The number 10 debate: What to do with a number that means so much

First off, let me say that I’m generally against the idea of retiring numbers so if it were up to me, the number 10 would have never been retired in the first place. It just seems impractical, especially in a sport like football in which the most common numbers are generally limited to begin with. That said, if there were ever an argument to be made for retiring a number in the world of sports, certainly Maradona’s impact on Napoli and Naples would make a good case. We also have to accept the fact that at this point, the debate is not whether to retire the number or not, but whether to bring it out of retirement. Insigne’s stellar performance with the number 10 on his back while playing with the Italian national team has reignited that debate.

Let’s remember that this isn’t the first time this topic has come up. We’ve heard it in the past, not only with regard to Insigne, but also Hamsik, Cavani, Higuain and perhaps most strongly with Lavezzi. Maybe it was Ezekiel’s ability to run by defenders with ease, and the fact that he too is Argentinian, which prompted people to dream of seeing the number 10 once again skipping through opposing defenses and wreaking havoc. Considering how that situation turned out, I think most are happy that we didn’t decide to give the number 10 to Lavezzi even if at one point Maradona himself seemed to give his blessing.

Chi Ama Non Dimentica

And yet here we are again. Insigne showed a great deal of courage in putting on the number 10 with the national team and his impressive performance against Lichtenstein had people wondering once again, why not give him Maradona’s 10 with Napoli?

Those who are in favor generally feel that gifting the 10 to Lorenzo could help elevate his game to the next level. On any team, it’s a number that seems to carry with it a great deal of responsibility. In the world of Italian football it has been donned by greats like Maradona, Platini, Guillit, Del Piero and Totti; not to mention historical greats like Zidane, Pelé, Ronaldinho and Messi on the international stage. It often marks the most talented and iconic player on the pitch, capable of deciding a match with a moment of sheer class at any moment. Why not gift it to the hometown boy who, as time passes, seems to be growing into that type of player? Doesn’t there arrive a point at which you have to move past former glories and focus on attaining new ones?

And yet there are those who are vehemently against that idea. In their minds, there was, and will only ever be one D10s. No player could ever live up to what Diego did in the wearing the number 10 for Napoli and it is only right for us to commemorate his achievement by leaving the number 10 off the pitch. Diego Armando Maradona and Napoli shared a beautiful love story, why taint it trying to write a sequel?

Also, as the number 10 already carries a great deal of responsibility with any team, in the city of Naples that responsibility is multiplied to the nth degree. Why risk jeopardizing the growth of any player, in this case Insigne, by placing this extra burden on him? Lorenzo is already held to a higher standard than most players due to his status as the hometown boy. Does it really make sense to place more pressure on him with the weight of the number 10 on his shoulders?

Both sides make great points and personally, I’m for using extreme caution when considering what to do with the iconic number in Naples. I’d like to see it used in a sort of commemorative way. In my eyes, it should be something that a player receives toward the pinnacle of his career in Napoli blues; at a moment in which we can be almost certain that the players’ greatest achievements have come wearing our shirt and not the shirt of another club. In this way, after 10 years with the club and being on the verge of breaking Maradona’s record goalscoring record with Napoli, I’d lean toward granting that special opportunity first to our current captain, Marek Hamsik. What better way to thank him for his part in the club’s rebirth than giving him that privilege? I’m all for having Insigne wear the number 10 as well, however I’d first like to see him play out his prime footballing years in a Napoli shirt. He’s only 26 years old and I have no doubt that with time he’ll achieve his own important milestones and be able to write his own chapter in club history. What better motivation for doing so than knowing one day, it will allow you to realize that dream of playing with the number 10 in the San Paolo? So yes, let’s give the 10 to Insigne—just not quite yet. Let’s see him earn the right first. In the meantime, how about awarding it to the man who has dedicated 10 years to the Partenopei and been such a fundamental part in our rise to the top tiers of European football?


  1. We are reading too much into this. Yes, Insigne played well in the National Team #10 shirt but putting things in proper perspective, it’s against Liechtenstein. Hardly a formidable opponent. If he played well against France or Spain then truely deserved. That said, Ventura is brilliant to give him the #10 shirt which is a huge boost for Insigne’s confidence.

    As for un-retiring the #10 Napoli shirt, it’s way too pre-mature to talk about it IMHO. Wait until we win the next Scudetto and that Insigne plays a major part of it. Part of what makes Maradona such a legend is not just because he was a very skilled footballer, but he was also a leader and inspires his team mates. Something even Messi isn’t capable of.

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