Throughout history the number 13 has been associated with misfortune, not only were there thirteen people present at the last supper there were also thirteen contestants in the first series of UK Big Brother. The connection between the number and bad luck has found its way into football in the past. This can most clearly be illustrated by the choice of clubs to use 12 & 14 rather than the more logical 12 & 13. In the modern era of squad numbers it appears that triskaidekaphobia is not so prevalent in the footballing community.
It’s perhaps unsurprising that it’s Germany where the number thirteen is most prevalent as one of Die Mannschaft’s most famous players (Gerd Muller) wore the number thirteen at World Cups and Muller is still the record goalscorer for the national team. It’s interesting that in the Bundesliga that the number thirteen shirt is used exclusively for outfield players whilst in England and Spain it’s often more associated with goalkeepers. Continuing on a goalkeeping theme, in France it’s number 16 that’s often set aside for reserve goalkeepers whilst in Italy substitute keepers often wear a shirt somewhere between 20 and 30 .
Another little gem of information is that both Armand and Djimi Traore wear number thirteen for their respective clubs (QPR and Marseille) despite not being related. Make of that what you will.
With all that in mind I thought it would be worthwhile to draw up a side made exclusively out of number thirteens who have graced the pitches at some of Europe’s top clubs. A more exhaustive list of players who sport the thirteen for their club follows at the end of this blogpost, feel free to delve into the list to pick your own XI. I suspect my list is full of British bias and shows up my ignorance to German, Spanish, Italian and French football to a shocking degree…
"Number 13" XI
PREMIER LEAGUE: Wojciech Szczęsny (Arsenal), Armand Traore (Queens Park Rangers), Aleksandar Kolarov (Manchester City), Danny Murphy (Fulham), Ji-Sung Park (Manchester United) and William Gallas (Tottenham Hotspur)
LIGUE 1: Djimi Traore (Olympique Marseille), Anthony Reveillere (Olympique Lyonnais), Jean Calve (AS Nancy-Lorraine) and Marco Estrada (Montpellier)
BUNDESLIGA: Lukas Schmitz (Werder Bremen), Thanos Petsos (Kaiserslautern), Robert Tesche (Hamburger), Jan Schlaudraff (Hannover), Makoto Hasebe (Wolfsburg),
Tobias Werner (Augsburg), Michael Ballack (Bayer Leverkusen), Roman Neustadter (Borussia Monchengladbach), Rafinha (Bayern Munich), Jens Hegeler (Nurnberg), Martin Lanig (Koln), Daniel Williams (Hoffenheim), Timo Gebhart (Stuttgart), Anthony Ujah (Mainz), Nikita Rukavytsya (Hertha Berlin) and Jermaine Jones (Schalke)
SERIE A: Kakhaber Kaladze (Genoa), Alessandro Nesta (Milan), Sergio Piccoli (Udinese) and Maicon (Inter)
LA LIGA: Diego Lopez Rodriguez (Villarreal), Daniel Giminez (Rayo Vallecano), Thibaut Courtois (Atletico Madrid), Asier Riesgo Unamuno (Osasuna), Javi Varas Herrera (Sevilla), Vicente Guaita Panadero (Valencia), Antonio Rodriguez Martinez (Racing Santander), Wilfredo Daniel Caballero (Malaga), Roberto Fernandez Alvarellos (Granada), Casto Espinosa Barriga (Real Betis), Dudu Aouate (Mallorca) and Jordi Codina Rodriguez (Getafe)