Short Centre Backs

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Short centre backs: Manchester United have finally unveiled the signing of Ajax defender Lisandro Martinez, bringing a former Erik ten Hag player from the Netherlands to the Premier League.

Reports claimed the Argentine international cost Man United around €60 million (£51.9m / $63.1m), a lofty price that brings high expectations to Old Trafford. Now 24 years old, Martinez came through the famed Newell’s Old Boys academy before joining Ajax in 2019. He spent three seasons in the Netherlands, making 118 appearances for the Dutch giants.

The early narrative around Martinez’s arrival has centered around his height, with fans concerned that Martinez does not have the physical stature to compete in the physical English top flight. Even an edit to Martinez’s Wikipedia page made light of the situation, listing Martinez at just 1 meter tall, or 3 feet and 3 inches.

Aerial dueling is a major part of being a center-back, and fans have expressed fears that Martinez could disappoint at Old Trafford due to his stature. However, while the height can often prove a standout quality for a professional athlete, it’s not necessarily the decisive component of a defender’s ability to protect his goal, or even more specifically, to compete in the air.

Shortest center-backs in the Premier League

With Lisandro Martinez signing for Man United, the Argentinian becomes the shortest center-back in the Premier League, standing at 175 cm (5 feet, 9 inches).

Chelsea, interestingly, has three of the players on this list and is rumored to be interested in another — Nathan Ake of Man City. Should Chelsea complete a move for Ake, it would give the Blues three smallest Premier League players, plus Malang Sarr who ranks seventh.

If Cesar Azpilicueta leaves Chelsea and moves to Barcelona as has been widely reported, it would see one of the numerous players in the Premier League listed at 185 cm, including Conor Coady or James Tarkowski, move into the top 10 rankings.


Information via Transfermarkt.

Player Club Height (feet-inches)

1. Lisandro Martinez Man United 175 cm (5-9)

2. Cesar Azpilicueta Chelsea 178 cm (5-10)

3. Nathan Ake Man City 180 cm (5-11)

4. Thiago Silva Chelsea 181 cm (5-11)

5. Marc Guehi Crystal Palace 182 cm (5-11)

6. Calum Chambers Aston Villa 182 cm (5-11)

7. Malang Sarr Chelsea 182 cm (5-11)

8. Ezri Konsa Aston Villa 183 cm (6-0)

9. Ben Godfrey Everton 184 cm (6-0)

10. Japhet Tanganga Tottenham 184 cm (6-0)

Short centre backs who became stars

The history of the game features many a defender who made his name without possessing a height advantage. In their case, it didn’t significantly impact their overall effectiveness on the pitch.

Below is a list of center-backs considered among the shortest in their position, and it includes a combination of active and retired players.

Active players

Gary Medel Bologna (Italy) 171 cm (5-7)

Jules Kounde Sevilla (Spain) 178 cm (5-10)

David Alaba Real Madrid (Spain) 180 cm (5-11)

Former players

Ivan Cordoba Inter Milan 173 cm (5-8)

Javier Mascherano Liverpool, Barcelona 174 cm (5-9)

Fabio Cannavaro Juventus, Real Madrid 176 cm (5-9)

Franco Baresi AC Milan 176 cm (5-9)

Carles Puyol Barcelona 178 cm (5-10)

Ronald Koeman Barcelona, Ajax 181 cm (5-11)

Franz Beckenbauer Bayern Munich 181 cm (5-11)

Read More: Smallest Premier League Player

Lisandro Martinez height: Why it may not be a factor at Man Utd

At 175 cm (5 feet, 9 inches), Martinez won’t be taller than many of the forwards he will be defending, but the numbers still say he’s an average defender when it comes to aerial duels. He also has other top-notch qualities to make up for any perceived deficiencies in the air.

The Argentine defender is exceptional on the ball, with a fantastic ability to progress the ball upfield. He also performs extremely well at disrupting opposition moves, with a sharp tackling skill set and outstanding positional awareness.

“He’s a warrior and I think the fans will admire him,” said Man United boss Erik ten Hag. “He brings aggressiveness in the game, in a good way, and I think we need that. But he’s also skillful.”

Another mitigating factor is the fact that his potential center-back partners at Man United are both known for being good in the air, with the duo of Harry Maguire and Raphael Varane performing well in that department.

It’s also not out of the realm of possibility that Martinez may ultimately see time at defensive midfield, where his best qualities can also be utilized.

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