Number 9 Football Players: Meaning, Role, and Position

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Number 9 football players: Every player on a soccer team takes to the field with a number printed on the back of their jersey. Many people consider the player wearing the number 9 on their back to be one of the most important players on a team. But there are many things you may not know or fully understand about the meaning of the number 9 in soccer.

The number 9 in soccer is arguably the most exciting and important position on the field. Although any player on the field can score, the number 9 position bears the responsibility for scoring more than anyone else. And if teams don’t score goals, they’re invariably not going to win any games! In this guide, we will detail everything you need to know about the number 9 football players.

What Position Is The Number 9 In Soccer?

The number 9 position in soccer is otherwise known as a striker or a center forward. It is the most offensive position on the field. The primary role of a striker is to score goals, but they can also contribute assists and be involved in attacking build-ups. In recent years, number 9 football players also help out defensively, especially in teams that want to engage in a high-pressing game.

Number 9 players can play independently as a single striker or with a partner (usually classed as number 10). They can also play as part of a forward line of 3, with wingers on either side. On rare occasions, teams play without a number 9, choosing instead to play an additional midfielder. In this instance, they refer to the most attacking central midfielder as a ‘false 9‘.

Number 9’s bear the most responsibility for scoring goals on the team, which is why they are located further forward on the field than anyone else. When viewing the field from one sideline to another, strikers generally operate in the middle of the park in an area roughly the same width as the penalty area. However, they also have the freedom to drift out onto the wings to look for space, receive the ball and make runs in behind the defense. This is often referred to as ‘running in the channels’.

What Is The Role Of A Number 9?

Although a number 9 player’s primary responsibility is first and foremost to score goals, the role of a number 9 is actually multi-faceted.

The role of a number 9 in soccer is:

  • To score goals
  • Win possession of the ball in front of the goal
  • Prevent defenders from tackling them
  • Run in behind the defense
  • Hold up play until other players arrive
  • Defend from the front of the field
  • Create goal-scoring opportunities for those around them


The number 9 player in a soccer team generally plays as the center forward or striker.

Players selected to play in this position are normally players with natural goal-scoring abilities and strengths. But there are many different types of players who make a good number 9 striker.

Qualities Needed To Be Good Number 9 Football Players

As mentioned before, the main job of a good number 9 is to score goals! Consistently putting the ball in the back of the net is one of the hardest things to do in soccer and, therefore, one of the most valued. Many of the qualities needed to be a good striker revolve around scoring goals, and so the person playing this position must be;

  • Calm under pressure, particularly in front of the goal. A good number 9 can evaluate the best option to score instantly and execute accordingly.
  • Able to shoot using both feet and with a variety of techniques from multiple distances and angles.
  • Have a good first touch and be able to take the ball away from the defender, creating space for themselves to shoot.
  • Have good game awareness and good instincts in front of the goal.
  • Be able to make well-timed runs behind the defense and into the penalty box.
  • Be confident in 1v1 situations and have the ability to beat a defender on the dribble.
  • Have a high work rate and be willing to chase down defenders and through balls.
  • Be physically strong and able to withstand physical challenges.

How To Play As A Number 9 When Attacking

A good number 9 loves nothing more than to attack! A striker lives for the moments when their team is in possession of the ball, particularly in the final third of the field. When in and around the opponent’s goal and penalty box, they come alive even more! The primary responsibility of a number 9 is to get on the end of chances and score goals, but they can also contribute to the attacking build-up and create opportunities for others. When attacking and in possession of the ball, a number 9 should;

  • Be able to proactively move and find space away from the defenders to put themselves in positions to score.
  • Be confident and aggressive in the air and get on the end of crosses with your head or feet.
  • Constantly look for space behind the defense and try to get on the end of through balls made by teammates.
  • Play other players through on goal and try to create chances for others.
  • Hold the ball up and act as a target player, particularly when their team’s defenders and midfielders try to play the ball forward to break a high press.
  • Keep their head up and always be aware of the positions of teammates and opponents to evaluate what is best to do with the ball.
  • Be able to play passes quickly, and combine with other players on the team.

How To Play The Number 9 When Defending

Although the number 9 football players are primarily in attacking positions, they still have an important role when the team is defending or not in possession of the ball. This is increasingly true within teams that play a high-pressing game, such as Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool.

When defending as a number 9, the player’s primary responsibility is to stop their opponents from playing the ball out from the back or starting a high press by closing down one of their defenders (usually the 4 or 5). On occasion, a striker might help defend in their own half or (if they are good in the air) assist in defending corners. To successfully defend as a number 9, a player should;

  • Initiate team presses by closing down the nearest opponent receiving a pass.
  • Look to cut off passing lanes and spaces so the defense cannot make an easy play forward.
  • Put high pressure on the opponent’s central defenders when they are trying to bring the ball out from the back.
  • Look for opportunities to pressure the opponent’s number 6 from behind.
  • Get back to help their team defend corners if required by the coach. This is particularly important if their team is trying to protect a slender lead in the game’s closing minutes.

Not All Strikers or Center Forwards Wear the Number 9

Not all players playing as a striker or center forward wear the number 9 on their jerseys. The reality is that soccer never required any player to wear a specific number. It just became commonplace that certain soccer positions would wear specific numbers.

The modern game of soccer has evolved and adapted to players’ preferences. Players can wear their preferred numbers rather than a number based on their position.

In today’s modern games, some defenders wear higher numbers, and some midfielders wear lower numbers. This change began to creep into the game during the 1954 world cup. It is the organizers who changed the usage of jersey numbers for the tournament.

Instead of players swapping numbers based on which player played in each position, players were given numbers that they kept for the duration of the tournament.

This began a new system of players receiving a club number that was designated to them for the season.

In the modern game, we have strikers and center forwards playing in the number 9 role. However, they wear a jersey with other numbers such as 19, 20, or any other number of their choice.

Famous Number 9 Soccer Players

It wouldn’t make sense to have an entire article on the number 9 in soccer without talking about some of the great number 9’s in soccer history! So let me show you four of the best.

Erling Haaland

The 21-year-old Norwegian and Borussia Dortmund player is, without doubt, the most exciting young striker currently playing in Europe. Nicknamed ‘The Terminator’, Haaland has all the physical and technical attributes of a great Number 9. He’s a prolific goalscorer, lightning fast, and incredibly athletic.

Robert Lewandowski

Lewandowski is recognized for his impeccable movement in and around the penalty box. He is also famous for his near-perfect first touch and his ability to score from almost any angle. Lewandowski has over 500 goals for club and country and is currently playing for Bayern Munich. There, he won numerous Bundesliga titles and The Uefa Champions League.


Harry Kane

Captain of England and English Premier League outfit Tottenham Hotspurs, Harry Kane is not just an outstanding goalscorer but someone who can help link play and create chances for others. He is strong in the air and scores a variety of goals in and outside of the box.

Romelu Lukaku

The current Chelsea number 9 is in his second stint at the club, following successful spells at Everton, Manchester United, and Inter Milan. He scores goals wherever he goes and is known for his incredible upper-body strength and ability to power past defenders in 1v1 situations.

Final thought

The modern game of soccer may have changed in certain expressions of the game and the players. However, the number 9 role in most teams remains a crucial position in any team. Number 9 football players are goal scorers who lead their teams in their attacking threats.

The different types of number 9 football players make the position a diverse role. A team will appoint players in these positions based on their style and needs for each game.

The number 9 jersey number is a coveted and respected number with rich history and heritage. The position is one of importance and recognition in the team. This position can be the deciding factor between winning and losing soccer games!

I hope you found this guide on the number 9 in soccer useful. Before you go, be sure to check out other useful articles on soccer numbers and positions at FootballTerms.

Thanks for reading!

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