Seven the magic number for Spain
In many cultures the number seven is considered to have mystical qualities - the number that symbolises the relationship between humanity and the divine. Many religious followers believe the world was created in seven days, while there are seven days in the week, colours in a rainbow, musical notes, theological virtues and, of course, deadly sins.
If we take this magical number, sew it on to a red shirt and hand it to a footballer, chances are the wearer will score goals, at least if the player in question is part of the Spanish national team. FIFA.com takes a look at some of the iconic names to have worn the No7 shirt for La Selección over the years.
Let us start with the man currently donning this fabled jersey, Valencia striker David Villa. Leading marksman in Spain's UEFA EURO 2008-winning side, the 26-year-old former Sporting Gijon and Real Zaragoza player is currently joint-top of the La Liga scoring chart, alongside Barcelona's Samuel Eto'o. Indeed, Villa is also joint-top scorer in the European Zone qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, level with Belgium's Wesley Sonck and Wayne Rooney of England.
Blessed with an unerring eye for goal, the Asturias-born forward's talent, fighting spirit and total commitment to the national team cause have all combined to earn Villa the fans' backing as a worthy successor to another great No7: Raul.
No easy task when you consider the Real Madrid legend, who wore that number at EURO 2004 and Korea/Japan 2002 and Germany 2006, is the highest scorer in La Roja history, boasting 44 goals from his 102 appearances. And the Merengue idol will not have given up on adding to that impressive tally. Though out of favour with previous Spain coach Luis Aragones, the new man at the helm, Vicente del Bosque, has not ruled out a recall, though it is unlikely Villa would wish to give up a shirt that has served him so well.
That said, Raul already knows what it is like to wear a number other than seven on his back for Spain. Indeed, at France 1998 it was the property of his then-Real Madrid strike partner, Fernando Morientes, the third-highest scorer for Spain with 27 goals from 47 games. Considered one of the best headers of the ball in recent years, the former Albacete, Real Zaragoza, Monaco and Liverpool goal-getter last played for La Selección in March 2007, and currently shares a dressing-room with El Guaje Villa at Valencia.
Julio Salinas at EURO 1988, Andoni Goikoetxea at USA 1994, Miguel Pardeza at Italy 1990 and Juan Senor at Mexico 1986 all had the No7 jersey on their backs, though the latter two were outstaged in the out-and-out striker stakes by the great Emilio Butragueno, who preferred the No9.
Staying with our chosen digit, however, we next turn our focus to Juanito, who wore the No7 at Spain 1982. Juan Gomez's rise in the professional game bears striking similarities to that of Raul. Having started out with Atletico Madrid, the forward, a potent blend of ability and determination, made his name and became a fans' favourite over at cross-city rivals Real Madrid.
Juanito's five league titles, two Copa del Rey crown, two UEFA Cups, a European Cup runners-up medal (from Real's 1-0 reverse by Liverpool in 1981), and the Pichichi trophy awarded to the top scorer in Spain's first division are testament to the ability of a player whose strong personality often got him in deep water off the pitch.
His tragic death in a car accident in 1992, after watching Los Merengues play Torino in the UEFA Cup, hit the Madridista faithful hard. Since then, in tribute to a player who also wore the No7 for Los Blancos, the Estadio Bernabeu fans chant 'Illa, illa, illa, Juanito maravilla' in the seventh minute of every game.
An intriguing side note concerns a man whose involvement with the national team has spanned two very contrasting eras. At England 1966, the No7 was worn by Atletico youngster Jose Armando Ufarte. Ufarte played in just one of his team's games, against Argentina, before La Roja headed for home after the group stages.
No fewer than 42 years later, in his role as assistant coach to Luis Aragones at EURO 2008, it was a very different story, with Ufarte joining in the celebrations as Spain lifted the European Championship trophy at Vienna's Ernst-Happel stadium. Having joined the Spanish Football Association as a youth coach in 1997, Ufarte had helped nurture most of those who drove Spain to glory in Austria and Switzerland, winning four European U-16 and U-19 titles along the way.
To conclude our wander down memory lane, let us step back in time to Spain's last major trophy win prior to EURO 2008: the 1964 European Championship. Wearing the mythical No7 shirt back then was another Roja legend, Amancio Amaro, who conquered the continent with both club and country. Amaro was part of the Real Madrid side that won its sixth European Cup trophy in 1966, was crowned league top scorer on two occasions and helped the club to a staggering nine league titles and three Spanish Cups.
Yet another example in a long line of legendary marksmen, all of whom preferred the No7 instead of the more conventional No9. Though a very difficult choice, FIFA.com would like to ask you which of these magical No7s is your all-time favourite? Good luck deciding...