Swapping your shirt at the end of a match is the ultimate exchange of respect (and sweat). With the World Cup final 2022 coming up, we thought we’d explore the most iconic shirt swaps that have taken place in history.
Swapping shirts is a sweaty tradition embraced throughout the ages. But also one that has had quite a few managers get shirty (especially when the exchange has happened at half time, or during a tense moment of a local derby).
Without further ado, and in honour of the upcoming World Cup final 2022 getting closer and closer to gracing our screens, here are the most iconic shirt swaps of all time.
Pele and Bobby Moore at the 1970 World Cup
At the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, all time great Pele swapped shirts with West Ham and England legend Bobby Moore – the captain of the England national team that won the World Cup in 1966. Brazil had beaten England 1-0 in the game in question thanks to a goal from Jairzinho.
“He was my friend as well as the greatest defender I ever played against,” Pele later said of “honourable gentleman” Moore. “The shirt he wore against me in that 1970 match is my prize possession.”
Balotelli and Pepe
Though it didn’t appear to phase him too much (he turned up to training the following Thursday in a $455,246 Ferrarri) Mario Balotelli sparked outroar when he swapped shirts with the Real Madrid defensive unit Pepe in 2014. The reason it was controversial is because Liverpool were losing 3-0 in a crucial Champions League game, and because Balotelli swapped shirts with Pepe at half time (at Anfield, no less).
Though Ballotelli was replaced by Adam Lallana for the second half, Liverpool manager at the time Brendan Rodgers claimed it was a purely tactical move, telling Sky Sports: “That’s the first I’ve heard of it.”
“But if that’s the case then I wouldn’t like it. It’s something that I don’t like to see, I’ve seen it happen in other leagues and other countries but it’s certainly something that doesn’t happen here and shouldn’t happen. We had an incident last year here with a player, which I dealt with, and if that’s the case then I’ll deal with this as well.”
Balotelli, who has become a legendary name for lighting fireworks in his own bathroom (and accidentally setting his house on fire, the night before City’s biggest win against Manchester United for 56 years) as well as going to watch the Formula 1 qualifiers rather than go to a scheduled meeting with Jose Mourinho (and telling him “I can come to your office everyday but the Formula 1 is in Italy only once a year, so…”) is unlikely to have been too perturbed by the relatively mild controversy this story caused. And good on him. Just Balotelli doing Balotelli things…
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Neymar
While playing for England in Rio’s Maracana stadium in the summer of 2013, Oxlade-Chamberlain swapped shirts with Neymar. He might have got away with it had it all taken place after the game, but the cameras picked up some on-field negotiation while the match was still going. Roy Keane hammered him for it and Oxlade-Chamberlain says he regretted it.
Zanetti and Materazzi fighting over Henry’s jersey
After Arsenal’s 3-0 loss at Highbury to Inter Milan, in 2003, in the Champions League, Zanetti and Materazzi briefly argued over who should get Henry’s shirt. Ultimately it went to Zanetti, Inter club captain and all around legend. Arsenal ended up getting revenge in the return leg at San Siro.
Scholes swapping shirts with Iniesta
In the 2011 Champions League final, Manchester Utd lost 3-1 to Barcelona at Wembley. After the match, Manchester United’s legendary midfielder Paul Scholes swapped shirts with Barcelona’s legendary midfielder Iniesta.
Before the game, it is rumoured that Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernandez, Pedro Rodriguez, Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta (no shortage of talent there) all wanted to swap shirts with The Ginger One after the game. They apparently drew straws and Iniesta won.
Paulo Ferreira and Ronaldinho
In 2005, when Chelsea beat Barcelona in the second leg of their Champions League match up at Stamford Bridge, Paulo Ferreira and Ronaldinho swapped shirts at half-time.
This came after Chelsea went 3-0 up before Barcelona got two goals back. One of those goals was that cheeky, just outside-the-box goal from Ronaldinho (if you know, you know). John Terry made sealed the deal for Chelsea, however, with 15 minutes left on the clock, with a header.
Ruud van Nistelrooy and… a City player
As reported by The Guardian, Phil Neville, commentating for BBC 5 live, inspired by the aforementioned Balotelli incident, revealed that Ruud van Nistelrooy “once received a double dose of hairdryer treatment when he thought it would be a good idea to swap shirts during a Manchester derby” (The Guardian).
Ferguson’s response, apparently, was: “do that again and you’ll be out of the club.”