Is Height In Football Important? – Deep Dive
When you think about football, I believe we can call it “the fairest sport” in the world. In the end, it is all about commitment and dedication.
Yes, it is much easier to dribble when you are the fastest person on the pitch or to score a goal if you have better-shot power, however, those are only prerequisites, the talent if you will.
That being said, what is the role of height in football? Is it important, and if yes, how much? Do you have to be tall to play football? Or, on the other hand, you shouldn’t be tall at all?
Yes, height in football can have a massive impact on your playing style and success as a footballer. But only when considered in the context of your playing position and your other attributes.
The fact is that, in general, certain positions require players with specific abilities, necessary to be successful to play at that particular position.
Moreover, those attributes are often correlated with a player’s height in football. However, each playing position requires different qualities and attributes.
We must take a look at all the advantages and disadvantages of such physical attributes as height is, and what positions and playing style suits better for this kind of predisposition.
What are the Characteristics of Tall Players?
Being tall in football has the upper hand when it comes to duelling play and defensive tasks. Taller players are always the ones that can make use of header play, whether in defence or offence. Their higher leg and arm length can be of great use in marking and tackling the opponents, especially if you are a defender.
This also creates a larger shot-blocking area. Often with height in football comes to strength, so this can be useful in position battles.
However, there are disadvantages to the physical characteristics of tall players. Their centre of gravity is at a much higher point, which makes their balance much more unstable. Yes, they have the strength, but at the price of speed and agility. As they have larger bodies to move around, this means a lesser level of stamina.
And what is the Situation for Shorter Players?
Short players are in general faster and more agile players in the team. Great ball dribbling masters such as Pele, Maradona, Messi or Neymar are all considered short players. Their ball control and movement with fast first step make them capable to outrun their opponents and using empty space in the playing area.
In addition, the lower centre of gravity gives them much more stability and balance, which makes them capable of enduring defenders’ tackles and pressure.
On the other hand, their height makes them weaker in heading battles, and with shorter legs and smaller bodies, they have limitations when it comes to playing the role of central defender or goalkeeper.
With all that being said, let us now discuss different playing positions and roles of the height and exceptions from this “height rule”.
By default, the tallest players on the playing ground. Goalkeepers are on average 5.2 cm taller than defenders, 9.2 cm taller than midfielders, and 6.8 cm taller than attackers, as it is 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 easier.
- Because they are filling more space in the front of the goal, which creates an illusion for the attackers, appearing the target smaller than it actually is.
However, goalkeepers are not strictly taller players. 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 famous goalkeepers
|Gianluigi Buffon||Parma, Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain||192 cm|
|Edwin van der Sar||Ajax, Juventus, Fulham, Manchester United||197 cm|
|Alisson Becker||Internacional, Roma, Liverpool||191 cm|
|David de Gea||Atletico Madrid, Manchester United||192 cm|
|Lev Yashin||Dynamo Moscow||189 cm|
|Oliver Kahn||Karlsruher SC, Bayern Munich||188 cm|
|Thibaut Courtois||Genk, Chelsea, Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid||199 cm|
|Manuel Neuer||Schalke 04, Bayern Munich||193 cm|
|Iker Casillas||Real Madrid, Porto||185 cm|
|Marc-André ter Stegen||Borussia Mönchengladbach, Barcelona||187 m|
No-nonsense players, and sweepers of the goal area that every team needs. They are responsible for controlling the defence line and often for the most difficult defensive tasks.
As they must be able to win duels with forwards, especially headers from high crosses and corner kicks, they are conventional tall and strong players. Centrebacks should dominate the air around the goal, but also be a threat during offensive corners and free kicks.
Still, several short centre defenders are exceptions to this rule. Fabio Cannavaro, Ivan Cordoba, and Carlos Puyol are just some of them. As being faster than taller defenders, they can easier cover wider areas, particularly during opponent’s counterattacks.
Height of some famous Centre Defenders
|Fabio Cannavaro||Napoli, Parma, Inter, Juventus, Real Madrid, Al-Ahli||176 cm|
|Virgil van Dijk||Groningen, Celtic, Southampton, Liverpool||195 cm|
|Sergio Ramos||Sevilla, Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain||184 cm|
|Carlos Puyol||Barcelona||178 cm|
|Franco Baresi||AC Milan||176 cm|
|Rio Ferdinand||West Ham, Leeds United, Manchester United, Queens Park, Rangers||189 cm|
|John Terry||Chelsea, Aston Villa||187 cm|
|Nemanja Vidic||Red Star Belgrade, Spartak Moscow, Machester United, Inter||190 cm|
|Franz Beckenbauer||Bayern Munich, New York Cosmos, Hamburger SV||181 cm|
|Giorgio Chiellini||Livorno, Fiorentina, Juventus, Los Angeles FC||187 cm|
These players tend to be some of the shortest players on a pitch. 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, wide backs 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 famous Wide Backs
|Trent Alexander-Arnold||Liverpool||175 cm|
|Roberto Carlos||Palmeiras, Inter, Real Madrid, Fenerbahce, Corinthians, Anzhi||168 cm|
|Cafu||Sao Paulo, Real Zaragoza, Palmeiras, Roma, AC Milan||176 cm|
|Dani Alves||Bahia, Sevilla, Barcelona, Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain, Sao Paulo, UNAM||172 cm|
|Phillip Lahm||VfB Stuttgart, Bayern Munich||170 cm|
|Javier Zanetti||Talleres, Banfield, Inter||178 cm|
|Paolo Maldini||AC Milan||186 cm|
|Ashley Cole||Arsenal, Chelsea, Roma, LA Galaxy, Derby County||176 cm|
|Gary Neville||Manchester United||180 cm|
|Marcelo||Fluminense, Real Madrid, Olympiacos||174 cm|
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.
Usually, Defensive Midfielders should be stronger players, so they can sweep the ball and win duels. Nemanja Matic is a great example. With a height of 1.94m, he is considered a powerful player, who can hold his ground and provide a cover for attacking efforts.
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 and draw opposite players on themselves and create space for teammates.
Height of some famous Midfielders
|Kevin De Bruyne||Genk, Chelsea, Werder Bremen, VfL Wolfsburg, Manchester City||181 cm|
|Luka Modric||Zrinjski Mostar, Inter Zapresic, Dinamo Zagreb, Tottenham Hotspur, Real Madrid||172 cm|
|Zinedine Zidane||Cannes, Bordeaux, Juventus, Real Madrid||185 cm|
|Diego Armando Maradona||Argentinos Juniors, Boca Juniors, Barcelona, Napoli, Sevilla, Newell’s Old Boys||165 cm|
|Andres Iniesta||Barcelona, Vissel Kobe||171 cm|
|Toni Kroos||Bayern Munich, Bayer Leverkusen, Real Madrid||183 cm|
|Patrick Vieira||Cannes, AC Milan, Arsenal, Juventus, Inter, Manchester City||193 cm|
|N’Golo Kante||Boulogne, Caen, Leicester City, Chelsea||171 cm|
|David Beckham||Manchester United, Real Madrid, LA Galaxy, AC Milan, Paris Saint-Germain||183 cm|
|Steven Gerrard||Liverpool, LA Galaxy||183 cm|
Strikers have maybe been the most versatile players in the game. It depends on their role, which height group would suit them better. Players used as “target men”, whose goal is to use high balls and create chances for their teammates, tend to be taller players with huge physical strength.
These players are working to develop great positional play and improve their ability to hold up the ball with the defenders at their backs. Romelu Lukaku, Aleksandar Mitrovic, and Didier Drogba are classic target men.
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 short players. Lionel Messi, Neymar, Kun 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 has phenomenal dribbling abilities. We all remember his famous goal for Ajax, which he scored after fainting and passing by several defenders. Unbelievable skill.
Height of some famous Attackers
|Lionel Messi||Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain||170|
|Cristiano Ronaldo||Sporting CP, Manchester United, Real Madrid, Juventus, Al Nassr||187 cm|
|Zlatan Ibrahimovic||Malmo FF, Ajax, Juventus, Inter, Barcelona, AC Milan, Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United, LA Galaxy||195 cm|
|Ronaldo Nazario de Lima||Cruzeiro, PSV, Barcelona, Inter, Real Madrid, AC Milan, Corinthians||183 cm|
|Kylian Mbappe||Monaco, Paris Saint-Germain||178 cm|
|Thierry Henry||Monaco, Juventus, Arsenal, Barcelona, New York Red Bulls||188 cm|
|Didier Drogba||Le Mans, Guingamp, Marseille, Chelsea, Shangai Shenhua, Galatasaray, Montreal Impact, Phoenix Rising||188 cm|
|Wayne Rooney||Everton, Manchester United, D. C. United, Derby County||176 cm|
|Karim Benzema||Lyon, Real Madrid||185 cm|
|Pelé||Santos, New York Cosmos||173 cm|
Being taller or shorter, come with benefits and shortcomings. Your height will make a difference when it comes to your innate abilities. 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 to play football and that is the beauty of football. It is not a sport of size.
It is the sport of commitment and perseverance. Like famous high school basketball coach Tim Notke once said:
“Hard work beats talent, when talent doesn’t work.”
Here are Some of our Favourite Football (Soccer) Cleats
Here we will be giving more of an opinion, rather than facts. Are the cleats worth the price that they are being sold at? Should you upgrade from your current cleats, depending on what boots you own? What features stand out in these cleats? If any. Does it do the job? Speed, control, stability etc.
Depending on your needs/preferences. We can also mention its durability, if we have collected enough data on the specific cleats.
What did we expect vs. what we got. Is it maybe overrated/underrated?
Here’s our pick from the very best of the bunch.
On your way to the pro leagues? Here’s our pick.
Want something to start with? Have a look at our pick.