Is Height In Football Important? - Deep Dive

Is Height In Football Important? Deep Dive

Do I need height to play football? To answer this, you must know that football, often hailed as the world’s most equitable sport, hinges on dedication and commitment.

While natural speed or powerful shooting are advantageous, they are merely foundational talents.

The intriguing question then arises: how pivotal is height in football? Does it dictate a player’s ability to succeed, or is it an inconsequential attribute?

Height does influence a footballer’s style and effectiveness, but its significance varies based on the player’s position and other skills. Therefore, it’s essential to understand how height, as a physical attribute, can both benefit and limit a player.

Key Takeaways

Debunking MythsDo tall players inherently possess an advantage in soccer?
Height vs. SkillHow skill and intelligence on the field are more crucial than height.
Advantages of HeightWhat advantages in aerial duels and physical presence does height offer?
Impact of Short StatureThe special cards that short people bring to the game in terms of agility, speed, and close control.
Evolution of TacticsSoccer’s increasing values, technical skills, and strategic gameplay over physical traits.
Average Footballer HeightThe average height of soccer players and height of players based on positions.

Myths & Misconceptions About Height In Soccer

Myths & Misconceptions About Height In Soccer

One major misconception common to football is the idea that taller players tend to play better on the field when compared to shorter players.

This is because we tend to assume that the height advantage possessed by tall soccer players allows them to easily overshadow and outpower other players. Thereby, mistaking height for on-field dominance.

A clear indication of its falsity has been displayed on the performance spectrum, with a lot of relatively short players doing remarkably well.

One of the reasons for this is that playing soccer today, especially on a professional level, requires more than just size. It requires cognitive skills, technical ability, and a tactical understanding of the play.

An excellent example is Lionel Messi, who, although is not that tall of a player (170cm or 5’7), has exceptional skill attributes that make him one of the best soccer players of this generation.

Height vs. Skill: What Really Matters

When the comparison of height or skill in soccer is proposed, skill always wins. This is because soccer as a sport is technical and tactical, requiring ball control, passing accuracy, timing, tactical awareness, and mental fortitude.

For this reason, a player who is naturally good at scoring, dribbling, or game-making will naturally be ahead and preferred to a taller but average footballer.

Advantages Tall Footballers Enjoy

Advantages Tall Footballers Enjoy

Being tall offers distinct advantages, particularly in duels and defensive roles. Taller players naturally excel in headers, and this is a strong point in offensive and defensive games.

In essence, longer limbs aid in effective marking and tackling, which is essential for defenders. This physical attribute also translates to a broader area for shot-blocking.

Typically, taller players bring added strength, which is beneficial in physical confrontations for position control.

However, there are drawbacks associated with taller players’ physiques. A higher center of gravity can compromise their balance, making them less stable and more susceptible to falling.

While strength is a plus, it often comes at the cost of reduced speed and agility. Their larger frames can also impact stamina, as moving a bigger body demands more energy.

These factors must be carefully considered when evaluating a player’s suitability for specific roles in football.

Impact Of Short Stature In Football (Soccer)

Impact Of Short Stature In Football (Soccer)

Generally, shorter players tend to be quicker and more agile. Football legends like Pele, Maradona, Messi, and Neymar, known for their shorter stature, are masters of ball dribbling.

Their quick movements and control enable them to maneuver past opponents and exploit open spaces on the field.

Moreso, their lower center of gravity also provides enhanced stability and balance, allowing them to withstand tackles and pressure from defenders.

However, their height does pose challenges in aerial contests. Shorter legs and smaller frames can be a disadvantage in roles typically demanding height, such as central defenders or goalkeepers.

Average Height Of Football Players

The average height of soccer players ranges from 5’10 to 6’0 with the median being 5 feet 11 inches. Soccer teams often adopt the pattern of buying both tall and medium-height players.

This mix in terms is what gives balance to a team’s formation, having the merits linked to having tall and medium-height players. The reason is so that the most efficient player is available for the team when needed.

Average Player Heights In Top Football Leagues

With so many football clubs in soccer, there are obviously different height averages for each league. For the Premier League, the most popular league in soccer, the average height of players is 5 feet 11 inches (180 cm) to 6 feet (183 cm).

When compared to the other soccer leagues, there isn’t much of a difference in the average height of players in such leagues.

The table below compares the average height of footballers across some leagues.

Soccer LeaguesAverage Height
La Liga5’10 to 5’11
Serie A5’9 to 5’11
Bundesliga5’11 to 6’0
Ligue 15’10 to 5’11
Source: Progressive Soccer

Tallest Players In The Premier League

Tallest Player In The Premier League

The tallest player to play in the Premier League is Kjell Scherpen (6’9) who was signed to Brighton from Ajax in July 2021. His stay in the Premier League was short-lived, as he was later sent on loan without making any appearances.

Next is the former Manchester City goalkeeper, Costel Pantilimon. The 6’8, 2.03-meter Romanian is the second-tallest player to ever set foot in the Premier League.

However, unlike Kjell Scherpen, Pantilimon played a number of games in England before departing: 7 appearances with Manchester City, 2 with Watford, and 47 games with Nottingham Forest.

Currently, the tallest players for the 2022/23 EPL season, all stand at 6 foot 5 inches (2.01m);

  • Dan Burn (Defender)
  • Matt Macey (Goalkeeper)
  • Fraser Forster (Goalkeeper)

Evolution Of Soccer Tactics

In soccer’s earlier years, the game was more physical than it is today. At that time, players had to dominate in terms of body size in order to gain control over the ball.

Now, soccer is seen in a different light. With more focus on tactics, formations, quick and coordinated passes and movement, and excellent timing, the emphasis on height and large body structure is no longer as relevant as it once was.

This shift is reflected in the style of play adopted by top teams, which now prioritize technical prowess, tactical intelligence, and versatility over mere physical attributes.

Height Of Football Players By Position They Play

There are still some positions in soccer that are still known to have taller players than others. This is because some positions still require more height than others.

1. Goalkeepers

Goalkeepers are, by default, usually the tallest players on the playing field.

They are on average 5.2 cm taller than defenders, 9.2 cm taller than midfielders, and 6.8 cm taller than attackers as stated in the UEFA Demographic Study of Footballers in Europe.

Traditionally, goalkeepers should be tall because of all the advantages of protecting the goal and surrounding area:

  • Their bigger bodies make it easier to block shots.
  • Longer hands and legs facilitate them to cover all angles.
  • They have greater reach and can catch high balls more easily.
  • Because they are filling more space in the front of the goal, which creates an illusion for the attackers, making the target smaller than it actually is.

However, goalkeepers are not strictly taller players. A typical example is, Iker Casillas, although considered short for a goalkeeper, remains one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time.

Short keepers have greater agility and flexibility, which allows them to react quickly and get down low to make saves.

Height of some Renowned goalkeepers

NameClub(s)Height (cm)
Gianluigi BuffonParma, Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain192
Edwin van der SarAjax, Juventus, Fulham, Manchester United197
Alisson BeckerInternacional, Roma, Liverpool191
David de GeaAtletico Madrid, Manchester United192
Lev YashinDynamo Moscow189
Oliver KahnKarlsruher SC, Bayern Munich188
Thibaut CourtoisGenk, Chelsea, Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid199
Manuel NeuerSchalke 04, Bayern Munich193
Iker CasillasReal Madrid, Porto185
Marc-André ter StegenBorussia Mönchengladbach, Barcelona187

2. Centre Defenders

Center backs play a crucial role in managing the defense line and tackling some of the most challenging defensive duties.

They need to effectively contest duels with forwards, particularly in aerial battles during high crosses and corner kicks.

This often necessitates center backs being tall and strong to dominate in the air near the goal and pose a threat in offensive set-pieces.

However, this is not a hard and fast rule, as evidenced by several shorter center defenders who have excelled in this position. Players like Fabio Cannavaro, Ivan Cordoba, and Carlos Puyol defy the typical height expectation.

Their speed advantage over taller defenders enables them to cover larger areas more efficiently, especially during fast-paced counterattacks by the opposition.

Height of some famous Centre Defenders

NameClub(s)Height (cm)
Fabio CannavaroNapoli, Parma, Inter, Juventus, Real Madrid, Al-Ahli176
Virgil van Dijk Groningen, Celtic, Southampton, Liverpool195
Sergio RamosSevilla, Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain184
Carlos PuyolBarcelona178
Franco BaresiAC Milan176
Rio FerdinandWest Ham, Leeds United, Manchester United, Queens Park, Rangers189
John TerryChelsea, Aston Villa187
Nemanja VidicRed Star Belgrade, Spartak Moscow, Machester United, Inter190
Franz BeckenbauerBayern Munich, New York Cosmos, Hamburger SV181
Giorgio Chiellini Livorno, Fiorentina, Juventus, Los Angeles FC187

3. Full Backs

These players tend to be some of the shortest players on a pitch. This is because these positions are offensive positions, with the aim to use empty space up front and play wider, height and strength are not crucial attributes here.

With their high level of acceleration and speed, widebacks look to play wider down the field and create a chance for themselves or their teammates.

Classic examples are Roberto Carlos, Ludovic Guily, and Trent Alexander-Arnold.

Height of some Distinguished Wide Backs

NameClub(s)Height (cm)
Trent Alexander-ArnoldLiverpool175
Roberto CarlosPalmeiras, Inter, Real Madrid, Fenerbahce, Corinthians, Anzhi168
CafuSao Paulo, Real Zaragoza, Palmeiras, Roma, AC Milan176
Dani AlvesBahia, Sevilla, Barcelona, Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain, Sao Paulo, UNAM172
Phillip LahmVfB Stuttgart, Bayern Munich170
Javier ZanettiTalleres, Banfield, Inter178
Paolo MaldiniAC Milan186
Ashley Cole Arsenal, Chelsea, Roma, LA Galaxy, Derby County176
Gary NevilleManchester United180
MarceloFluminense, Real Madrid, Olympiacos174

4. Midfielders

Midfielders have a big variance when it comes to height in football. In a great number of cases, the midfield of a team consists of players both tall and short.

This is because each of the height groups has its qualities, and football managers tend to create the right formation and mix their abilities so the whole team can profit.

Yet, Ngolo Kante, a French defensive midfielder is much shorter than Matic, with a height of 1.68 m. However, Kante uses his speed and agility to chase his opponents and seize the ball.

Attacking-oriented midfielders are on the other hand commonly shorter players, which tend to use their quickness and dribbling skills to create a chance.

They try to pass the defenders, draw opposite players on themselves, and create space for teammates.

Height of some Acclaimed Midfielders

NameClub(s)Height (cm)
Kevin De BruyneGenk, Chelsea, Werder Bremen, VfL Wolfsburg, Manchester City181
Luka ModricZrinjski Mostar, Inter Zapresic, Dinamo Zagreb, Tottenham Hotspur, Real Madrid172
Zinedine ZidaneCannes, Bordeaux, Juventus, Real Madrid185
Diego Armando MaradonaArgentinos Juniors, Boca Juniors, Barcelona, Napoli, Sevilla, Newell’s Old Boys165
Andres IniestaBarcelona, Vissel Kobe171
Toni KroosBayern Munich, Bayer Leverkusen, Real Madrid183
Patrick VieiraCannes, AC Milan, Arsenal, Juventus, Inter, Manchester City193
N’Golo KanteBoulogne, Caen, Leicester City, Chelsea171
David BeckhamManchester United, Real Madrid, LA Galaxy, AC Milan, Paris Saint-Germain183
Steven GerrardLiverpool, LA Galaxy183

4. Attackers

Strikers are among the most adaptable players in football, with their suitability for different roles influenced by their height.

“Target men” strikers, who excel at receiving high balls and creating opportunities for teammates, are typically taller with significant physical strength.

Their focus is on mastering positional play and the skill to maintain ball control despite defensive pressure. Examples of such target men include Romelu Lukaku, Aleksandar Mitrovic, and Didier Drogba.

Players playing the role of “false nine” or “second striker”, have the task of using empty space between defenders and making a run to the goal. They have to use their dribbling abilities and are often relatively short players. 

Lionel Messi, Neymar, Sergio Aguero, and Kylian Mbappe are some players playing in these positions.

That one does not exclude the other, as we can see in the example of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who is with a height of 1.95m plays the role of a target man, but also possessed phenomenal dribbling abilities.

Height of some Illustrious Attackers

PlayerTeam(s)Height (cm)
Lionel MessiBarcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, Inter Miami170
Cristiano RonaldoSporting CP, Manchester United, Real Madrid, Juventus, Al Nassr187
Zlatan IbrahimovicMalmo FF, Ajax, Juventus, Inter, Barcelona, AC Milan, Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United, LA Galaxy195
Ronaldo Nazario de LimaCruzeiro, PSV, Barcelona, Inter, Real Madrid, AC Milan, Corinthians183
Kylian MbappeMonaco, Paris Saint-Germain178
Thierry HenryMonaco, Juventus, Arsenal, Barcelona, New York Red Bulls188
Didier Drogba Le Mans, Guingamp, Marseille, Chelsea, Shangai Shenhua, Galatasaray, Montreal Impact, Phoenix Rising188
Wayne RooneyEverton, Manchester United, D. C. United, Derby County176
Karim BenzemaLyon, Real Madrid, Al-Ittihad185
PeléSantos, New York Cosmos173

Is Height Needed To Play Soccer?

Height is not a must-have criterion to play football. Whether short or tall, it comes with benefits and shortcomings.

If you are taller, the expectation is to have strength. If shorter, you will probably have speed at your side. But keep in mind that these are all predispositions. 

There is no universal rule when it comes to sports. Especially when it comes to football which is always evolving and changing the traditional roles of players in any position.

Whatever your height is, just remember always to work on improving your abilities, particularly on overcoming your disadvantages. Being tall or short, cannot stop you from playing football, and that is the beauty of it. It is not a sport of size.

“Hard work beats talent, when talent doesn’t work hard.”

Tim Notke


In conclusion, while height can be an asset in certain aspects of soccer, it is far from being the most critical factor in a player’s success. The modern game prioritizes skill, technique, tactical understanding, and mental agility.

Aspiring soccer players should, therefore, focus on developing these aspects of their game.


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