The 10 Shortest Soccer Players Of All Time
Soccer is one of the extreme, fast team sports where players need to be extremely skillful and maintain their fitness to perform well. Soccer players need to have speed, strength, agility, and, more importantly, skills to play. The physical attributes of soccer players will determine how well they will play.
For instance, soccer players need to maintain coordination, balance, and agility as they need to jump, turn, run, and kick the ball. Speed is another essential factor as it helps soccer players accelerate, slow down, and move in different directions quickly. Football players should have strength, power, and stamina, which will impact their endurance and overall performance.
Soccer players have different physiques, which will also affect their performance to an extent. For example, the height factor in football relatively holds some importance. Height gives a competitive edge as tall players can benefit in aerial challenges like headers and tackles. Goalkeepers will be able to use their height to cover more areas, which reduces the chances of the opponent team scoring goals.
Even though the shortest soccer players lack height due to their small stature, they have a low center of gravity, which gives them more balance and agility. In this article, we will explore the careers, advantages, and challenges of short soccer players and how they impact team dynamics.
Understanding the Impact of Player Height in Soccer
Is height really important in soccer? Yes, height does hold a vital role in soccer, and tall players usually have an advantage compared to shorter soccer players. The average height in football is 5 foot 11 inches (180 cm) for strikers, 5 foot 11 inches (180 cm) for midfielders, 6 foot (183 cm) for defenders, and 6 foot 2 inches (188 cm) for goalkeepers.
Goalkeepers are usually taller as they have more coverage due to their height. Some of the popular taller goalies are Thibaut Courtois (199 cm), Edwin van der Sar (197 cm), Manuel Neuer (193 cm), David de Ged (192 cm), Gianluigi Buffon (192 cm), Alisson Becker (191 cm), etc.
Defense or forward players are also usually taller as they will be able to use their height to block or forward the ball by headers, corner kicks, and tackles. Some of the famous taller defenders in soccer are:
Virgil van Dijk (195 cm)
Nemanja Vidic (190 cm)
Rio Ferdinand (189 cm)
Giorgio Chiellini (187 cm)
John Terry (187 cm)
Sergio Ramos (184 cm)
Franz Beckenbauer (181 cm)
In soccer, there are many shorter and taller soccer players who are midfielders. Shorter football players have more mobility and quick control, which helps them have most of the control around the center of the pitch, increasing the chances of goals.
Diego Armando Maradona (165 cm)
N’Golo Kante (171 cm)
Andres Iniesta (171 cm)
Luka Modric (172 cm)
They are some of the best shorter midfielders that ever played!
Tall midfielders use their height to receive and pass the ball. In soccer, some of the popular tall midfielders are Patrick Vieira (193 cm), Zinedine Zidane (185 cm), David Beckham (183 cm), Toni Kroos (183 cm), Steven Gerrard (183 cm), and Kevin De Bruyne (181 cm).
Wide backs are mostly shorter players as they play in offensive positions. These players use their quick speed, acceleration, and agility to play wider and use the empty space, so height is not a key contributing factor for this role. Some of the well-known wide backs in soccer are Roberto Carlos (168 cm), Phillip Lahm (170 cm), Dani Alves (172 cm), Marcelo (174 cm), Trent Alexander- Arnold (175 cm), Cafu (176 cm), Ashley Cole (176 cm), Javier Zanetti (178 cm), Gary Neville (180 cm), Paolo Maldini (186 cm), etc.
Even though height gives more advantages to taller players, shorter soccer players are using their technical skills to overcome their lack of height. Technical skills like ball dribbling, ball control, precise passing and receiving, blocking, shooting, spatial awareness, body control, and speed control are essential to perform well. Without mastering these skills, height factor alone can not benefit the soccer player.
Biographies of Notable Shortest Soccer Players
1. Lionel Messi
Height: 170 cm / 5.57 ft
Position: Center Forward
Lionel Messi is one of the all-time greatest players who proved that even the shortest football players can ace the game. Double cut, the lift, fake shot, chop cut, stop and turn, the L cut, La Croqueta, and Toe Poke Nutmeg are some of the best skills Messi has shown in his long career.
When he was a child, Lionel Messi was diagnosed with growth hormone deficiency (GHD), which prevented him from growing tall. Every night, he had to take growth hormone injections. When he was 13, FC Barcelona sponsored his treatment and took him in as a part of the team due to his talent. Despite his diminutive stature, in 2005, he scored his first goal and became the youngest player in the FC Barcelona national team to score a goal when he was just at the age of 17.
- FIFA World Cup League – 3 times winner
- Champions League – 4 times
- Winner Ballon d’Or – 8 times
- Player of the year – 10 times
- Player of the season – 4 times
- Player of the tournament – 6 times
- Top goal scorer – 23 times
- Copa América winner – 1 time
2. Marcin Garuch
Height: 153 cm / 5.02 ft
In football history, Marcin Garuch is the shortest footballer who plays for the Polish leagues. He is a deadly passer and uses his height to move quickly in the field. In his senior career, Marcin Garuch is quick and has mastered technical skills. He is the best dribbler and is known for great ball and body control, balance and coordination, and high sprint speed.
- Fortuna Polish Cup League
- Fortuna 1 Liga
- Meridianbet 1. CFL
- 3 Liga – Group III
- 2 Liga and 2 Liga – West
- Montenegro Cup
3. Elton Jose Xavier Gomes
Height: 154 cm / 5.04 ft
Position: Attacking Midfielder
Elton Jose Xavier Gomes is another shortest player in soccer history who played for Steaua Bucuresti, Fortaleza Esporte Clube, Al Nassr, Dubai Club, and Al-Fateh Clubs. His nickname is Elton Arabia, and he is an outstanding dribbler. One of the best achievements in his career is that, in 2013, Elton helped the Al-Fateh national team win its first title in the Saudi Premier League.
- Saudi Premier League
- UAE Federation Cup League
- Saudi Super Cup League
- Campeonato Brasileiro Série A
4. Diego Maradona
Height: 165 cm / 5.41 ft
Diego Maradona is another short football player who played as an attacking midfielder and striker. In his senior career, he competed for several clubs and represented the Argentinian national team two times. Even though he has a short stature, he has great dribbling skills, good vision and ball control, and an effective presence, so his professional career was a success.
- 1986 FIFA World Cup and 1979 FIFA U-20 winner
- CONMEBOL–UEFA Cup of Champions
5. Sammy Lee
Height: 163 cm / 5.34 ft
Sammy Lee is one of the shortest footballers in the English national team, and he is known for strong running and quick passing. In his career, he represented the England national team four times and played for five different clubs. After retiring as a player, Lee joined as a soccer coach.
6. Daniel Alberto Villalva
Height: 159 cm / 5.22 ft
Daniel Alberto Villalva is one of the shortest soccer players in the Argentina national team who plays as an attacking midfielder and a winger. In his senior career, he played for seven different teams and scored three goals in 2009 when he was a part of the Argentina U17 team. Despite his diminutive size, he has great technical skills, including speed, acceleration, and balance.
7. Mario Rui
Height: 168 cm
Position: Left back
In the Portuguese national team, Mario Rui is the shortest football player. In his international career, he represented Portugal six times between 2006 and 2018. Mario Rui is great at dribbling, passing, and defending and has incredible sprint speed and acceleration.
- UEFA Nations League 2019 winner
- FIFA U-20 World Cup 2019 runner-up
8. Joe Allen
Height: 170 cm / 5.58 ft
Joe Allen is a Welsh national team player who started his career as a part of Swansea City club and is currently playing for the EFL Championship. He played a key role in helping the Welsh national team qualify for a major soccer league.
9. Maximiliano Moralez
Height: 160 cm / 5.25 ft
Position: Attacking Midfielder
Maximiliano Moralez is another shortest player from Argentina who is a great dribbler, an incredible passer, and a good team player. He is known for his speed and technical skills. In his senior career, he played for nine different teams and scored a significant number of goals, but he failed to score even a single goal when he was a part of FC Moscow club from 2007 to 2009.
10. Jafal Rashed Al Kuwari
Height: 155 cm / 5.08
Jafal Rashed Al Kuwari is one of the shortest football players of all time, known for his midfielder position on the Qatar national team. He represented the Qatar U-23 team in the 1992 Summer Olympics and mostly played for Middle east teams. Despite being the shortest player, he is great at moving swiftly and passing the ball precisely. In 2009, he took retirement as a professional player. At present, he is the Al Sadd team’s manager and spokesperson.
- AFC Asian Cup qualification – 1 time
Challenges And Advantages Of Being The Shortest Football Player
Due to their height, shorter football players face some physical challenges, such as:
- Less aerial ability: The aerial ability of shorter players is less compared to the taller players. Tall soccer players can jump higher and do aerial tackles and headers quickly. Shorter players can not reach the ball faster than taller players.
- Goalkeeper reach: Shorter goalkeepers have less coverage area in comparison to tall players who can easily reach and cover a significant area.
- Smaller leg length: As the leg length of shorter soccer players is relatively smaller than tall players, they might not be able to run faster or jump higher compared to taller players.
- Lack of physical presence: As short soccer players are not that tall, their physical presence is limited and overpowered by taller players.
- Difficulty in long-range passing: Due to their short height, shorter soccer players might face difficulty when it comes to long-range passing. In addition, it might be hard for them to find their teammates if they are surrounded by tall players.
Short players are also likely to suffer from various psychological challenges like lack of confidence, stress, or anxiety when they need to play with a powerful football team that consists of quite tall and athletic players.
Despite these psychological and physical challenges faced by short soccer players, being the shortest player is also quite advantageous. How can the shortest football player benefit from their height? The reasons are listed below.
Speed And Acceleration
Shorter players are likely to maintain quick acceleration, which makes it easy for them to move on the field quickly. They can run fast, change directions, and make quick turns and corner kicks swiftly. In soccer, swift movements are necessary, so shorter players can greatly benefit from their quick speed.
Balance And Coordination
Shorter soccer players have better balance and body coordination, which makes them more agile and move in narrow spaces or push through defenders without falling. As a result of that, they can run, block, receive and pass the ball, and maintain balance.
Low Center Of Gravity
As shorter soccer players have a shorter stature, their center of gravity is usually low. Because of that, it is easy for them to turn, twist, and move in small spaces quickly without losing body control and balance.
In comparison to tall players, short soccer players have more endurance. Because of that, they can play well for a long time without needing a break.
Shortest Soccer Player Training and Playing Style Adaptations
Shorter soccer players focus on strength training, flexibility exercises, and cardio training. As it will be hard for the shortest football players to perform headers or aerial tackles, they usually adapt to training that can help them enhance their agility, endurance, running, and strength.
Coaches train shorter players to use both feet for unpredictable ball movements, enhancing their game. Intensive training ensures consistent endurance and stamina throughout the match.
Soccer coaches keep an eye on the technical skills, physique, psychological aspects, and tactical awareness of the players to determine the best positions for them. For example, if the shortest footballer has great endurance, agility, and speed, then the coach will train the player accordingly to be a full-back or a winger.
Shorter football players with quick acceleration are ideal for the offense-side positions, while tall players with robust tackling and marking skills are better for defensive positions. Midfielders usually have good vision, tactical awareness, and ball-passing skills and are great at set pieces. Players who have incredible strength and above-average height are better for center-forward or center-back positions.
If the players have multiple skills, the coaches will experiment with them in different positions, which can also improve their hidden talent. The soccer coaches can help these guys utilize their versatile skills, enhancing their playing potential.
Not only physical fitness and skill training but short soccer players also focus on boosting their mental and psychological health. The coaches will motivate players and boost their confidence by training them in complex game situations so that they can withstand the pressure and perform well.
Pep Guardiola is one of the best soccer coaches who used his tactical brilliance and great vision to develop techniques based on the abilities of the players. How to make a great football team? Jurgen Klopp is a great coach who always keeps the team in high spirits by showing emotional intelligence and training them to be accountable, communicate clearly, and deliver the best results.
Impact on Team Dynamics and Soccer Tactics
How does having a shorter football player affect the team? Even if there are the shortest football players on a soccer team, they can adapt well if they understand each other’s playing styles, their skills, and their weaknesses. For example, if the shortest player is great at passing the ball, then other players should give more chances to the shortest player to forward the ball.
In soccer teams, players with different positions, training styles, and personalities coexist. The coach needs to create a collective sense of identity between the members so that they can prioritize team objectives instead of personal objectives. All the members should know everyone’s positions. Clear modes of communication will be set so that there will not be any miscommunication.
In order to develop the sense of team, coaches will usually divide the football teams based on their playing style and personality into dominance style, influence style, steadiness style, and conscientious style. The soccer team with shorter players will adapt well by continuously training, which makes it easy for them to understand each other’s tactics.
In the sports field, especially soccer, being short was previously perceived as a disadvantage because many thought that it was difficult for short football players to perform aerial tackles, do long-range passes, or cover more areas as a goalkeeper.
However, the shortest players are quite agile, maintain good balance, and have a low center of gravity, which makes it easy for them to move quickly at great speed and even make sharp turns and twists. When they compete in a game, their body control and coordination are on another level compared to tall players.
World-class short soccer players like Lionel Messi, Santi Cazorla, Garuch, and Phil Foden have changed the perceptions about the ideal physique of a soccer player. They also proved that the shortest players can play well in any position, be it midfielders, forwarders, defenders, or goalkeepers, if they have the technical skills.
In sports, diversity and inclusion are essential to create an equal level field for all players, regardless of their physique, nationality, gender, or race. This way, players from all backgrounds will have equal opportunities to play the sport they want.