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Thursday, September 23, 2021

Ronaldo gets his No.7 jersey back as Premier League grants special dispensation

The Portuguese maestro will take the No.7 shirt from Uruguayan striker Edison Cavani who will wear No.21, the same number that he wears for his national team.

Written by Sayak Dutta |
Updated: September 3, 2021 2:24:46 pm
RonaldoRonaldo expressed his gratitude that the Uruguayan centre-forward gave up the shirt number for him by sending him a message. (Reuters)

It’s official! Cristiano Ronaldo will be wearing the iconic number 7 jersey as he makes his Premier League return with Manchester United. The announcement was officially made by the English club on Friday. The Portuguese maestro will take the No.7 shirt from Uruguayan striker Edison Cavani who will wear No.21, the same number that he wears for his national team.

But getting his legendary jersey number back was anything but simple for Ronaldo as a Premier League rule stood in the way of the fairytale reunion. The rule stated that a shirt number cannot be changed once the season has already begun and to make this happen, United had to get a special dispensation from the Premier League board, something which had never been granted before. But Ronaldo has always been a trailblazer and after much deliberation, the board eventually had to relent.

To quote Rafiki from The Lion King, “The King has returned.”

The official statement from United read, “Manchester United can confirm that Cristiano Ronaldo will wear the iconic no.7 shirt after returning to Old Trafford. The Portuguese superstar famously wore the legendary shirt number during his first spell at United and we can now confirm that Ronaldo will have it on his back once again. In his first six seasons at the club, between 2003 and 2009, Ronaldo made 292 appearances and scored 118 goals, winning nine trophies including three Premier League titles and the UEFA Champions League.”

The Laws of the Game

The Section M Players’ Identification and Strip, of the Premier League Handbook for the 2021/22 season reads, “Before the commencement of each Season, each Club shall allocate a different shirt number to each member of its first-team squad. While he remains with the Club a Player will retain his shirt number throughout the Season for which it was allocated.” While Section M.5 states: “Upon a Player leaving a Club the shirt number allocated to him may be re-allocated.”

While in Spain, players are allowed to change numbers during the mid-season break, the rule is far more stringent in the Premier League which instantly marks Ronaldo’s jersey number reveal as an iconic moment.

According to ESPN’s Dale Johnson, the closest to the precedent was in 2011-12 when Yossi Benayoun had No.10 at Chelsea and when Juan Mata signed, the Premier League allowed him to take the No. 10 jersey (Benayoun moved to 30). But by then, Chelsea were already in the process of loaning Benayoun to Arsenal and he wasn’t named in another matchday squad.

Daniel James transfer

The transfer that made it easier for Ronaldo to regain his old favourite jersey was Daniel James £25m move to Leeds United, thereby vacating the No. 21 jersey, which Cavani ended up taking. And as a cascading effect, the iconic No.7 came back to Manchester United’s prodigal son.

Ronaldo expressed his gratitude that the Uruguayan centre-forward gave up the shirt number for him by sending him a message, saying, “I wasn’t sure if it would be possible to have the number seven shirt again. I would like to say a huge thank you to Edi for this incredible gesture.”

CR7: The man, the myth, the legend

Ronaldo has become so synonymous with the No.7 that it is hard to picture anyone else wearing it so it’s very easy to forget that when he initially joined Manchester United, he preferred the No.28, the number he wore for Sporting Lisbon. It was Sir Alex Ferguson who was the driving force behind changing his jersey number to the iconic United No.7, previously worn by the likes of David Beckham, George Best and Eric Cantona.

The Portuguese superstar revealed this at an event back in 2017 where he said that Ferguson told him, “Look, I want you to wear the No.7 shirt.”

Ronaldo Cristiano Ronaldo, right, celebrates after scoring his side’s second goal during the World Cup 2022 group A qualifying soccer match between Portugal and the Republic of Ireland at the Algarve stadium outside Faro, Portugal, Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021. (AP/PTI Photo)

“I was surprised because I knew of all the great players who wore that jersey,” Ronaldo said, adding, “It was the start of my successful stage in football. I did not only improve my football skills, but also my physique. In my five years there, I learned the art of football. We won many things together. It was a dream for me.”

After that conversation with Sir Alex, there was just no looking back for Ronaldo and till date, he is the last Manchester United No.7 to have left behind such an extensive legacy, unmatched by anyone who had to follow in his footsteps.

And as the dust settles on the whirlwind transfer saga, where he came back to his spiritual home after a lengthy absence of 12 years, he looks to pick up exactly from where he had left off.

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