Why Barcelona star Gavi wore 'wrong' shirt number in thrilling Europa League clash vs Manchester United
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It caused confusion on the night, but it turns out that UEFA rules were behind Barcelona star Gavi wearing the 'wrong' shirt number against Manchester United on Thursday.
Barcelona and United played out a modern classic at Camp Nou on Thursday, as the first leg of their Europa League play-off round tie ended 2-2.
Former Chelsea defender Marcos Alonso gave the hosts the lead with a headed effort, but an inspired Marcus Rashford soon equalised before forcing Jules Kounde to turn into his own net.
Former Leeds United winger Raphina drew Barcelona level late in the match, setting up a mouth-watering second leg at Old Trafford next week.
While most of us were enthralled by the breathless spectacle taking place on the Camp Nou turf, more eagle-eyed viewers spotted something strange about Gavi's shirt. More specifically, he was wearing a different number.
The 18-year-old usually wears the number six shirt for Barcelona, but on Thursday he wore the number 30. The latter is his old shirt number, as the youngster inherited the six jersey last month.
The number six shirt holds special significance at the club, as it was the number worn by club legend-turned-manager Xavi Hernandez. The fact that Gavi followed in his manager's footsteps by graduating from the Masia academy, and is also a midfielder, adds extra significance.
However, UEFA rules stipulate that players cannot change shirt numbers during a campaign. Gavi began the season wearing the number 30 shirt, and so that is the number he will wear in European competitions until the start of the 2023/24 season.
While Barcelona's Gavi has switched to number 6 domestically, Uefa don't allow mid-season changes and so he is wearing 30 in the Europa League pic.twitter.com/AcCbqY4i3z— SquadNumbers.com (@squadnos) February 16, 2023
In contrast, La Liga rules allow players to change numbers during the season, as long as no other player has worn that number previously that term. Barcelona's number six shirt had been vacant all season, after Riqui Puig departed for LA Galaxy in August last year.
Gavi played a key role in Barcelona's tactical set-up on Thursday. From his left-wing position, he drifted inside when Barcelona had the ball, dragging United right-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka with him and creating space for Barca left-back Jordi Alba to attack.
Xavi might have to find a new tactic at Old Trafford though. Gavi will miss the return leg after he picked up a booking for a foul on Fred. It was his third booking in European competition this season, earning him a one-match suspension.
Featured Image Credit: Alamy
Topics: Gavi, Marcus Rashford, Manchester United, Barcelona, Xavi, Europa League, UEFA, Erik Ten Hag