Even in the modern age of progressive football, a great deal of youth academies put size above all else when they’re scouting their ranks for the next ‘big’ player on their books.
However, if Lionel Messi’s career is anything to go by – or that of Juan Mata or Santi Cazorla – there’s a lot to be said for being born with a low centre of gravity.
But let’s be honest, what matters most for a successful career in football is talent – something few are born with, whether you have designs on a towering centre-back or a diminutive forward.
Still, football trivia is entertaining and it’s fun to look at both ends of the height spectrum. Goal looks at some of the tallest and smallest players in the beautiful game…
Who are the tallest footballers?
Before we start, let’s get some perspective. When someone says ‘tall footballer’, many minds go straight to Stoke City’s Peter Crouch, known globally as one of the Premier League’s most towering target-men. However, even at 2.01m (6ft 7.1in) Crouch is far from the biggest – in fact, he isn’t even the biggest Premier League-owned player.
Starting at the ‘lower’ end of football’s tallest players, some may remember Stefan Maierhofer, now 35, an Austria international who continues to ply his trade at SC Mattersburg, or perhaps Nikola Zigic, who spent five years with Birmingham City between 2010-2015, or even Jan Koller, a retired Czech striker who made a name for himself at Borussia Dortmund. All three players stand at 2.02m (6ft 7.5in).
Watford-owned goalkeeper Costil Pantilimon is further up the list still at 2.03m (6ft 7.9in), on par with Monaco forward Lacina Traore. Less-renowned of players Mikkel Mena Qvist (AC Horsens), Oyvind Hoas (Kristiansund), Even Iversen (Hasle-Loren IL) and Kjell Petter Opheim (retired) are all around the same height.
EA Sports’ popular video game franchise FIFA had our next entrant, Tor Hogne Aaroy, an Aalesund icon, listed as the game’s tallest player back in their 2015 iteration, while Northern Irish goalkeeper Jason Mooney, currently with Cliftonville, can boast a similar height of 2.04m (6ft 8.3in).
With Henan Jianye striker Yang Chingpeng up next alongside Croatian goalkeeper Vanja Ivesa at 2.05m (6ft 8.7in), we start to see a pattern forming in terms of positions the game’s largest players have taken up on the pitch.
The affectionately nicknamed ‘Gentle Giant’ Tonny Brogaard – and a giant he was at 2.06m (6ft 9.1in) – found playing time hard to come by after his most notable move, to Doncaster Rovers. His position? Goalkeeper.
The penultimate names at the big and tall player store are Paul Millar, a Northern Irish journeyman turned manager, and Kristof van Hout, Westerlo’s 2.08m (6ft 10in) goaltender.
The tallest player in football by all accounts is Simon Bloch Jorgensen, a 25-year-old goalkeeper – and Everton trialist in 2013 – who currently appears to be without a club. Jorgensen tops the table at a massive 2.10m (6ft, 10.6in). Wow.
Who are the smallest footballers?
Lionel Messi is largely regarded as one of the smallest players in world football, but the Barcelona star’s height of 1.7m (5ft 7in) pales in comparison to some other shorties who have graced the green grass.
Bournemouth’s Ryan Fraser is perhaps the most recognisable name at the larger end of the small spectrum, but the Scottish winger has plenty of company in the 1.63m (5ft 4in) club. Franco Niell (Gimnasia), Joaozinho (Krasnodar) and ex-England U21 defender Alan Wright (retired) all count themselves in Fraser’s company.
A mere centimetre below at 1.62m (5ft 3.7in) sees Elgabry Rangel (retired), Carlinhos Bala (retired) and former Ecuador international Christian Lara added to the list. Fellow Argentines Juan Cuevas and Diego Buonanotte come in just below at 1.61m (5ft 3.3in).
Former England U17 winger Levi Porter, currently with Shepshed Dynamo, is up next, but shares his spot on the list with ex-Juventus and Monaco man Rui Barros, both players lining up at 1.60m (5ft 3in).
Another Argentine representative now in Maxi Moralez of New York City FC fame, who shares the same short stature as Daniel ‘Keko’ Villalva – would you believe it, another Argentine. Both players are 1.58m (5ft 2.2in) in height.
Now we’re getting to the nitty gritty. Brazilian attacking midfielder Madson, currently of Al-Khor in Qatar, stands at 1.57m (5ft 1.81in). The 31-year-old is joined in joint third smallest alongside former South Africa international Benedict Vilakazi.
Speaking of Qatar, Al-Sadd legend Jafal Rashed Al-Kuwari takes the second spot at a miniscule 1.55m (5ft 1in). Rashed’s short stature didn’t stop him from having an iconic playing career, however, as he represented his national side 51 times, captaining them in several of those outings. Indeed, David Beckham featured for the AC Milan side who played in the former midfielder’s farewell match.
And the out-and-out winner is… shared! Cross-check after cross-check suggests the title of shortest footballer is actually shared between Polish midfielder Marcin Garuch of GKS Belchatow and 31-year-old Brazilian attacker Elton Jose Xavier Gomes, who currently turns out for Saudi outfit Al-Qadsiah. Both players stand at 1.54m (5ft 0.6in).
Still think size matters?
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