rd minute of the 2014 final and an opening goal in the 2016 final.

Ramos has garnered numerous accolades throughout his career, being named to the FIFPro World11 eleven times—a record for a defender—and securing a spot in the UEFA Team of the Year nine times, also a defensive record. La Liga recognized his excellence by naming him the Best Defender five times. After a two-season stint with Paris Saint-Germain, Ramos returned to his roots, Sevilla.

Sergio Ramos represented Spain at four World Cups and three European Championships. He played a pivotal role in Spain’s 2010 FIFA World Cup and back-to-back UEFA European Championship victories in 2008 and 2012. Ramos achieved significant milestones, earning a spot in the FIFA World Cup Dream Team in 2010 and the UEFA Euro Team of the Tournament in 2012. He also became Spain’s youngest player to reach 100 caps in 2013. Ramos is holding the record as their most capped player and ninth-highest all-time goalscorer, with 131 victories under his belt.

This concludes our list of the greatest number 4s in football history. These players have made an indelible mark on the sport, showcasing their leadership, defensive prowess, and overall contribution to the game. Each player has left a lasting legacy, inspiring future generations of footballers to don the iconic number 4 jersey.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Who is the best number 4 in football history? Sergio Ramos is widely regarded as the best number 4 in football history. His exceptional defensive skills, leadership qualities, and numerous accomplishments make him a standout player.

  • Which football clubs did Javier Zanetti play for? Javier Zanetti is primarily associated with Inter Milan, where he played for nearly two decades and achieved great success. He also represented the Argentina national team.

  • What position did Patrick Vieira play? Patrick Vieira played as a box-to-box midfielder, known for his physicality, technical skills, and ability to contribute on both ends of the pitch. He played for Arsenal, Juventus, and the French national team.

  • What made Fernando Hierro stand out as a number 4? Fernando Hierro was a versatile player who could excel in various positions, including central defender, sweeper, and defensive midfielder. His all-around skills, tenacity, and goalscoring ability set him apart as a top number 4.

  • Which teams did Cesc Fabregas play for? Cesc Fabregas played for Arsenal, Barcelona, and Chelsea during his club career. He also represented the Spanish national team, winning numerous titles.

  • Who was the captain of Barcelona’s “Dream Team” in the 1990s? Josep Guardiola was the captain of Barcelona’s “Dream Team” in the 1990s. He played a pivotal role in the team’s success and later became a highly successful manager.

  • What role did Claude Makelele play in revolutionizing the defensive midfielder position? Claude Makelele’s exceptional defensive skills and positional awareness revolutionized the defensive midfielder position. His style of play became known as “the Makélélé role,” influencing future generations of players.

  • What was Ronald Koeman known for in addition to his defensive skills? Ronald Koeman was known for his exceptional goalscoring ability, especially from long-range shots, free kicks, and penalties. He was considered one of the best attacking center-backs in football history.

  • Which Italian club did Demetrio Albertini play for? Demetrio Albertini played for AC Milan during most of his career. He achieved great success with the club, winning multiple Serie A titles and UEFA Champions League titles.

  • What are Sergio Ramos’ notable achievements with Real Madrid? Sergio Ramos played a crucial role in helping Real Madrid win four UEFA Champions League titles. He is also known for his leadership and numerous individual accolades.