Brazil have had many wonderful players over the years, from Pele to Ronaldinho, Socrates to Kaka, all of whom have donned iconic numbers for the Selecao.
A big responsibility is bestowed upon Brazilians when handed certain shirt numbers, and that is exactly the case with the No.9. For years, striker Ronaldo made the number his own for Brazil, scoring in World Cups and helping Brazil rise to the top.
His retirement from international football in 2006 — but for a one-off comeback in 2011 — left Brazil with a huge void in attack. It’s certainly a void that Brazil have tried to fill with multiple players. Some to a good degree of success, others not so much.
We here at Squawka decided to get surgical with it and rank all of the No.9’s Brazil have used since Ronaldo. Who falls where? Read on and find out!
12. Bruno Henrique
2 caps, 0 goals
The latest to don Brazil’s no.9 jersey, 28-year-old Bruno Henrique has managed just two caps so far, coming on as a late substitute in a 2-2 draw with Colombia in September before following that up with another cameo against Peru.
12 caps, 3 goals
He may be an absolute legend for Benfica (137 goals in 183 games!) but Jonas’ brief time as Brazil’s No.9 at the 2016 Copa América Centenario was pretty atrocious. He was pitiful in the 0-0 draw with Ecuador and was taken off at half-time against Haiti with his side 3-0 up. They won 7-1 in the end and Jonas played no part in their final group game. That was it for Jonas as Brazil’s No.9 and the player himself is now retired.
10. Diego Souza
7 caps, 2 goals
With Gabriel Jesus injured and unable to be selected by Tite, the Brazilian coach temporarily bestowed the No.9 on Diego Souza. The attacking midfielder (!) started one game, played a handful of minutes at the end of two more games and that was it. Not a disaster like Jonas, but not good either.
9. Diego Tardelli
14 caps, 3 goals
When the 2015 Copa América rolled around, Brazil were looking to bounce back hard from the abysmal end to their 2014 World Cup. Neymar had just come off an incredible Champions League win where he showed what he can do alongside a great No.9 – unfortunately for Brazil he only had Diego Tardelli. The No.9 started the opening game before being demoted to sub. He didn’t even have the decency to take a penalty in Brazil’s shootout loss, either.
19 caps, 6 goals
Earning his first Brazil cap in August 2018, Richarlison was handed the no.9 shirt by Tite with Gabriel Jesus unavailable at the time. Appearing in two friendlies against USA and El Salvador, the Everton forward scored twice and has been a regular feature under Tite since, though he has dropped the no.9 shirt.
7. Alexandre Pato
27 caps, 10 goals
Alexandre Pato was once the next big thing of not just Brazilian football but perhaps the world game. His career went significantly off the rails, and even when in his pomp he played off a striker. But at the 2011 Copa América Pato donned the famous shirt and had a reasonably decent showing! He was scoreless in the first two games but bagged a brace in Brazil’s final group game; although he could do nothing against Paraguay and was subbed off before Brazil absurdly missed all four penalties.
6. Ricardo Oliveira
16 caps, 5 goals
Ricardo Oliveira is far from a big name, but he actually had a decent impact as Brazil’s No.9. He started five games out of six at the 2005 Confederations Cup and actually played reasonably well, scoring twice. His run could have continued (at least in the short-term) but for injury. He’s still playing now at the age of 40.
5. Vagner Love
20 caps, 4 goals
Unquestionably the best name in football history, Vagner Love was a pretty great No.9 for Brazil too. The braided wonder was Brazil’s starting No.9 during the 2007 Copa América, playing all but the last 10 minutes (+30 of extra time) against Uruguay in the semi-final. He scored once but set-up multiple goals, including one in the final as Brazil ran out 3-0 winners. He played a few more games before being usurped by Luis Fabiano.
4. Gabriel Jesus
38 caps, 18 goals
The current No.9 when in the squad, Gabriel Jesus’ influence for Tite’s Brazil is growing, combining selfless work-rate with intelligent positional play. Jesus struggled at the 2018 World Cup but has bounced back strongly since, scoring in the Copa America final against Peru last year as Brazil won the tournament on their own patch. Mind you, Jesus did get himself sent off and handed a two-month international ban in that match too.
39 caps, 18 goals
It’s easy to laugh at Fred but this legendary playboy is a genuinely skilled poacher and was highly regarded in the early days of Luiz Felipe Scolari’s second run in charge of Brazil. He lacked all the flair and finesse you’d want to see from a Brazilian striker, but he put the ball in the back of the net. A huge presence for Brazil when they won the 2013 Confederations Cup, injury prevented him from being anywhere near his best in the 2014 World Cup. His display was so poor that he was removed 70 minutes into the dreaded 7-1 loss and hasn’t been seen since.
2. Luis Fabiano
45 caps, 28 goals
Luis Fabiano has actually had two spells as Brazil No.9 — the first was during the 2004 Copa América when Brazil sent out an under-23 squad; there he led the line with distinction, playing every game, scoring twice and even notching in the semi-final shootout win.
Luis Fabiano’s second spell as Brazil’s No.9 came when Dunga was in charge. And here is where he really took off. He was never the most skilful player but he was a player of great power and technique; he always found a way to the back of the net and he loved the big occasion. He was colossal as Brazil won the 2009 Confederations Cup, scoring twice in the final. He also bagged three goals in the 2010 World Cup as Brazil exited the tournament at the quarter-final stage. As Dunga left, so did he, but when he had the shirt he was an absolute brute.
48 caps, 27 goals
The legend with the lethal left-foot technically did his best work for Brazil before Ronaldo retired, but never when Ronaldo was in the team. He wore No.7 in the 2004 Copa América as he outshone Luis Fabiano to lead Brazil to victory.
He wore the No.9 in the 2005 Confederations Cup and led the line superbly in what was unquestionably Brazil’s best tournament showing since 2002 when they won the World Cup. His five goals were a tournament-high and his brace in the 4-1 demolition of Argentina showed that he should be the man to lead Brazil in the true post-Ronaldo era.
Sadly Brazil chickened out and brought an overweight and immobile Ronaldo back for the 2006 World Cup and as a result, Adriano personally and Brazil as a whole suffered enormously. Personal problems dragged Adriano down afterwards, but he played two games in the No.9 since then; once helping an understrength Brazil thrash Chile 4-2, and then once he led the line as Brazil were defeated in the brutal altitude of La Paz.
Still, for all those times he thrived without Ronaldo around, and for a performance that should have ushered in the post-Ronaldo era two years earlier than it actually did, no one but Adriano can be number one.