Cristiano Lupatelli: The Goalkeeper Who Wore No.10 For A Bet

Cristiano Lupatelli: The Goalkeeper Who Wore No.10 For A Bet
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Since the traditional 1-11 system was abandoned by the Premier League ahead of the 1993/94 campaign, a small group players have chosen to wear numbers that are either wholly unsuited to their natural position or look oddly jarring on the back of a football shirt.

Watching William Gallas playing for Arsenal was odd enough after he had spent the five previous seasons at Chelsea, but seeing the French defender doing so while wearing a no.10 shirt was bordering on the ridiculous.

Back at Stamford Bridge, Khalid Boulahrouz was sporting no.9 at right-back, while Algerian forward Hillal Soudani donned the no.2 shirt at Nottingham Forest and Samuel Eto’o chose no.5 during his brief stint with Everton.

Italy did not adopt the same squad number system until 1995/96 but, despite being late to the party, Serie A players have certainly ensured they lead the way when it comes to random choices.

Some were touching, including Mohamed Salah’s decision to wear 74 at Fiorentina in memory of the same number of people who lost their lives in the Port Said disaster, or Fabio Quagliarella opting for no.27 in memory of Niccolo Galli, a childhood friend and youth academy teammate of his who used to wear that number before he was killed in a 2001 road accident.

Denied the no.9 by Ronaldo at Inter, Chilean striker Ivan Zamorano famously opted to wear '1+8' instead, a move that Juan Pablo Sorín copied at Villarreal, going with '1+2' because his favoured number 3 was taken.

Sierra Leone forward Mohamed Kallon wore both 2 and 3 during his time with Inter and Vicenza, the latter club also home to defender Marco Fortin who, as a joke, wore the no.14 shirt because it’s pronounced the same as his surname.

However, none of those players came close to challenging Cristiano Lupatelli’s decision upon joining Chievo in the summer of 2001.

In the previous campaign, the goalkeeper had helped AS Roma win the Scudetto, playing eight league games for the Giallorossi as Fabio Capello, Francesco Totti and Gabriel Batistuta led them to the league title.

Why Lupatelli Wore No.10

Joining the newly-promoted Veronese side was a chance to play more regularly, and Lupatelli would help them defy all expectations, sitting top of the Serie A table for the first eight matches before ultimately ending the season in fifth place against all odds.

They beat an Inter side with Ronaldo and Christian Vieri in attack at San Siro (the aforementioned Kallon came off the bench to join the attack in his no.3 shirt), won 3-1 at home against Lazio and held Milan to a 1-1 draw.

Lupatelli certainly played his part, pulling off a string of astonishing saves throughout that memorable campaign, and he did it while wearing the number 10 shirt. In goal. As if being bald but sporting sideburns was not a striking enough look for the Perugia native, he pulled on Italy’s most iconic shirt number in a season where the league’s other wearers of it included Beppe Signori (Bologna), Roberto Baggio (Brescia), Clarence Seedorf (Inter), Alessandro Del Piero (Juventus), Hernan Crespo (Lazio), Manuel Rui Costa (Milan) and Totti.

Asked about the choice at the time, he told reporters that “the reason is because I am the first and, so far, the only goalie to wear that number,” before adding that he “won the number at our charity auction.”

However, more recently, the man himself has revealed that another factor was at play. “I made a bet with my friends back home,” Lupatelli told Sky Italia earlier this year.

“It all started out as a joke, and it became reality. Something I think that was fun and amusing.”

The sight of the Chievo shot stopper diving to pull off a save while wearing such an iconic outfield number will live long in the memory of anyone who saw him, and now perhaps even more so.

Goalkeeper Cristiano Lupatelli wore no.10 at Chievo, and he did simply because his mates bet that he wouldn’t.

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