CARSON, Calif. – The No. 10 jersey is revered in soccer, often reserved for the most skilled players and worn by legends from Ferenc Puskás to Pelé, Diego Maradona to Lionel Messi, Michel Platini to Zinédine Zidane.
It also was worn by Landon Donovan, the greatest player in LA Galaxy history (and arguably US national team history, too), and a lot of LA fans believe the club should retire the number after he wore it for the past decade.
That's forged something of a “controversy,” at least for some, now that Giovani dos Santos has been given the Galaxy's No. 10, which he will wear when he makes his club debut in Thursday night's CONCACAF Champions League opener against Trinidad & Tobago's Central FC and when he plays his first MLS match Sunday afternoon against the Seattle Sounders.
Captain Robbie Keane, asked about it Wednesday, couldn't believe what he was hearing.
“What? For what reason?” he responded. “That's not Gio's fault. You should speak to someone else; it's not Gio's fault. Gio's the No. 10. I guarantee you one second Gio does not care. I'm telling you right now: He does not care what people say. And the reason why: He has nothing to do with it.
“It's for other people to decide if they're going to retire a number. Are they going to retire No. 7 when I finish? I wouldn't want them to.”
Dos Santos also wears No. 10 for Mexico's national team.
You rarely see numbers retired in soccer, especially with the Nos. 1-11 so common among starting players – positions often are assigned numbers – but it happens, more so in college soccer than in the pros.
The University of North Carolina's powerhouse women's soccer team, which has produced so many superstars for the US women's national team, has retired 19 jerseys, but a few years ago they began reissuing numbers if the honored player approves, according to Dave Lohse, the long time sports information director for the team. Mia Hamm's No. 19, for instance, was worn by Crystal Dunn.
It is assumed the Galaxy have retired No. 13, which hasn't been issued since Cobi Jones retired following the 2007 season, but head coach Bruce Arena says that isn't the case.
“[Dos Santos has] worn No. 10, and No. 10 is available,” Arena said after LA announced the signing last month. “We don't have retired numbers at the Galaxy.”
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The Galaxy have three plaques on their Wall of Honor at StubHub Center, honoring Jones, Mauricio Cienfuegos and former general manager Doug Hamilton, who died of a heart attack on a flight home from a CONCACAF Champions' Cup match in Costa Rica in March 2006.
Cienfuegos, a Salvadoran playmaker, wore No. 10 for LA from 1996 until he retired in 2003, and Austrian midfielder Andreas Herzog, now the US Under-23 national team coach, wore it in 2004.
“It's just nice that we think we have an exceptional player following in the footsteps of the previous No. 10,” Arena said. “That number will be utilized from here to the next century, I would think.”
Dos Santos was asked in his introductory news conference Tuesday at StubHub Center about wearing the number Donovan sported.
“Landon Donovan is a great player, one that I respect a lot,” he replied. “But I come here to make my own history. I come to work hard in order to achieve important things with this club.”