SOCCER | BARCELONA

Messi's 10 may be needed to solve Barcelona numbers game

Nobody at Barcelona is eager to take on Messi's famous number 10 but it is one of only two left available with three players yet to be assigned a shirt.

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El Barça se mete en un lío con los dorsales

Barcelona have to resolve a numbers issue before the August 31 deadline and it may be that someone has to pick up the hottest potato of them all in order to be properly registered for the 2021-22 season: Leo Messi’s famous number 10 shirt.

Coutinho and Mingueza without squad numbers

From 1 to 25, the number assigned to Ronald Koeman’s squad for the new campaign are more or less settled and only two remain without an owner: 10 and 25. With nobody keen on taking on the 10 vacated by Messi, the greatest player ever to grace Camp Nou, that leaves just one number for two players with Philippe Coutinho and Óscar Mingueza currently without a shirt for the season.

On Barcelona’s Liga opener, Rey Manaj wore the number 14 that Coutinho has been custodian of until now while central defender Mingueza will have to relinquish the number 28 he wore last season – numbers above 25 traditionally being the preserve of Barça B players who are somewhere between the reserves and the first team and currently in the possession of Nico González – as he is now registered as a senior squad member.

As such, Coutinho and Mingueza will have to wait and see if Barcelona manage to move any players on before the end of the transfer window. AS has learned that Coutinho has his eye on Miralem Pjanic’s number 8 and Mingueza is similarly keen on Samuel Umtiti’s 23, with both players expected to leave before 31 August.

If they remain, so does the shirt issue. Coutinho could theoretically keep the number 14 as Manaj did not feature against Real Sociedad and therefore the number is not officially taken but Ronald Koeman is not expected to make unnecessary changes to the squad list.

Álex Collado could retain his Barcelona B number 10

Also in limbo is Álex Collado. The Barcelona B captain has been promoted to the senior squad for the 2021-22 season but he will be without a number even if Umtiti and Pjanic leave, unless anyone else does too or Barcelona find another solution. The only option for the winger would be to take Messi’s number 10, which would not be too much of a change as he wore that number in the reserves and may sit well enough with the fans as he is a born and bred Catalan who has been schooled in La Masia. Whether the youngster would accept though remains open to question.

One player who has ruled out taking Messi’s number 10 is his friend and Argentina teammate Sergio Agüero, who has confirmed he will wear the number 19, while Spain’s Olympic due Pedri and Eric García have been handed 16 and 24, respectively.

Meanwhile, Ansu Fati will wear the number 17 this season after Francisco Trincão’s loan move to Wolves and Emerson Royal will take the young forward’s previous 22. Martin Braithwaite has inherited Riqui Puig’s number 12 with the canterano moving to number 6 while the number nine has been snapped up by Memphis Depay. The rest of the squad will retain their numbers from last season as it stands.