Short football players – Who is the shortest player?

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Short football players – The average pro footballer still clocks in at about six feet tall (and goalies are even taller than that), but that’s nothing compared to the giants you’ll find in basketball, American football, hockey, and even on the baseball diamond.

While size and physicality are valuable in almost every sport, no contest rewards agility, toughness, and technical skills quite like soccer do. Which makes it the perfect outlet for exceptional short athletes.

short football players

Are soccer players short?

The average height of the men playing in the last World Cup was 182.4 cm or 6’0” feet tall. That’s taller than the average American male, who measures 5’9”, but it’s slightly shorter than the averages for the NHL and MLB (both 6’1”) and the NFL (6’2”).

There are even more examples of great soccer players who are on the shorter side. Leo Messi recently voted the greatest of all time, famously took growth hormone as a child, and is now listed as 5’7”.

On recent World Cup-winning teams, short players have been critical to their team’s successes.

Think of Griezmann for France in 2018, Lahm for Germany, and the midfield of Iniesta and Xavi for Spain in 2010 – not one of those players is taller than 5’9”.

As always, though, simply quoting an average is an oversimplification. Let’s consider some pros and cons of being a shorter soccer player and then analyze how those factors affect players in different positions.

As always, though, simply quoting an average is an oversimplification. Let’s consider some pros and cons of being a shorter soccer player and then analyze how those factors affect players in different positions.

Does height matter in soccer?

Being short can pay off for certain positions, but height is a definite advantage for other positions. Defenders, particularly down the center, tend to be taller players. And goalkeepers are often the tallest players on the field.

It makes sense—all else being equal, a taller keeper with longer limbs will stop more balls. In the last edition of the World Cup, goalkeepers were the tallest group on average (over 6’2”), followed by defenders.

Forwards were next, and midfielders were the shortest group on average at just under 5’11”.

This is not to say that short players are out of the game; far from it! Read on…

Advantages of short football players

Shorter players often display incredible agility, seemingly able to turn on a dime. Their compact bodies are able to change direction faster than taller players.

First, let’s take a quick look at some of the general advantages and disadvantages of being a short soccer player:

  • More agility
  • Better balance and stability
  • Superior ballhandling and control
  • Faster acceleration

Better stability comes because shorter players have a lower center of gravity. Essentially this means that their weight tends to stay more centered, helping them keep their balance and stability even when changing directions quickly.

Short players usually have better ball-handling skills and control because they are close to the ground. Their shorter limbs keep them closer to the ball and give them more control.

Disadvantages of short football players

Being a shorter soccer player does have its drawbacks, though, and studies show that professional soccer players are becoming taller over time. The clearest area where taller players have an advantage is the aerial game.

  • Less chance of winning headers
  • Not likely to play center back/goalkeeper
  • Shoulder-to-shoulder disadvantage
  • Fewer interceptions with shorter legs

Winning headers is a lot easier if you’re a taller player. On corner kicks especially, you can see how shorter players are at a disadvantage.

There are other disadvantages, too. Taller players have longer legs. This allows them to reach top speeds that are higher than those of shorter players.

Again, remember that this is only running in a straight line long enough to reach top speed without the ball, which is not that common in a situation.

Think of a wide receiver in football. How often do you see a football prospect come out of the combine with some crazy 40-yard time to fail in the NFL because he can’t cut quickly enough or can’t juke defenders?

Finally, because shorter players tend to weigh less, they can sometimes be pushed around by heavier, more physical players.

Great short soccer players – Ballon D’Or Winners

A good place to see whether a soccer player is short or tall is by looking at the best players in the world. Over the last ten years, two players have dominated the awards, Messi and Ronaldo.

Who is the shortest player in the Premier League?

The shortest player in the Premier League right now is Ryan Fraser, who stands 5’4” and plays on the wing for A.F.C. Bournemouth.

Who is the shortest player in the MLS?

The shortest player in MLS history is Joao Plata, who plays forward for Real Salt Lake and is listed at 5’2″.

Top shortest footballers of all time

1. Élton José Xavier Gomes

Height: 5’1”

A midfielder with an absolutely minuscule frame, you won’t find many shorter pro athletes than Élton who aren’t jockeys!

Known as an outstanding dribbler capable of slicing through even the toughest defenses, Élton has carved out a lengthy and ongoing career as a dynamic scorer. He even helped Saudi Arabian club Al-Fateh capture its first ever title in 2013.

Though he hasn’t reached levels of fame that reach beyond the soccer community, fans of the game know all about Élton’s heart and talent.

2. Daniel Alberto Villalva Barrios

Height: 5’1”

Locked in a heated battle with Élton for the shortest footballer of his generation is Villalva, the 5’1” sparkplug who currently plays forward for Veracruz.

Villalva was born to play soccer, getting his start on a high-level youth team at just the age of 10. Before he even turned 17, he made his pro debut with the River Plate football club. He scored his first pro goal just a few months later.

Soon enough, he was a bona fide star, making the most of his diminutive size and becoming a fast fan favorite.

3. Marcin Garuch

Height: 5’1”

Garuch, the Polish midfielder, is one of short football players who currently plays for Miedz Legnica and is one of the smallest active footballers in the world.

He has extraordinary technical skills and quickness to make up for his lack of size, and he’s known as a deadly passer and distributor.

4. Jafal Rashed Al-Kuwari

Height: 5’1”

Finally, an old guy! Though Al-Kuwari retired in 2009, he left a substantial impact on the international game of soccer as one of the shortest players to ever compete.

Another fierce and dynamic midfielder, Al-Kuwari is probably best known for his time captaining the Qatar national team from 1992 to 2002. These days, he’s a spokesman for the Al Sadd football club in Qatar.

5. Samuel Peter Lee

Height: 5’1”

The Liverpool Legend, Sammy Lee enjoyed a long and decorated career as one of the smallest soccer players in the entire world — and a damned good one!

The midfielder spent most of his playing years with Liverpool but hopped around to a few different clubs in his heyday. He even spent a few years with the England national team and went on to become a successful team manager and caretaker.

Closing Thoughts

Short football players are uniquely suited to succeed in soccer, perhaps more so than any other professional sport.

While you can always find undersized marvels in any athletic competition, pro soccer seems to be filled to the brim with incredible players under 5’8”. In fact, some of the best players in the history of the sport were only around 5’7”!

The best short soccer players are often imaginative, team-oriented, extremely technically-sound players — not necessarily genetically blessed. That kind of hard work and dedication to a craft is something all of us short guys can strive for.

Did we leave anyone out? Who are your favorite short soccer players? Tell us below in the comments! And don’t forget to follow us at Football Terms!

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