Friday, 19 Jul 2024

The Legends of Number 12: Unforgettable Soccer Players

soccer players with number 12

In the world of soccer, certain jersey numbers hold special significance. Number 12, traditionally reserved for the first player on the bench, has seen some incredible talents grace the field. Today, we pay tribute to the greatest soccer players who have worn the number 12 jersey.

The Evolution of Numbering in Soccer

Originally, the numbering in soccer represented the starting lineup, with the goalkeeper assigned number 1 and each subsequent player given a number based on their position. Number 12, therefore, denoted the first substitute player, usually a backup goalkeeper.

However, over time, the numbering system evolved, and players began to choose their own numbers. Number 12 became a coveted jersey, worn by players in various positions.

The Criteria for Inclusion

To create this list, we considered specific criteria that reflect the exceptional contributions of each player while donning the number 12 jersey. These criteria include a consistent level of excellence, influence on their position, association with game-changing moments, legacy and recognition, contribution to team success, recognition by peers and experts, and cultural impact.

The Greatest Number 12 Soccer Players

1. Marcelo

Marcelo, known for his time at Real Madrid, is considered one of the finest left-backs in soccer history. Starting his journey at Fluminense, he quickly earned a spot in the Brazilian national team. His performances at Real Madrid earned him numerous accolades, and he remains the most celebrated player in the club’s history.


Major Accolades

  • Featured 4 times in the L’Équipe Team of the Season
  • Named in the FIFA FIFPro World XI 6 times
  • Named in France Football’s Team of the Decade
  • Won 25 major trophies with Real Madrid

2. Olivier Giroud

Olivier Giroud, one of the best strikers of his generation, made his mark at Arsenal. With his acrobatic goals and pivotal strikes, Giroud endeared himself to Arsenal fans. He played a crucial role in ending Arsenal’s trophy drought, winning three FA Cups during his time at the club.

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Olivier Giroud

Major Accolades

  • Named Ligue 2’s Player of the Year
  • Helped Montpellier win their first Ligue 1 title
  • Won three FA Cups and three Community Shields with Arsenal

3. John Obi Mikel

John Obi Mikel, synonymous with Chelsea’s golden era, played a vital role in the club’s success. He won numerous titles with Chelsea, including Premier League titles, FA Cups, and a UEFA Champions League. Mikel’s talent and dedication ended prejudice against black goalkeepers in Brazil, winning the hearts of the Brazilian people.

John Obi Mikel

Major Accolades at Chelsea

  • Named Chelsea’s Young Player of the Year twice
  • Won two Premier League Titles, four FA Cups, two League Cups, one Champions League, and one Europa League with Chelsea

4. Júlio César

Júlio César, the Brazilian goalkeeping legend, showcased exceptional reflexes and shot-stopping abilities throughout his career. His time with Inter Milan was spectacular, playing a pivotal role in their treble-winning season. Júlio César also played a crucial role in Brazil’s victories in the Copa America and the FIFA Confederations Cup.

Júlio César

Major Accolades

  • Won five Serie A titles, the 2009-10 UEFA Champions League, and the 2010 FIFA Club World Cup with Inter Milan
  • Awarded the Serie A Goalkeeper of the Year twice
  • Named UEFA Club Goalkeeper of the Year
  • Won the Golden Glove award at the 2013 Confederations Cup

5. Giovanni van Bronckhorst

Giovanni van Bronckhorst, a retired midfielder and left-back, was an invaluable asset to his teams due to his versatility. He won titles with both Rangers and FC Barcelona, including two La Liga titles. Van Bronckhorst’s contributions to Barcelona’s UEFA Champions League win in 2005-06 were crucial.

Giovanni van Bronckhorst

Major Accolades with Rangers and FC Barcelona

  • Won three Scottish Premier League titles, two Scottish Cups, and one Scottish League Cup with Rangers
  • Won two La Liga titles, two Supercopa de España, and a UEFA Champions League with Barcelona

6. Dida

Nélson de Jesus Silva, better known as Dida, was a legendary Brazilian goalkeeper known for his penalty-saving skills. His time at AC Milan was filled with success, including winning five Serie A titles, two Champions Leagues, and several other trophies. Dida’s contributions went beyond the field, breaking barriers and winning the hearts of the Brazilian people.

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Major Accolades

  • Won a Serie A title, two Champions Leagues, and a FIFA Club World Cup with AC Milan
  • Won a Coppa Italia, a Supercoppa Italiana, and two UEFA Super Cups with AC Milan
  • Won the 2002 FIFA World Cup, Copa América, and FIFA Confederations Cup with Brazil

7. Christian Abbiati

Christian Abbiati, an AC Milan icon, holds the record for the most appearances by a goalkeeper at the club. He won numerous titles with Milan, including three Serie A titles and one UEFA Champions League. Abbiati’s contributions were integral to Milan’s success during his time at the club.

Christian Abbiati

Major Accolades

  • Inducted into AC Milan’s Hall of Fame
  • Won three Serie A titles, one Coppa Italia, two Supercoppa Italiana, one UEFA Champions League, and one UEFA Super Cup with Milan

8. Phil Neville

Phil Neville, one half of the Neville brothers, had a successful career at Manchester United. As a right-back, Neville played with heart and passion, winning numerous trophies with the club. He also represented England at three European Championships.

Phil Neville

Major Accolades

  • Awarded Jimmy Murphy Young Player of the Year
  • Helped Manchester United win six Premier League titles, three FA Cups, and the UEFA Champions League in 1999

9. Eduardo Camavinga

Eduardo Camavinga, a young talent at Real Madrid, has already made his impact known. Camavinga’s versatility as a midfielder and a left-back has impressed fans and coaches alike. At just 20 years of age, he is considered one to watch for the future.

Eduardo Camavinga

Major Accolades

  • Won one La Liga, one Copa del Rey, a Supercopa de España, UEFA Champions League, UEFA Super Cup, and FIFA Club World Cup at Real Madrid

10. Thierry Henry

Thierry Henry, one of the greatest strikers of all time, had a remarkable career. Although he is more commonly associated with the number 14 shirt, Henry initially wore number 12 during his early years at Monaco and later during his return to Arsenal. His talent and skills left an indelible mark on the game.

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Thierry Henry

Major Accolades

  • Won Ligue 1 with Monaco FC
  • Won the 1998 FIFA World Cup, 2000 UEFA European Championship, and FIFA Confederations Cup in 2003 with France


Q: Are there any notable players who have worn number 12 that you may have missed?
A: We have done thorough research to compile this list, but we acknowledge that there may be other notable players who have worn number 12. Please let us know in the comments if you believe we missed someone important.

Q: How did the numbering system in soccer change from representing the starting lineup to players choosing their own numbers?
A: In the past, numbers in soccer represented the starting lineup, with each position assigned a specific number. Over time, players began to choose their own numbers, leading to more flexibility and personalization in jersey numbering.

Q: What criteria were used to select the players in this list?
A: The players were selected based on criteria such as consistent excellence, influence on their position, association with game-changing moments, legacy and recognition, contribution to team success, recognition by peers and experts, and cultural impact.


The number 12 has been donned by some of the most remarkable soccer players in history. From Marcelo’s flair to Giroud’s acrobatic goals, these players have left an indelible mark on the game. If you believe we missed any players who deserved a spot on this list, please let us know in the comments.

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