Shortest Soccer Players of All Time

There are many advantages of being a tall, and generally speaking, a physical person. Or at least that’s the case in real life and some sports like ice hockey, football, and, of course, basketball. But is being short that big of an issue for people who play soccer?

The short answer is no, not really. There are far more advantages that a short player can have compared to the much taller colleagues. Some of the shorter players stayed in their youth sides and continued playing soccer because even though they are not physically strong in most cases, they offer quite a unique skill set that even players who are above 5’10” can’t provide.

Which attributes are unique for short players?

First of all – the balance. Tall players tend to have difficulties controlling the ball because of their height. It is easily noticeable how big of a difference is between a 6’4” player and someone around, let’s say, 5’7”. The balance and ball control are better when you are below the average height.

Even if you’re not that familiar with the sport but have played any soccer simulation, you will notice that short pacy players with outstanding balance tend to be the best ones on the field. Even if they’re not world-class players like Messi, they are still an excellent addition to any squad.

Let’s take a look at the list of some of the shortest soccer players of all time:

10 – Lionel Messi – 5’7″ (170cm)

Arguably the greatest of all time, Lionel Messi has never been praised for his physical ability and aerial play. The Argentinian is considered as one of the best false 9’s ever. Even though many other shorter players would be a good fit for this list, we believe it’s important to note the height of one of the best contemporary soccer players.

Messi has struggled with his height even at the beginning of his career. He was much shorter than his peers in youth teams and had to receive hormonal treatment. However, it’s still a mystery how tall he would be without receiving growth hormones.

9 – Xavi – 5’7″ (170cm)

Another example of a short world-class player who, in this case, was Messi’s teammate at the time is Xavi. His passing ability and the fact that he had a low center of gravity made him one of the best midfielders the sport has ever seen – both for Barcelona and the Spanish national team. However, the way he made the most of his small stature is still unique – he managed to create space easily and was a constant threat to the opposition.

8 – Garrincha – 5’6″ (168cm)

Not many people recognize Garrincha’s contribution to probably one of the best national teams we have ever seen – Brazil during the ’50s and ’60s, where he played alongside Pelé. Like his many compatriots, Garrincha was an outstanding dribbler – believed to be one of the best the game has ever seen.

7 – Jorge Campos – 5’5″ (165cm)

Goalkeepers are usually more than 6 feet tall, but he is proof that there is an exception to every rule. Jorge Campos was at the time a world-class goalkeeper who was only 5’5″. Of course, it’s hard to compare the skill set of an outfield player to the skill set of a goalkeeper, but Campos had it much harder than his teammates. You can’t quite rely on your balance and ball control when your main goal is to keep a clean sheet.

He spent most of his career in Mexico, playing for UNAM, scoring 34 goals since he sometimes played as a striker. He had 130 caps for the Mexican national team.

6 – Diego Maradona – 5’5″ (165cm)

Considered one of the biggest rivals of the Pelé mentioned above, the Argentinian is seen as a magician among many soccer fans worldwide. Maradona managed to win the World Cup in 1986 with Argentina, and to this day, there is a debate whether he or Messi is the best Argentinian soccer player of all time. Like many players on this list, he was an outstanding dribbler who could read the game in a way that not many people could or ever will.

5 – Sammy Lee – 5’5″ (165cm)

There is a small controversy regarding Lee’s height. The Liverpool star was, by some sources, reported to be even 5’1″ or 5’2″ when the fact is that he was 5’5″. Nevertheless, Lee managed to play for England 14 times, score two goals and was a part of Liverpool for more than ten years.

4 – Daniel Villalva – 5’2″ (157cm)

At the beginning of his career, Villalva was seen as one for the future. Argentina is well-known for its fairly short midfield, and Daniel was no exception to this rule. He was expected to have a huge career after making his debut as the youngest player ever to play on the senior level for River Plate. Even though his career was not as big as expected, he still plays professional soccer in South America.

3 – Jafal Rashed Al Kuwari – 5’1″ (155cm)

Al Saad star made his professional debut in Qatar in 1990 and had a career that spanned until 2009. Playing for 19 years straight is not a small feat, and Al Kuwari was an outstanding player because of his height and his impressive national team career, where he managed to play 51 games.

2 – Marcin Garuch – 5’1″ (155cm)

Currently, an active player, Marcin Garuch is mostly known for his time spent playing for Miedz Legnica. The Polish star might not be as well-known as his other compatriots, but what makes him stand out is his height, dribbling, ball skills, and positional play.

1 – Elton Jose Xavier Gomes – 5’1″ (155cm)

Like many players on this list, Elton also comes from South America. However, the Brazilian star spent most of his career in the Middle East. The lack of physical strength only made him better at other aspects of soccer – ball control, dribbling, agility, and pace. The positional play and the soccer intelligence helped him build a huge fan base worldwide.


No matter how physical soccer can be at times, having a short player on your roster is a good asset. Most short players who gradually get to the professional level tend to possess a fairly different skillset than their teammates. However, they are usually the ones who make all the difference. Therefore, never take a short player for granted because you might be missing a future star.