Zinedine Zidane hints little-known rule at Real Madrid may be reason behind Jude Bellingham's shirt number
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It was a decision that took many by surprise.
After years of wearing No.22, the fearless side of Jude Bellingham's personality shone through, when he decided to take one of the most iconic numbers in Real Madrid history.
Back in June, on a day he described as the "proudest" of his life, the England international explained the reasoning behind picking the same number as one of football's all-time greats.
"I have said in many interviews how much I admire Zinedine Zidane," Bellingham said. "But I’m not trying to be Zidane, I’m just trying to be Jude. It definitely is a homage to how great he was."
He added: “It’s a big honour to follow in [Zidane’s] footsteps and wear his number. He was an amazing person to meet who was amazing with my family, so I have a lot of respect for him.”
It was later reported that the former Birmingham City and Borussia Dortmund midfielder had been forced to give up his preferred number 22 shirt at Madrid because of their existing shirt numbers.
But several months later, during a recent sit down chat with Lionel Messi, of all people, Zinedine Zidane made an interesting comment about president Florentino Perez and how he prefers certain numbers.
“I liked the number five, I liked everything about it, but what matters in the end is what you do on the field," the Frenchman said, before Messi replied: ”You made the number five important.”
Zidane explained: “It was kind of weird to see someone else with the number five, seeing a central midfielder with the number five was weird.
“But do you know how that happened? Florentino, the president, didn't like players wearing high numbers like 25, 30, 35, he was from the old school.
“The number one for the goalkeeper and then up to number 11, that’s it."
Zidane added: “[Former Real player Manolo] Sanchis had the number five and played in defence. He left and when I got there the president told me ‘wouldn't you like to have a number from one to ten?
“I said yes and picked the number five shirt because he didn’t want me to have 25, 30, 35. He said ‘this is not football, this is American football’ so in the end I got five.
“He said ‘please’ and I thought ‘it’s my first day, I will say yes’ but in the end the number five for me is now strong because it’s history with me, with Madrid, the number 10 but the number five too. I don’t remember much about the number 21 with Juve.”
As mentioned earlier, Bellingham described the decision to take number five as a "homage" to Zidane, but whether it was his first choice remains unclear.