The Best Performing World Cup Shirt Number

It's the biggest footballing event in the calendar, and football fever is set to take the world by storm!

Whether you're a Messi extraordinaire, or a Harry Kane super fan, you'll already be mapping out your game plan and how to support your beloved team during this year's highly anticipated World Cup.

But, with so many players set to take to the field, here at Sports Direct we're keen to understand what the numbers on the back of football shirts really mean, and which turn out to be the best performing, setting the players up for a stellar performance.

Is football shirt number 9 as popular as you think? Where does shirt number 22 place? And when does the first England football shirt number and player appear on the list?

We crunched the numbers once and for all, analysing the top performing 50 players from the last two World Cups in 2018 and 2014.

We dug into metrics including:

  • Social media followings of the players
  • How many times they were searched for on Google
  • Minutes played on the field, goals and assists, red and yellow cards, pass completion percentage, shots per game and player of the match performances

Ranking index table showing best performing shirt number


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Colombia's James Rodriguez and his number 10 football shirt occupy the top spot, with a total score of 88.75, followed closely by national favourite and Brazil superhero Neymar at 88.25.

Which football shirt number is the best performing?

Football shirt number 10 appears in the top 10 list five times, making it the best performing shirt number overall, according to our data - so which England player will be wearing the lucky kit in Qatar this year?

Where do the different football positions place?

It's no surprise that there are some real football legends at the top of the table, with the likes of Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo dominating the leaderboard. With these forwards and midfielders fighting for space, it's interesting to see that defenders don't make the list until 12th and 13th position and the first goalkeeper with football shirt number one to make the list is Tim Howard from the USA in 17th position.

And on the topic of goalkeepers…

We dug into the data a little deeper to understand the best performing shirt number when looking at only the top 50 players from the main index table.

The top five shirt numbers from this are:

  • Number 10
  • Number 7
  • Number 1
  • Number 13
  • Number 11

So, although Tim Howard doesn't appear until 17th place, when looking at the data in this way, shirt number 1 appears five times in the list, giving it a powerful and deserved third place finish.

The Best Performing World Cup Shirt Numbers

Appeared in the top 50 twice
Appeared in the top 50 once

The rating score of each player formed a big part of our analysis too, as it helped to ensure fair stats across the players, regardless of their playing position.

Take a look at the top 10 players below...

Player Rating Score

Minutes Played Minutes Played
Yellow & Red Cards Yellow & Red Cards
Goals Scores Goals Scores
Pass Percentage Pass Percentage
Assists Assists
Shots Per Game Shots Per Game
Player of the Match Performances Player of the Match Performances
1 James Rodriguez
2 Neymar Junior
3 Lionel Messi
4 Arjen Robben
5 Karim Benzema
6 Eden Hazard
7 Alexis Sanchez
8 Cristiano Ronaldo
9 Thomas Muller
10 Isco

And finally, don't just take our word for it. We partnered up with football analyst and expert Matt Furniss, of The Analyst to get his take on the findings and offer some further insight into the tournament this year and what to expect from the players. He said:

"It comes as little surprise that players that wear the number 10 shirt dominate these rankings. Based on the in-depth data that Opta have collected from every FIFA World Cup match since 1966, I can reveal that players wearing the number 10 shirt have scored the most goals (53), attempted the most shots (389) and tallied the most assists (30) and chances created (322) across the last two tournaments"

Who wore the famous number 10 shirt?

"The last four players to have won the Golden Ball award for the best player at the tournament have all adorned the number 10 shirt - Zinedine Zidane in 2006, Diego Forlan in 2010, Lionel Messi in 2014 and then Luka Modric in 2018."

Predictions for this year's tournament?

"Argentina's number 10 Messi will be hoping to finally win a World Cup title with his nation following a successful 2021 Copa América campaign but will most probably have to end his own personal hoodoo if he's to succeed.

"He's never scored a goal in the knockout stage of a World Cup tournament, despite playing eight games and attempting 23 shots.

"Neymar is another famous number 10 who will undoubtedly have a big say in who wins the World Cup this winter. Now on 75 goals for his nation, the PSG star will likely become Brazil's top scorer in history in Qatar, overtaking arguably the most famous number 10 of all-time - Pelé (77 goals)."

Sources & methodology

To highlight the best performing football shirt during the World Cup we analysed the top 50 best performing players across the 2014 and 2018 World Cups. From this we were able to analyse the players average social media following (between World Cups 2014-2018), average monthly search volume (between World Cups 2014-2018) and average rating, which was an index of minutes played, yellow/red cards, goals scored, pass percentage, assists, shots per game and player of the match performances. From this we were able to create a index that ranked each performance stat of a player to produce a total score for each variable (where average player rank carries 50% of the weight in the total score and the other contributing 25% each), then summed to show the overall best player and thus best performing shirt number.

Full data and sources available upon request.