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Short players XI: The best from across Europe

Beto Sevilla

Mathieu Valbuena is literally dwarfed by Marouane Fellaini and Vincent KompanyFootball is, by all means, a physical game. Even if it doesn’t always require brute force or a Goliath-like figure, a little extra height doesn’t always hurt. But there have often been a lot of footballers who have rubbished off claims that shortness does not sell in the sport.In fact, short players boast a low centre of gravity which is an aiding factor in their game. They prove to be better movers of the ball and are quicker off the blocks. These players have succeeded in converting their so-called physical weakness into an advantage which has stood them in good stead with respect to the nuances of the beautiful game.Here is a list of eleven such players who have outshone their contemporaries from across European professional leagues.None of the outfield players are taller than 5 feet 9 inches. Formation: 3-5-2.

#1 Goalkeeper: Beto - 5\'11\"

Beto Sevilla

Probably the most underrated player in this list, Antonio Alberto Bastos Pimparel alias Beto is one of the rare breed of short goalkeepers in the professional circuit. Formerly of Sevilla in the Spanish La Liga, Beto is a very experienced campaigner when it comes to goalkeeping and now plays for Sporting CP.

He makes up for what he lacks in height with his outstanding reflexes. Beto had been instrumental in Sevilla when they were crowned champions in the last three editions of the UEFA Europa League.

With his brilliant and consistent shot stopping displays, the Portuguese had impressed even his harshest critics. Beto is renowned for his ability to save spot kicks in crunch situations. For a comparatively short keeper, he has a brilliant leap towards either side.

#2 Left Back: Jordi Alba - 5\'6\"

Jordi Alba Barcelona

Arguably one of the best left-backs in the modern game, Jordi Alba Ramos is a valiant footballer who compensates for his slight build with sheer determination and perseverance. He offers his services to the Spanish national team and FC Barcelona.

Known for his lightning pace and raids down the left flank, he can also operate as a left midfielder. He is not the typical left-back as his attacking prowess sees him in the opponent’s half throughout the match. Being a La Masia product, he has great close control and passing ability when compared to players in the same position.

He was a member of the Spanish team that won the 2012 Euro Championships, incidentally scoring a goal in the final against Italy, too. Alba’s great work rate and never-say-die attitude stand him in good stead on the field.

He is lauded for his ability to come good in tough encounters; he is, by all means, a big game player. He is known to be one of the fittest ones around and it is this trait which puts him in this eleven comfortably.

#3 Centre Back: Javier Mascherano - 5\'9\"

Javier Mascherano Barcelona

If at all there is an adjective to describe Javier Alejandro Mascherano, it will probably be ‘versatility’. Mascherano is adept at playing the role of a defensive midfielder and that of a defender equally well. Even though he does not carry a big physique with him, he is one player who simply does not give up.

He is known for his aerial duels and can cover a lot of ground in his defensive forays. He is also the second most capped player for Argentina after Javier Zanetti.

At club level, he has been the mainstay of Barcelona’s defence for many years now. Tenacity and grit come naturally to him, and his passion coupled with an immense energy to win the ball has won him a whole lot of admirers.

He is a perfect combination of ball playing and no-nonsense defensive work. With his consistent error-free displays in matches panned out through many seasons, Mascherano has cemented his place in the Barca starting lineup. He has had a largely positive impact at the club. His enviable defensive work rate earns him a place in the eleven.

#4 Right Back: Philipp Lahm - 5\'7\"

Philipp Lahm Bayern Munich

Dubbed deservedly as the best right-back of his generation, Philipp Lahm is an expert in playing on both sides of the pitch, despite being right-footed. He captained and led Germany to their fourth FIFA World Cup triumph in 2014 in Brazil.

Soon after, he announced his retirement from international football, and he now plays for FC Bayern Munich in Germany as their captain. His short stature has earned him the nickname Magic Dwarf. His abilities came to the fore when Pep Guardiola, the Bayern manager, experimented with him in the midfield in the last season.

Renowned for his dribbling, fair play, and precise tackling, Lahm truly serves as an example. Guardiola himself once said: “Lahm is the most intelligent player I have ever trained.”

The veteran is more than capable of diving into tackles; yet has remained injury-free for a great part of his long career. His qualities of steadfast leadership and consistent availability make him stand out as one of the modern greats of the game.

His mental strength, tactical acumen, and composure are second to none, making him indispensable to the Bavarians. But, above all, it is his work ethic and dedication which get him a place in this list.

#5 Left Wing: Alexis Sanchez - 5\'7\"

Alexis Sanchez Arsenal

Alexis Sanchez plays for Chile and Arsenal. His transfer from Udinese to FC Barcelona in 2011 became the most expensive transfer ever for any Chilean footballer. The second-most capped player for Chile after goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, Sanchez was instrumental in Chile’s two famous Copa America wins over Argentina.

He draws praise for his insane amount of work rate and fighting ability, things which are often discarded by footballers in his position. The perfect technician that he is, he managed to score a whopping 25 goals in his maiden season for the north Londoners.

He has fit in perfectly in the Arsenal setup, as he is one of a kind who can play across all attacking positions in a 4-2-3-1 formation. His outstanding technical prowess and versatility are things which cannot be overlooked at all.

Moreover, Sanchez is adept at making intelligent diagonal runs across the width of the defense line, and, for a short man, he is a decent header of the football. If not for him, Arsenal might not have finished as high as they did in the last two seasons.

For someone who came fresh to the league, he adapted admirably well to the notoriously physical and demanding tempo of the game, and for exactly this reason, he is in this eleven.

#6 Left Central Midfielder: Eden Hazard - 5\'8\"

Hazard Chelsea Short

Widely regarded the world over as one of the best footballers by coaches and commentators, Eden Michael Hazard is a Belgian professional player who plays for Chelsea. His superb passing, technical prowess and creativity often see him drawing comparisons to contemporary greats like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Regarded as one of the most promising young talents in European football, Hazard is a supremely gifted individual. He scored 19 goals in Chelsea’s 2014/15 league-winning season and looks all set to win yet another title under Antonio Conte.

According to me, Hazard is a legend in the making as he is well-equipped to catapult Belgian football to great heights. He is someone who is always thinking how to outfox the opponent, and it is this unpredictable nature of his that makes him one of the most lethal customers in English football.

For someone who is short, he is a great physical specimen, and yet his bulked-up physique does not hinder his movement whatsoever. Even though he is criticised for being too selfless at times, it is his relentless pursuit of success and fitness that earn him a place in this eleven’s midfield.

#7 Central Midfielder: Andres Iniesta - 5\'7\"

Iniesta Barcelona Short

Andres Iniesta Lujan has been considered as one of the best players of his generation, and rightly so. He captains FC Barcelona at club level and plays for the Spanish national side. Iniesta is regarded as the architect in Spain’s three consecutive title wins – Euro 2008, 2012 and the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

He more than makes up for his height with his vision, close control and Zidanesque touch. Although he doesn’t net as many goals for Barca as he used to, his contributions are to be taken into due consideration (the performance in the 2015 UEFA Champions League final against Juventus is an example).

His silky dribbling skills make him one of the most ‘complete’ players in the contemporary game. The timid and introverted Iniesta is the dream playmaker for any striker as his passing is clinical and inch-perfect.

Iniesta acts as Barcelona’s pivot – a vital impact player. He has this uncanny ability to create space in even the tightest of areas and whisk the ball away from the opposition. One factor which defines Iniesta is his consistent ability to produce match-winning performances. His quick turns and one-twos are truly joyful treats to watch.

#8 Right Central Midfielder: Santi Cazorla - 5\' 6\"

Cazorla Arsenal

Santiago Cazorla is a Spanish footballer player who plays for Arsenal in the Premier League. Cazorla is known for his shooting accuracy and ambidexterity. Ranked as the 10th best player in the world by Bloomberg in 2013, Cazorla possesses great close control and is effective in changing the rhythm and tempo of the game.

Cazorla makes up for his shortcoming in height by his constant quick movements off the ball and his tremendous work rate which is second to none. It was his willingness to play in a deep-lying playmaker role (unusual for him), which enabled the Arsenal gaffer Arsene Wenger to play Mesut Ozil in a free role, ultimately providing the much-needed thrust for the Gunners to finish on a high in seasons past.

His impressive performance in a match against Manchester City come to mind which saw him going past no less than five players from his own penalty box to the half-line – an embodiment of his technical dribbling skills.

With the ability to use both feet, Cazorla is basically a touchline-to-touchline player who possesses deft touches and precise passes, and he applies his qualities to whatever position he plays on the pitch.

#9 Right Midfielder: Mathieu Valbuena - 5\' 4\"

Mathieu Valbuena height

A French international playmaker-cum-winger who plays for Ligue 1 side Lyon, Mathieu Valbuena is a very short individual whose pace, technical ability and style of play are lauded a lot in footballing circles. His explosive dribbling skills enable him to quickly take more than one opponent out of the game.

Valbuena was key in France’s run till the last eight stages in the 2014 FIFA World Cup where they lost out to eventual winners Germany. The shortest player in this list, Valbuena uses his diminutive nature to his advantage and is extremely mobile.

His height notwithstanding, he puts up a fight every time for the ball against even the biggest of defenders. He is a very resolute player who has established himself as France’s creative threat and surprise weapon.

#10 Left Forward: Sergio Aguero - 5\' 8\"

Sergio Aguero

After moving from Spanish side Atletico de Madrid to the blue half of Manchester, Sergio ‘Kun’ Aguero has a huge fan following after his historic 94th-minute title-winner against Queens Park Rangers in his debut season.

Described as an all-out centre-forward who can also play second striker, Aguero is deemed to be an assist man, additionally to being a goal machine. His short figure and stocky build draw comparisons of himself with past strikers like Romario and Alessandro Del Piero. The menace in the box that he is, Aguero scored 100 Premier League goals faster than any other player except Alan Shearer.

His ability to beat the offside trap set by the opposition, by bending his run and making diagonal runs across the defensive back four is second to none. When it comes to the matter of finishing clinically, Aguero is really in a class of his own.

Statistics show that there is a direct correlation between Aguero scoring and City winning, such has been his impact that they tend to not lose in a match in which he has scored. They are few better pure strikers than Aguero in the modern game, and his penchant for scoring goals with effortless ease puts him in this eleven.

#11 Right Forward: Lionel Messi - 5\' 7\"

Messi Barcelona

Often regarded as the all-time best to have played the game, Lionel Messi is the Argentina National team captain and has been the trump card of Barcelona over the years. That Messi has won the prestigious FIFA Ballon d’Or Award five times is testimony to the fact that height or any physical handicap is not an obstacle to anyone achieving success in life (he also had growth hormone deficiency at the start of his career).

He has scaled all peaks and won all awards there are to be won at club level, becoming La Liga and Barcelona’s all-time top goalscorer. He is also close to scoring 100 goals in the Champions League alone. He also won the ‘Golden Ball’ and four straight ‘Man of the Match’ awards at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil where he led Argentina to the final.

There have been situations when Barcelona have needed him to come up with the goods and seldom have there been occasions when he has not been able to do so. He also has an ability to soak the tension and take responsibility as a leader. It is this trait, in addition to all his pros, that see him position himself as the last piece of the puzzle in this eleven.

We are yet to see more magic from the ‘short wonder’, also the captain of this ‘Short XI’.

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Edited by Staff Editor
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