- Fixed squad numbers have been employed in the Bundesliga since 1995.
- Now an integral part of modern football.
- Kampl's No44 the highest number so far this season.
It is an essential part of modern football. Before a new signing takes questions from the media or even - in some cases - meets his team-mates, he must pose holding his new club's shirt, displaying the number he has chosen to wear on his back to the world.
Inspired by deadline day, bundesliga.com went digging through the archives to find out the history of shirt numbers in Germany's top flight, discovering that it has not always been as prominent a presence as it may nowadays seem.
Shirt numbers have been used in Germany since 1948, but it was not until the August 1995 when players first stepped onto a Bundesliga pitch with fixed squad numbers on the backs of their shirts instead instead of the traditional 1 to 11. Fortuna Düsseldorf's Richard Cyron scored the first goal of that 1995/96 season, and the PA announcer at SV Werder Bremen's Weser Stadium – where Fortuna were playing their first game of the season – rubbed his eyes in wonder.
Watch: Enjoy an exclusive tour of the Bremen's Weser Stadium:
"The goalscorer, wearing the number 26 shirt," he cried into his microphone. Hardly a novelty today, but a moment when it is fair to say that German football changed forever.
There have been plenty of other changes in football in the intervening 21 years, over which time the shirt number has become something of a trademark for many players. Michael Ballack, for example, raised eyebrows upon his arrival at Chelsea FC when he demanded his favoured number 13 – then worn by William Gallas.
Strange to think, then, that when the midfielder won his first Bundesliga title – with 1. FC Kaiserslautern in 1998 – he sported the number three.
In the 2007/08 season, one of Ballack's former team-mates, Andreas Görlitz, set a record that lasts to this day. After leaving Bayern for Karlsruher SC, the full-back opted to wear the number 77 on his shirt, the highest ever to be worn in the Bundesliga.
His reason for choosing the number 77 was simple enough: it was a nod to "Room 77", Görlitz's band that he plays in to this day.
Görlitz's eccentric choice meant that he replaced another former Bayern player, Bixente Lizarazu, at the top of the charts. Lizarazu wore the number 69 shirt, a nod to a triple coincidence: the Frenchman weighed 69 kilograms, stood at 1.69 metres tall and was born in the year 1969. Again, simple enough.
There originally seemed to be similarly sound reasoning behind Maik Franz's shirt choice at VfL Wolfsburg.
Upon arriving in Lower Saxony in summer 2001, the defender wanted to wear the number six shirt, although that belonged to Claus Thomsen.
Franz therefore quietly opted for the number 33, so far so normal. It was, however, Franz's reasoning that caused some to suppress a smirk. "I wanted the number six, but it was already taken. Three times three equals six," he said memorably.
Since the 2011/12 season, numbers over 40 have only been permitted in special cases. He may have been frustrated after Leverkusen's Matchday 1 defeat at Borussia Mönchengladbach, but there was some consolation for Kevin Kampl in the fact that his number 44 shirt was the Bundesliga's highest on the opening weekend, with Bremen's Philipp Bargfrede, who has worn 44 since the beginning of his career in the top flight in 2008/09, currently injured.
Indeed, only one player could conceivably overtake Kampl and Bargfrede. 1. FSV Mainz 05's Philipp Klement wears the number 47 shirt, the highest of any Bundesliga player in the current campaign. That said, the 23-year-old is yet to be included in a first-team squad this season and has been turning out for the club's reserves, for whom he wears the number ten. Now there is a number with a bit of history…