Gone are the days when opponents would be struck by fear when seeing the No.9 written on the back of the red and black striped jersey of AC Milan. Nowadays, though,  opposition defenders seem to relish going up against the Rossoneri strikers. 

The No.9 jersey in any football team carries a lot of weight. More so at AC Milan. It achieved iconic status at San Siro thanks to the exploits of some of the greatest legends of the game.

Starting from Marco van Basten, to Jean-Pierre Papin, to George Weah to modern legends like Filippo ‘Pippo’ Inzaghi, the No.9 jersey at AC Milan has been donned by the biggest icons.

But since Super Pippo retired in 2012, the number has lost its sheen. From being rejoiced and revered, it has become a poisoned chalice. And the longer the time goes, the harder it gets to shake off the feeling that AC Milan's No.9 shirt is cursed.

The curse of the No.9 at AC Milan

As many as nine players have taken over the No.9 jersey at AC Milan since Inzaghi’s retirement in 2012. But none have been able to make any sort of impact. The worrying trend of players donning the number nine jersey struggling to perform at the San Siro has coincided with a period of steep decline for Milan.

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Upon Inzaghi’s retirement, Alexandre Pato took over the number at the club, ditching the No.7 shirt with which he had seen a lot of success. However, the switch failed miserably for the Brazilian as he managed just two goals in seven matches, before returning to Corinthians in 2013.

Following Pato’s departure, Alessandro Matri was handed the shirt upon signing from Juventus. But the Italian netted just once in eighteen games donning the legendary jersey before Fernando Torres was entrusted with the responsibility of bringing back the glory to the shirt.

Unsurprisingly, the Spaniard too failed, bagging just the one goal in ten games and the No.9 shirt had its most high-profile victim. Mattia Destro took over from the former Atletico Madrid star, but also failed to set the stage alight, finding the net just thrice in 15 matches.

The 2015/16 season saw AC Milan put their trust in new recruit Luiz Adriano, who had arrived from Shakhtar Donetsk. However, the Brazilian scored just four times before switching to No.7 the subsequent campaign. 

Gianluca Lapadula arrived on the back a scintillating campaign in Serie B in the summer of 2016 and Milan immediately handed him the No.9 shirt. But the responsibility proved too much for him as well, as he hit eight goals in 29 games before he was moved on to Genoa.

Strikers to don No.9 after Inzaghi


Goals scored (all competitions)

Alexandre Pato



Alessandro Matri



Fernando Torres



Mattia Destro



Luiz Adriano



Gianluca Lapadula



Andre Silva



Gonzalo Higuain



Krzysztof Piatek






Andre Silva, regarded as the next big thing in Portuguese football, arrived in 2017 and took over the No.9 kit, but fared no better. 40 games and 10 goals later, he was shipped out on loan as Gonzalo Higuain arrived in 2018/19.

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With the Argentine’s arrival, after a spectacular campaign with Juventus, it felt like the curse would finally be broken. But it wasn’t to be, as Higuain managed just eight goals in 22 games before leaving for Chelsea.

When Krzysztof Piatek signed from Genoa in January last year, he demanded the No.9 shirt. But he was told that the right to wear the famed number would have to be ‘earned’. Instead, he was given the No.19 shirt and the striker thrived. He scored nine in 18 games, becoming the fastest player to score six goals for the club.

Impressed by his exploits, Milan handed him the No.9 shirt at the onset of the 2019/20 campaign. But, Piatek, like everyone before him, failed to live up to the expectations. He didn’t even manage a full season with the famous number on his back, as his performances were so poor that Milan opted to sell him to Hertha Berlin in January.

In total, since Inzaghi’s retirement in 2012, AC Milan’s nine No.9s have managed a paltry total of 29 Serie A goals. None of the nine players has managed to reach double figures for goals in the Italian top-flight during this period.

It is, in a way, poetic that it has been nine years since AC Milan won a major trophy and nine No.9s have tried to take over the responsibility of the shirt since Inzaghi, but failed.

There have been calls from fans to retire the No.9 jersey in the past. Inzaghi, though, is against such a decision.

“If someone scored with the Milan No. 9 on his back, then I am happy,” Inzaghi told Sky Sport Italia in January. “So, let's end this 'curse'. It's not right to retire the No. 9 because someone must always wear it.”

Will the curse end anytime soon? 

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Feature image courtesy: AFP / Miguel Medina