The Evolution of the Manchester United Jersey

Tucked away in rainy Manchester, one of England’s most iconic soccer clubs is working on its domestic and international comeback. Despite winning the Europa League but not the Champions League this past season, Manchester United are currently amassing new talent to give its manager, José Mourinho, no excuse for losing the next Premier League campaign.

On the road to recovery, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is scheduled to take the field at Old Trafford come the new year. Ibrahimovic will rock the number 10 shirt and provide “extra quality” to the Manchester-based squad as one of the top strikers in the league. Additionally, the new roster includes international stars such as Romelu Lukaku and Victor Lindelöf, who will sport this year’s Adidas-crafted, Chevy-sponsored jerseys. However, this particular kit is just one of the many variations that both current and former United players have donned on the field. Let’s take a stroll down memory lane to see the transformation of the Manchester United kit throughout the decades.

United Uniforms

 

Manchester United’s kit has maintained one consistent design element since 1902: its color. Red and white have been the primary colors utilized, while their rival on the other side of town, Manchester City, operates under blue and white. Although not required, handlebar mustaches prevailed between 1902 and 1909. Surprisingly, Manchester United wasn’t always known by its current name or colors.

The club was originally founded in 1878 as Newton Heath LYR (Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway) by railway workers who were interested in playing association soccer. They sometimes wore green and yellow kits in the beginning. John Henry Davies, a brewery owner in Manchester, financially rescued Newton Heath in 1902, signaling a change to both the name and colors we know today. Manchester’s primary kit experimented outside of its predominantly red design between 1922 and 1927. This new version featured a white base for the shirt, accented with a red “V” running from the shoulder to stomach.

Once World War II ended, Manchester United kicked into gear to become a dominant figure in global soccer. Their stadium was bombed during German air raids in 1941, but former player, war-hero, and newly appointed manager Matt Busby used this tragedy to unite a team and city. He would serve as the club’s manager for over 25 years. Busby successfully brought together the club’s “Famous Five”: Jimmy Delaney, Stan Pearson, Jack Rowley, Charlie Mitten, and Johnny Morris.

Sharp became the club’s first kit sponsor in 1982 and remained so until 2000, after which he was replaced by Vodafone. Several of the club’s most iconic players – David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville, and Peter Schmeichel – had the chance to play for the Red Devils during this era.

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United’s current kit is the most commercially lucrative one in the club’s history. Adidas entered into a contract with the Manchester-based club in 2014 through a deal, which earns United nearly $100 million a year. Their sponsor, Chevy, recognized the value in advertising on the front of the Red Devils’ kit – paying $80 million a year for this privilege.

United They Stand

Even though the club will be playing in the Champions League next season, a sixth-place finish in the Premier League table won’t satisfy many United supporters. With a loaded roster including players such as David de GeaPaul Pogba, and the newly resigned Zlatan Ibrahimović, supporters and sponsors will expect nothing less than worldwide glory.

I come to finish what I started @manchesterunited

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This year, the jersey will be designed by Adidas, sponsored by Chevy and, of course, owning its red and white roots. Snag your official Manchester United Premier League gear at the best place for licensed soccer merchandise – Fanatics.com.

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The Evolution of the Real Madrid Jersey

Located in the capital of Spain, Real Madrid isn’t just a national treasure. The team is an international sensation. With a roster made up of “Galácticos” – high priced player acquisitions like Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Luka Modrić, and Toni KroosReal Madrid is regularly tipped to win not only their domestic La Liga title but also international trophies such as the Champions League.  

#WelcomeTheo Welcome to your new home, @theo3hernandez! ¡Bienvenido a tu nueva casa, @theo3hernandez! #HalaMadrid

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Read Madrid is already looking to build on their impressive 2016-17 campaign when the team acquired new players, won La Liga and Champions League titles and became the subject of rumors linking them to Ligue 1 AS wunderkind Kylian Mbappé. As the “Los Blancos” prepare for another campaign, let’s look back at some of the kits that this iconic team has worn during their quest for everlasting glory.

Really Real Kits 

 

GIF of the Evolution of the Real Madrid Kits

It was the popularity of soccer in England that led Julián Palacios to create Madrid’s first soccer team. In 1902, Juan Padrós formalized the club. During this period, the club saw the birth of its first legend – center forward Santiago Bernabéu – after which their current stadium is named. But it wasn’t until 1920 that the club became known as “Real Madrid,” an honor bestowed on the soccer team by King Alfonso XIII’s high steward. Many aspects of the club have changed over time, but the prominent white color featured in Real Madrid’s home jersey has lasted over a century.

It wasn’t until the 1980s that the biggest change happened. Adidas became the kit manufacturer for Real Madrid in 1981, and Zanussi the first kit sponsor the following year. This first on-kit sponsorship lasted until 1986. Real Madrid transitioned to Hummels and Parmalat during a decade that saw the club win two UEFA Cups, five La Liga championships, two Copa del Reys, one League cup, and three Spanish Super Cups. It helps that they had dexterous Spaniard Paco Buyo as their guarding goalie.

Adidas eventually reunited with Real Madrid in 1998 and has been the team’s official manufacturer ever since. Kit sponsors have come and gone – Bwin, Siemens, and current sponsor Fly Emirates, which has worked with the club since 2013. Players such as Marcelo Vieira, Pepe, Raphael Varane, and Sergio Ramos have all defended the club locally and internationally, sporting the iconic Adidas-Emirates combo. While the primary kit remains white, there have been several different colors utilized for away games, such as purple and black with different patterns and features. It would be unusual to see “Los Blancos” take the pitch with a home jersey that wasn’t white.

World’s Finest Club

While other clubs may have been around for longer or featured in more popular leagues, Real Madrid sits at the top of the soccer pyramid. With a powerful roster of talent, and ability to win against all odds, and slick kits, it’s clear why so many soccer fans flock to support Madrid across the globe. In order to look the part, make sure you dress the part. Pick up the 2017-18 Real Madrid home jersey and other officially licensed merchandise and apparel, all available at your one-stop Real Madrid shop, Fanatics.com.

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The 2017 UEFA Champions League Final

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Champions League Final

The Champions League Final is the most watched sporting event in the world with a global audience exceeding 350 million viewers. Arranged by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), the Champions League is a prestigious tournament that utilizes a complex coefficient system to determine which clubs can compete in the grand European Cup.

It’s time to transform into the soccer fanatic you truly are. Here’s everything you need to know to be prepared for the 2017 Champions League Final. Read on!

Italian Side vs. Spanish Side

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The Spanish club Real Madrid and the Italian club Juventus have a history of going head-to-head with each other in the Champions League.

There’s no other way to look at it – both champions competing in the final leverage a real home-field advantage. A total of 18 Champions League matches have ensued between the competing teams: With nine of those games unraveling at Juventus Stadium, the other eight matches were hosted on Real Madrid’s world-famous stomping grounds, Santiago Bernabéu Stadium. One round transpired on neutral turf.

“Juve,” “Juve,” “Juve!” is the enthusiastic chant that echoes throughout the sold out Juventus Stadium in an effort to galvanize the team. The Turin-based squad has claimed victory at six of its nine home matches and has scored 21 goals (an average of 1.17 per game) throughout the 18 showdowns. Conversely, Real Madrid won five of their eight home games with the tremendous support of die-hard Madridistas at their extravagant stadium. Real Madrid trails behind in total goals scored, with 18 shots passing the goaltender (one goal per game, on average).

Champions Route

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The journey to the Champions League Final is no walk in the park, so let’s see how the matches culminating to this imperative round went down.

Real Madrid defeated Napoli 3-1, with goals credited to Sergio Ramos, Álvaro Morata, and Dries Mertens shipping one right into his own team’s net. Next, in the quarterfinals, Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo wreaked havoc on German team Bayern Munich by netting a total of five goals between both matches. The Meringues advanced to the semifinals, where they downed Atletico Madrid in return for a one-way ticket to the finals.

After achieving shutout success against both F.C. Porto and F.C. Barcelona, Juventus teammates are adamant in proving the durability of their back-line. We’ll even go as far as saying the team is a contender for the best defensive group in Champions League history. In the semi-finals, AS Monaco managed to break Juve’s back-line and ship one goal in – but it wasn’t enough to prevent La Fidanzata d’Italia (translation: “The Girlfriend of Italy”) from progressing to the finals.

Standout Strikers

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As the Champions League Final approaches, standout players from both the Spanish and Italian sides will leave everything they have on the field with one objective in mind: to hoist Ol’ Big Ears above their heads once again.

Looking to break their team’s 21-year Champions League drought: Dani Alves, Gonzalo Higuaín, and Paulo Dybala have their eyes set on the big prize. Italian football (soccer) has been attracting elite superstars as of late, and Juventus players hope to continue the trend by bringing home one of the highest accolades in European football.

🏆😙 #Juventus @juventus #Dybala #Higuaín @ghiguain20_9 @paulodybala #UCLfinal #championsleague

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If there’s one player you should direct your attention toward, make it Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese megastar is in peak condition and is showing no signs of slowing down in the concluding weeks of the season. Alvaro Morata and Karim Benzema are the other Real Madrid players to be on the lookout for – both proving to be central pieces to Real Madrid’s success during their campaign.

@cristiano + @garethbale11 = 🏆 #Cristiano #Ronaldo #Bale #RealMadrid @realmadrid #championsleague #UCLfinal

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It All Comes Down to This

Calling all Madridistas and Juventus fans alike! Heading down to Principality Stadium to witness the Champions League Final? Be sure to deck yourself out from head to toe in your team’s latest threads. Check out Fanatics today for all of your Real Madrid and Juventus fan gear and memorabilia!

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Champions League: Teams and Their Countries

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Champions League Overview

The Champions League is the ultimate soccer competition. Orchestrated by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), the Champions League pits the champions of domestic leagues and other qualifiers against one another in a grand annual tournament. Some of the most popular teams from the Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A, and Ligue 1 compete for eternal glory on the biggest stage.

Here’s all you need to know to be the most well-versed “football” hipster now that the European version is the only kind available until August.

They Like to Score

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No team has scored more goals in the history of the Champions League – rebranded as such from the European Cup in 1992 – than Real Madrid. The team has scored close to 900 goals in pursuit of European and Champions League honors. In their current campaign, the Madridistas count on the scoring power of Portuguese striker Cristiano Ronaldo and Welsh forward Gareth Bale.

German side Bayern Munich and Spanish side FC Barcelona both trail significantly behind the Galácticos of Real Madrid. They’ve each scored around 300 fewer goals in total, even equipped with strong players in their attacking roles. Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Müller help lead the line for the German giants, while MSN – Messi, Suárez, and Neymar – drive defenders crazy for Barça’s benefit.

In fourth place, with close to 500 goals, is Manchester United, the highest-scoring English side and the only one in the top five spots. The team will have to wait another year for their chance to add to this tally, though, as the Red Devils failed to qualify for the Champions League due to their subpar performance last season.

Countries With the Biggest Trophy Cases

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Between the European Cup and Champions League, Spanish clubs have produced the most success in winning the yearly competition. However, just two Spanish clubs share this success of over 16 titles: FC Barcelona and Real Madrid. While English clubs haven’t seen the same volume of success that Spanish sides have, more teams have had a chance to wrap their collective hands around the trophy.

Liverpool (5 titles), Manchester United (3 titles), Nottingham Forest (2 titles), Aston Villa (1 title), and Chelsea (1 title) have all won either the European Cup or Champions League. In the 2017 campaign, Arsenal, Leicester City, and Manchester City are the three English sides with a chance to claim Champions League glory. If they could win the cup, it would be the first time for any of these clubs to earn such an honor.

Where Winners Are Born

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In the first decade of the European Cup, Real Madrid claimed the top prize five times in a row. They then shared this honor with two Italian sides, AC Milan and Inter Milan, and one Portuguese side, Benfica. These were the only sides that won the right to be called European champions in the 1950s and early 1960s.

The 1970s saw the Spanish and Italian sides moved aside for teams hailing from England, Germany, and the Netherlands. There were also instances of back-to-back winners, with Ajax winning in ’71, ’72, and ’73. Bayern Munich would win in ’74, ’75, and ’76, while Liverpool would do a double in ’77 and ’78.

More recently, there has been a return to Spanish dominance, as Real Madrid and Barcelona have won the last three Champions League trophies.

Quest to Be the Best

Who will win the Champions League this year? Will it be a newcomer or a perennial favorite? Whichever team you’re rooting for, show everyone where your allegiance lies with officially licensed merchandise and apparel from Fanatics.

Hitting the Back of the Net in the Champions League

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Champions League Top Scorers

While it’s not America’s most popular sport, soccer commands the attention of the rest of the world as the “Beautiful Game.” No competition pits so many of the best teams and players against each other than the Champions League. Hosted by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), the Champions League is a multi-tiered competition involving group and knockout stages. The final, a last 90-minute outing between the two best teams, actually draws more eyeballs than the Big Game in the NFL!

While it takes a team to make it to the final game or to win the competition, individual brilliance is appreciated. Here are the names of the clubs and players you need to know, both from years past and some of today’s starting XIs, when it comes to slotting the ball into the net in the Champions League.

Golden Boots

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Even under the bright lights of some of the world’s biggest sporting competitions, singular players can shine by scoring goals. No one player has scored more goals than Real Madrid’s striker Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese forward is closing in on the century mark, a feat no other player has accomplished in the Champions League. However, he isn’t alone in making this climb.

The other household name player Lionel Messi sits only three goals behind Ronaldo. The FC Barcelona forward and Argentinian footballing prodigy continues to keep pace with his peers. In fact, these two players have each won the most coveted award in soccer, the FIFA Ballon d’Or, multiple times. Essentially soccer’s most valuable player award, Ronaldo and Messi are the only two to win the award over the last nine years.

It’s not just strikers from La Liga who have won the award – several of the best strikers in the Premier League’s biggest clubs have made their mark in the Champions League as well. Former Arsenal striker Thierry Henry scored over 50 goals, seven more than former crosstown rival Didier Drogba, who scored 44 goals for Chelsea.

Target Practice

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While every goal counts the same, certain teams have a propensity to score more frequently from different locations on the pitch. Two clubs, La Liga giant FC Barcelona and the beloved Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund, most frequently score inside the area. Each of these clubs has scored 18 goals in the 2016 Champions League Group Stage matches from this location.

Three clubs have specialized in scoring from outside the area with Juventus’ Bianconeri leading the charge. They boast two of the Serie A’s most dynamic strikers, Gonzalo Higuaín and Paulo Dybala, who are both capable of netting a worldie.

When it comes to penalties, several teams have shown success in converting their chances. One of these is the Bundesliga’s champions-elect Bayern Munich. While the club converted two penalty attempts this season, they know just how important these chances are – just ask those Bayern players who lost to Chelsea in the 2012 Champions League final on penalties.

Weapon of Choice

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While there are many locations to score goals from, there are also a few options a player may use to send that ball into the net. Whether they’re using their head or their weak or strong foot, each goal is crucial to advancing in the tournament. No one has scored more goals with their left foot in the 2016 Champions League than Lionel Messi.

However, behind him is Leicester City star Riyad Mahrez. The Algerian winger was part of Leicester City’s unprecedented Premier League title victory in the 2015-16 season and has been a key figure in their advancement to the round of 16 in the Champions League.

Edinson Cavani doesn’t just specialize with his right foot – which has helped him score four goals for Paris Saint-Germain – he’s also got a good head on his shoulders. The Uruguayan forward has sent two goals into the net with the use of his noggin, matching the efforts of other star players like S.S.C. Napoli striker Arkadiusz Milik or Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema.

Taking Their Shot

Whether your favorite team plays in England, France, Germany, or Spain, there’s no denying the quality of competition in the Champions League. Cheer on your favorite side with the best officially licensed club merchandise and apparel at Fanatics.

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Running Wild in the Champions League

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Champions League Runaways

Fans may cover larger distances to see their team play in a Champions League match, but players traverse many meters (or kilometers) themselves during matches. While they don’t earn frequent flier miles or spend 90 minutes in first class, they’re counting on their legs – and not the captain or crew – to deliver a Champions League medal.

While the pace isn’t everything, it’s worth recognizing the importance of a fit side, capable of keeping up the intensity for sustained periods of play. Which players vying for Champions League glory this season have logged the most miles? Who has covered the most distance? Continue reading to see which wing-footed footballers cover every blade of grass two or three times per match.

Counting Their Steps

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In the six matches played in the Champions League group stages, no individual covered more ground than Aleksandr Gatskan. The Moldovan midfielder plays for FC Rostov and played 540 minutes (not including stoppage time) of the team’s group stage matches against Atlético Madrid, FC Bayern Munich, and PSV Eindhoven. While Gatskan didn’t score any goals, it’s possible his efforts to cover over 71,000 meters in six games helped his side upset the German giants of Bayern 3-2.

Three players for Atlético Madrid make the top 10 in total distance – Gabi, Koke, and Antoine Griezmann. Two midfielders and a forward covered over 210,000 meters combined, which is 210 kilometers or over 130 miles. These “Los Rojiblancos” certainly turn heads as they continue to motor around the pitch.

Meaningful Minutes

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While midfielders and attackers have to cover plenty of ground, don’t forget there are plenty of defenders responsible for being engaged in both phases of the game. Patrice Evra, a key defender for Juventus, only played 500 minutes but managed to log over 54,000 meters.

Some of the game’s biggest names, especially in the group stages, don’t play as many minutes as fans might like but still cover ridiculous distances. Take MSN – Messi, Suárez, and Neymar – the attacking trio for FC Barcelona. Lionel “Leo” Messi covered just shy of 40,000 meters in 450 minutes of play. Luis Suárez managed to cover over 46,000 meters in the same amount of time, while Neymar managed over 47,000 meters in less than 440 minutes.

Track on Field

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When it comes to the speed at which this distance is covered, it’s a photo finish at over 140 meters per minute. No other men cover as many meters per minute as Atlético Madrid’s Saúl Ñíguez and Real Madrid’s Lucas Vázquez. These two players offer their clubs extreme versatility due to their pace and ability to play in multiple spots. As such, they get the opportunity to do the dirty work and track forward and back throughout the game.

Tracking Back

Leave covering every blade of grass on the pitch to the players. Cover up for the matches in your team’s crest and colors with Fanatics, where you’re able to find the best officially licensed merchandise and apparel for every Champions League side.

Christen Press talks Inspiration World Cup and USWNT

It’s been quite a run for Christen Press, which is true of all the women on the United States Women’s National Team. In the summer of 2015, they won the World Cup, and Press had a hand in it, playing in four of the team’s seven matches and registering her first World Cup goal against Australia. She talked to us about growing up, sports, and family.

Press was born in the Los Angeles area along with her two sisters.

“I think my dad introduced me to sports,” she says with a wry smile.

“He was a football player in college, had dreams about going to the NFL, and then he had three daughters.”

Sports were always present growing up for Press:

“He loved that we were connected to sports. He was having us dribble the basketball in the back yard and trying to kick the soccer ball as high as we can and throw a football and tackle each other and run sprints and race … I think he gave me my love for competition and … that motivation to be better than the people I was playing with.”

It’s no surprise, then, that Press excelled at soccer in school. Nor should it be a surprise that she also ran track and played tennis. That drive to be the best led her to set a school scoring record in her junior season.

After high school, she was accepted to the powerhouse women’s soccer program at Stanford University. She started as a freshman and started setting records right away. By the time her four years were up, she had virtually rewritten the Cardinal record book. She is currently the all-time leader for goals, points, assists, and shots and holds numerous single-season records as well.

In 2011, she was the fourth overall pick in the 2011 WPS (Women’s Professional Soccer) draft. She played a season before the league folded, whereupon her professional career took her to Sweden. Playing for Kopparbergs/Göteborg FC, Press scored twice in her first league match, and finished the season second in the league in scoring. She also scored in the Swedish Cup final, defeating the league champions.

Those champions, Tyresö FF, were so impressed that they signed her in the offseason. She finished the 2013 season as the leading scorer in the league.

In early 2014, Press returned to the States, signing with the Chicago Red Stars, for whom she has 25 goals in 39 matches thus far.

But it was on the international stage that Press captivated imaginations. Which, again, should come as no surprise:

“I have pictures of myself, face painted, jersey on, waiting in line for autographs from Julie Foudy, from Mia Hamm. I was at the ’99 World Cup Final with 100,000 people there when they won in shootouts and I definitely think that that inspired me and paved the way for my career path.”

In the summer of 2015, that inspiration came full circle, as Press joined a host of other now-household names as the USWNT won their third World Cup and first since the infamous 1999 shootout victory. We’re thinking all that practice in the backyard paid off.

TOP 10 Best-Selling Soccer Player Jersey 2016

Messi, Ronaldo toppled in annual top-selling shirts countdown

After an extended period of dominance from Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, a new king of Kitbag.com has been crowned – but who came out on top in our third annual player printing countdown? Kitbag.com reveals all, as we put our sales figures under the microscope.
Click here for last year’s rundown – or read on for the top ten best-selling player shirts 2016…

10)      Kevin de Bruyne (Manchester City)

Despite seeing his Belgian side unceremoniously dumped out of EURO 2016, midfield marvel Kevin de Bruyne has wowed Kitbag customers sufficiently to become the first of six new entries on our chart. Contributing the opener in September’s Manchester derby win at Old Trafford, the 25-year old was on target again a week later in the Premier League leaders’ 4-0 demolition of Bournemouth at the Etihad. Does a first career English domestic title await? Shop for De Bruyne jerseys.

09)      Anthony Martial (Manchester United)

Shifting to the #11 shirt to accommodate the incoming Zlatan Ibrahimović, Manchester United’s Anthony Martial makes his first appearance in our October countdown, off the back of a successful first season in the English Premier League. Finishing up the Old Trafford club’s leading goalscorer for 2015-16, Martial has seen some of Jose Mourinho’s high-profile signings take precedence this season, but was able to net his first goal of the campaign at home to Stoke City in early October; albeit days after our period of focus concluded. Shop for Martial jerseys.

08)      Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)

Starting the 2016-17 season with an irresistible burst of form, Sergio Aguero has helped his Manchester City command a slender, one-point lead at the peak of the Premier League table, while helping himself to a formidable 11-goal feast across all competitions. Among Aguero’s early season victims, the likes of Sunderland,  Stoke City and Steaua Bucherest and while Borussia Monchengladbach may have weathered September’s Manchester storm, the Bundesliga side were ultimately unable to contend with Aguero’s attacking force, as the Argentinian claimed a hat-trick 24 hours later in UEFA Champions League play.

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07)      Luis Suarez (Barcelona)

One of European club football’s proverbial Marmite figures, the inimitable Luis Suarez did enough in recent months to play his way into our top ten; the third newcomer on our list, yet far from a stranger to success. Providing an affirmative answer to any questions of marketability that his controversial career might throw up, Suarez opened his account for 2016-17 in Barcelona’s Supercopa triumph, before claiming a hat-trick in the Catalans’ 6-2 thrashing of Real Betis and making a landmark 100th appearance in Barcelona colours. Shop for Suarez jerseys.

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06)      Gareth Bale (Real Madrid)

The pride of Wales, Gareth Bale is the only player from the British isles to crack our top ten countdown and another newcomer on the 2016 list. Scoring his first goal of the new campaign only two minutes into Real Madrid’s La Liga opener, Bale would add a second in stoppage time to rubber-stamp the 3-0 win at Real Socieded, before nabbing the equaliser against Eibar at the Bernabeu in early October. Back on home soil, Bale would later edge ever-closer to Ian Rush’s international goalscoring record in Wales’ 1-1 qualifying draw with Georgia. Shop for Gareth Bale jerseys.

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05)      Neymar jr. (Barcelona)

Moving up two places from our countdown a year ago, Barcelona star Neymar Jr. is yet to return to the heights of 2014, when he finished as runner-up. Nevertheless, his consistency as a shirt seller can only be commended, with the Brazilian one of only three players to rank in our chart in all of the three years compiled. A recurrent threat to goal, as demonstrated by his successful free-kick against Celtic, Neymar’s four assists in the Champions League humbling of the Hoops re-affirmed his status as a key component in the Barça team jigsaw. Shop for Neymar jerseys.

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04)      Paul Pogba (Manchester United)

Returning to Old Trafford after a starring role at EURO 2016, expectations surrounding Frenchman Paul Pogba have reached an almost-immediate high; and while the potential of Manchester United’s investment is still to be realised on the pitch, Pogba’s popularity has already been reflected by significantly strong shirt sales. Debuting in the 2-0 home win over Southampton, before breaking his deadlock for 2016-17 in the 4-1 defeat of champions Leicester, time will tell if Pogba’s promising start results in the silverware he covets. Shop for Pogba jerseys.

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03)      Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)

A familiar face on the list to say the least, Cristiano Ronaldo’s 2016 has ranged from the sublime to the storybook, as the Portuguese pin-up pinned down UEFA Champions League honours, before becoming the only player in our ten to win the European Championship. Back in La Liga, Ronaldo returned from injury to help dispatch Osasuna, before scoring in each of the Spanish club’s latest European outings, as they begin their defence of the UCL title. Shop for Ronaldo jerseys.

02)      Lionel Messi (Barcelona)

Finally heaved from his lofty perch, the majestic Lionel Messi continues to shift replica shirts like few of his like have before, yet the Argentinian has ultimately failed to repeat the level of sales success that led him to the top spot in 2014 and 2015. Taking solace in retaining his edge over career rival Ronaldo, one-club man Messi bagged a brace for his beloved Barcelona against Betis to begin 2016-17, scoring twice more in the 5-1 win at Leganes. Shop for Messi jerseys.4792243

01)      Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Manchester United)

Literally towering above the competition, our highest-ranking newcomer and the Kitbag.com king of 2016 is the mighty Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Recently turning 35, Zlatan is the oldest player on our list yet has emphatically captured the imagination of our customer base since Manchester was welcomed to Zlatan in typical style this summer. Scoring on his competitive debut at Bournemouth to continue an impressive streak of first impressions in La Liga, Serie A, Ligue 1 and the UEFA Champions League alike, Ibrahimovic was additional on target in August’s Community Shield and September’s Manchester derby; while scoring twice to see off Southampton in the campaign’s inaugural Friday night fixture. The duration of the Swedish star’s Premier League stay may currently be unclear; yet the support received by way of his phenomenal shirt sales to date offers a clear message from the Kitbag.com faithful… Shop for Ibrahimović jerseys.

Long live the (new) king.

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Relegation Zone

Memphis Depay is our countdown’s biggest faller; the Dutchman dropping off the chart from the dizzy heights of third 12 months ago, after falling out of first team favour in Manchester.

Bastian Schweinsteiger finished fourth in 2015, but has since been frozen out at Old Trafford, as Jose Mourinho moves to bring in his own in pursuit of EPL redemption.

Eden Hazard saw his Belgian side flatter to deceive at EURO 2016, much as his Chelsea team had done the preceding domestic season. Scoring twice against UCL holders Real Madrid in July’s International Champions’ Cup and again in Chelsea’s first two home games of new season, the midfielder nevertheless plummets off our list, from a high of fifth position.

Wayne Rooney will hardly need reminding of his downturn in popularity, following a veritable kicking from the media and public alike and the recent removal of his England captain’s armband. Once a mainstay in lists such as ours, Manchester United’s decorated marksman will require an upturn in form and fortune to return to our chart next time.

Alexis Sanchez reluctantly joins the England skipper in the doldrums; the Arsenal man plunging off our countdown, after two consecutive years among Kitbag.com’s key sellers.

Phillippe Coutinho completes the list of fallers; the Liverpool forward failing to bring home the Europa League trophy and experiencing further defeat in the Copa America Cenentario, in spite of scoring his first international hat-trick in the colours of his native Brazil.

Numbers Game

Only four clubs are represented in our 2016 top ten, with Manchester United, Manchester City, Barcelona and Real Madrid providing an even split of players from the Premier League and La Liga and an equal 50% share between the Nike and adidas brands. Eight different nationalities are featured in the countdown, with Argentina and France contributing a pair of players apiece and with two of the top ten currently in their 30s, four others were born in the decade of the ’90s. Meanwhile, the most commonly-selected shirt number in our list is #11, as worn by three of our leading shirt sellers. The total sum of the squad numbers featured arrives at a satisfying 101, with a gap of 11 between the highest (de Bruyne’s #17) and the lowest (Pogba’s #6). Elsewhere, in terms of footballing silverware, our Kitbag.com top ten have snared a total of five Premier League titles between them, as well as 16 La Liga championships and 11 UEFA Champions Leagues. Finally, while our ten featured players have been capped 774 times for their respective national teams, not one of them has managed to win a FIFA World Cup; an intriguing fact to ponder, as we conclude our sales analysis. AC

As in 2014 and 2015, the 2016 list focuses on club shirt sales from 1 July to 30 September on Kitbag.com.