The Chelsea No. 9 shirt has been a source of mystery and misery for many strikers who have worn it in the past. The shirt has been associated with a curse that affects the performance and form of the players who wear it, leading to disappointing spells and early exits from the club. Some of the notable victims of the curse include Fernando Torres, Radamel Falcao, Alvaro Morata, Gonzalo Higuain, and Romelu Lukaku. Chelsea haven’t given anyone the number nine this season in the latest revamp of the squad.
The last wearer of the nine, Pierre Emerick Aubameyang, was discarded in midseason and utterly failed in the move from Barcelona, scoring only three goals in 21 matches for the Blues. The only bright spark in that number in recent times was talented youngster Tammy Abraham who was quite impressive under Frank Lampard and scored 18 goals in 47 games that season. However, in the next campaign, his form took a dip under new manager Thomas Tuchel. He scored only 12 goals that season. In total, he scored a respectable 30 goals in 82 appearances while wearing the No. 9 shirt.
Romelu Lukaku was one of the most hyped signings for the London club, coming after a terrific Serie A-winning season with Inter Milan. He was signed for a club record fee of £97.5m and was expected to break the curse but it was not to be. Lukaku scored just eight goals in 26 Premier League games while also having a load of off-field troubles.
However, the curse may finally be over, as Chelsea have announced their squad numbers for the 2023/24 season, and there is no one wearing the No. 9 shirt. The club has decided to leave the shirt vacant, as none of their forwards wanted to take the risk of wearing it. Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino admitted that he is also superstitious and can understand why his players are reluctant to touch the No. 9 shirt.
Chelsea have signed two new forwards this summer, Christopher Nkunku from RB Leipzig and Nicolas Jackson from Villarreal, who will wear the No. 18 and No. 15 shirts, respectively. Nkunku was looking like a likely candidate to take the nine, but he opted for 18 instead. They will join Raheem Sterling, who has switched to No. 7, Mykhailo Mudryk, who has taken on the No. 10 shirt, Noni Madueke, who has opted for No. 11, and Armando Broja, who has changed to No. 19.
Chelsea have a formidable attacking line-up for the new season, as they look to challenge for the Premier League title and defend their Champions League crown. Pochettino will hope that his strikers can score plenty of goals and break the curse of the No. 9 shirt once and for all. The transfer window is still open, and the Blues are linked with striker Dusan Vlahovic, who could possibly take the number. If they are not able to sell off Romelu Lukaku, he could come back and take back the number.
Chelsea fans will hope that their club can find a worthy successor to wear the No. 9 shirt in the future, someone who can emulate the likes of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Hernan Crespo, Gianluca Vialli, and Diego Costa, who were some of the few successful No. 9s in Chelsea's history.
Real Madrid No.9 is also a mystery
The squad numbers at Real Madrid are now almost fully allocated, with only one popular number remaining: the No. 9 left by Ballon d'Or winner Benzema. Joselu was a possible candidate, but he has been given the number 15 instead.
The Madrid club are linked with three top strikers who could be possible number nines, Dusan Vlahovic from Juventus, Harry Kane from Tottenham, and the more probable and decorated possibility of Kylian Mbappe from Paris Saint Germain. According to many reports, the number is currently left vacant for Kylian Mbappe, whose transfer saga is of huge interest.