From Zidane to Bellingham: Ranking the Last Six Players to Wear No. 5 for Madrid

From Zidane to Bellingham: Ranking the Last Six Players to Wear No. 5 for Madrid

Ero Samson
June 16, 2023 at 9:31 AM
  • Midfielder Jude Bellingham recently completed a blockbuster move to Real Madrid
  • The former Borussia Dortmund star was handed the club's iconic number 5 jersey
  • Bellingham is being tipped to dazzle like Zinedine Zidane who also donned the shirt

There is nothing remotely special about the number five, and the idea of a midfielder as creative and elegant as Jude Bellingham wearing what is widely considered 'a defender's number' feels incredibly strange.

However, this is not the case at Real Madrid, where their No. 5 shirt was worn by icons - including Zinedine Zidane from 2001 to 2006 - making this jersey number very significant.

The Frenchman made the shirt iconic with his dazzling skills and techniques, with no one comparing since.

Zinedine Zidane
Zinedine Zidane graced Real Madrid in the Iconic number five jersey. Image: Liewig Christian.
Source: Getty Images

In the years since, the number's legacy may have dimmed.

Yet Bellingham will attempt to rediscover the spark. As he received the iconic jersey, he looked the part in a dark suit and tie, but even with his family watching on, the midfielder looked as nervous as he was proud.

The Englishman discarded any questions about the pressure on him and instead discussed the opportunity he had to extend the legendary status of the shirt made famous by Zidane.

Sports Brief takes a look at six players to wear No. 5 for Real Madrid since Zizou.

Fernando Gago

After impressing at Boca Juniors, Gago cost Real Madrid €20 million, as reported by SkySports back in 2006, and played regularly during his first few years while wearing the number eight shirt.

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Fernando Gago cost Real Madrid €20 million in 2006. Image: Alberto Sereno.
Source: Getty Images

He switched to number five in 2009 to allow new signing, Kaka to take the number eight, but would barely feature in the months following the switch due to injury.

That coincided with the arrival of Jose Mourinho in 2010, who did not see Gago as a regular starter in his squad.

Nuri Sahin

The year was 2011 when an exciting, up-and-coming midfielder, who cut his teeth at Borussia Dortmund, had just earned a high-profile move to Real Madrid.

As reported by Bleacher Report, Sahin arrived with plenty raving about him, but he failed to break into the starting XI regularly due to injuries and inconsistencies.

Real Madrid, UCL, Champions League, La Liga, Transfers
Nuri Sahin failed to break into the starting XI regularly at Real Madrid. Image: Angel Martinez.
Source: Getty Images

The following season, he was loaned to Liverpool, although the deal was cut short in January 2013 and he temporarily returned to his Bundesliga side.

Sahin re-signed for Dortmund permanently in 2014, with his venture in the Spanish capital having failed miserably.

Jesus Vallejo

Vallejo signed for Real Madrid in 2015 with the idea being he would eventually grow into a first-team player at the club, but things did not work out.

After a loan to Eintracht Frankfurt, he returned donning what was Pepe’s number three shirt but was never able to establish himself as more than a rotation arm.

Real Madrid, UCL, Champions League, La Liga, Transfers
Jesus Vallejo was signed from Real Zaragoza in 2015. Image: James Williamson.
Source: Getty Images

A few more loan spells followed in the late 2010s, first to Wolves and later to Granada.

Vallejo has been back in the Los Blancos squad since 2021, wearing the number five and winning honours such as La Liga and the Champions League, but has been little more than cover for the big guns.

Fabio Coentrao

A name that flew under the radar somewhat, with a bright start to his career in Madrid eventually fizzling out due to injuries, yet Coentrao generally proved to be a success.

Versatility would prove to be his big strength, with Mourinho relying on the player to put in a shift at either left-back or in midfield in big games.

Real Madrid, UCL, Champions League, La Liga, Transfers
Fabio Coentrao won the UCL twice with Real Madrid. Image: Gonzalo Arroyo.
Source: Getty Images

He won La Liga in his first season at the club and was involved in the Copa Del Rey and Champions League double of 2013-14, but his powers began to wane after that.

Injuries took over and the Portuguese international fell out of favour, eventually leaving for good in 2018 after a few loans back to Portugal. Coentrao was definitely not the flashiest defender, but a very solid servant.

Fabio Cannavaro

Off the back of captaining Italy at the FIFA World Cup and establishing himself as an all-time great defender, Real Madrid snapped up Cannavaro for just €7mil in 2006, as a result of Juventus being relegated to Serie B due to the Calciopoli scandal.

Real Madrid, UCL, Champions League, La Liga, Transfers
Fabio Cannavaro helped Real Madrid win two La Liga titles. Image: Jasper Juinen.
Source: Getty Images

In three seasons at the Santiago Bernabeu, the Italian number five looked imperious and helped the club to two La Liga titles, while also lifting the 2006 Ballon d’Or and winning the FIFA World Player of the Year award.

Cannavaro opted to return to Turin with Juventus when his contract expired in 2009 and was cheered off into the Italian sunset by his legions of Spanish fans.

Raphael Varane

Pipping Manchester United to his signing in 2011, Real Madrid snapped up a young Varane from Lens and initially issued him the number 19 shirt.

The teenager lifted the La Liga title in his first season and proved why he was so highly regarded, blossoming into one of the best defenders in the world in the following years.

Real Madrid, UCL, Champions League, La Liga, Transfers
Raphael Varane won 18 trophies with Real Madrid. Image: Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno.
Source: Getty Images

He switched to the number two shirt ahead of his second season at the club, but would eventually get his hands on the number five shirt in 2016, by which point he was comfortably one of the best in the world.

In the years that followed, Varane would lift the World Cup title and continue to prove imperative in propelling Real Madrid to new levels of immortality.

He finally joined United in 2021, after a decade and 18 trophies with the Spanish giants.

Varane is the most famous among the players to wear No. 5 for Real Madrid - that is the blueprint Bellingham should be striving for.

Kroos subtle warning to Bellingham

Earlier Sports Brief reported on Toni Kroos discussing Bellingham's Real Madrid move, while subtly criticising his former teammate, Eden Hazard.

Known for his frankness, Kroos made it clear that he had no sympathy for the Belgian, whose time at Los Blancos was marred by recurring injuries.

The veteran mentioned how 'another player' had arrived at the Santiago Bernaneu Stadium for big bank but effectively let his career perish.

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Ero Samson
Samson Ero is an experienced sports journalist with a track record of over five years in the Nigerian media industry
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