There was a time when football was considered a big man’s game, where physical prowess counted for more than mental and technical capabilities.
But recent events in football have rewritten history and tradition, and small, highly-skilled technical players are now at a premium. The likes of Lionel Messi, Juan Mata and Santi Cazorla are amongst the shortest footballers who are known worldwide. However, with their low centre of gravity, they can get the better of their bigger counterparts most of the time.
On our journey to compile the most accurate list of shortest football players of all time, we came across plenty of inaccuracies and historical evidence to make this a challenging proposition.
The criterion for selection was that the footballer had to have played some sort of professional football during their career. This would be fitting to answer the eternal question.
In this segment, we take a look at 10 of the shortest players of all time.
10. Rui Gil Soares de Barros - 1.6m
Standing at 1.6m, Rui Barros comes in at no. 10 on our list. Barros, who has now moved into management, was once a lethal attacking midfielder for Portugal and went on to represent Porto, Juventus and Marseille, among other clubs, in the late 80′s and 90′s.
For Barros, his height was a curse he was born with, but it was not something he had to suffer with. His playing style, ability to keep the ball at close quarters, and explosive change of pace ensured that his stature would not hold him back from having a successful career in football.
With 43 goals in 191 games with Porto to his name, it is quite clear that the tallest short footballer in the world had no problems in having a promising career.
9. Levi Porter - 1.6m
Englishman Levi Porter is ninth on our list, and he too comes in at 5 feet 3 inches. Porter is without a club currently, having represented Melton Town in 2019.
The 32-year-old plays as a winger (well, he can’t be a target man or a central defender, can he?), and is a product of the Leicester City youth academy. He also represented the England U-16 and U-17 teams in the early 2000′s.
8. Maximiliano Nicolás Moralez - 1.6m
Whoever thought that compiling a list like this would be easy, was mistaken. At 1.6m – the same height as the two players before him – Maximiliano Moralez is at eighth on our list.
Moralez, an Argentine attacking midfielder, currently plays for MLS side New York City FC. His nickname, Frasquito, which roughly translates to “little flask,” reveals a lot more about him than it should.
Don’t let his size fool you, though. Moralez was part of Argentina’s 2007 FIFA WC U-20 title-winning team, playing alongside the likes of Sergio Aguero and Mauro Zarate. His exploits in the tournament led to him finishing as the third-highest scorer and the second-best player behind Sergio Aguero.
7. Madson Formagini Caridade - 1.6m
Another footballer who stands at 5 feet 3 inches, Madson is a Brazilian who currently plays for Colombian side Fortaleza FC. Having had a decent spell at Vasco da Gama, Madson was then found wanting and left for Santos.
At Santos, Madson was involved in an altercation with fans on a video chat, along with fellow teammates Ze Eduardo and Felipe. Madson later had to apologise for his part in the altercation, in which one fan commented that goalkeeper Felipe had “lettuce hands.” One wonders what the fan must have said to anger Madson!
6. Benedict Vilakazi - 1.57m
Benedict Vilakazi, pictured here squaring up to Lukas Podolski, is our next entrant at. At 1.57m, Vilaskazi is a full 10 inches shorter than the German striker who stands at 1.82m. But that doesn’t put him off from having a go at players bigger than him, nor does it come in the way of his leadership skills, for which he has been noted and nicknamed the “Little Napoleon.”
Vilaskazi is a South African by nationality and has retired from professional football. A sex scandal blighted his career in 2006, for which he had to appear in court on allegations of statutory rape. He was later acquitted of the charges and last turned out for Botswana Meat Commission in Botswana.
5. Samuel Peter Lee - 1.57m
If the name sounds familiar, it’s because Samuel “Sammy” Lee was first a player and then assistant manager at Liverpool, working with the likes of Graeme Souness, Gerard Houllier and Rafa Benitez. Lee was also assistant to Sam Allardyce at Bolton from 2005 to 2007, and his stature led to the fans calling him “Little Sam,” as opposed to Allardyce, who was referred to as “Big Sam.”
But before his managerial days, Lee was an accomplished footballer, making 197 appearances for Liverpool from 1976 to 1986. His stature did not prevent him from winning silverware.
During the 1980-81 European cup, Lee man-marked Bayern Munich stat Paul Breitner out of the game despite being outsized by his opponent! Clearly, not a man to be taken lightly on account of his size.
4. Jafal Rashed Al-Kuwari - 1.55m
At 5 feet 1 inch, Jafal Rashed Al-Kuwari occupies fourth place in our list. A midfielder for Qatari side Al-Sadd, Al-Kuwari retired in 2009 following a farewell match against AC Milan. He captained the Qatari national team as well, and played beach football for the national team post-retirement
Although there was a time when Jafal was the shortest footballer in the world, he has been overtaken since by the three men on our list.
3. Marcin Garuch - 1.55m
Marcin Garuch, pictured above, stands at 1.55 m or 5 feet and 1 inch tall. A Polish national, Garuch plays for a club named Miedz Legnica in the Puchar Polski.
Aged 31, Garuch has been known to be excellence in dead-ball situations and uses his size to move the ball quickly up to the forwards.
2. Daniel Alberto Villalva Barrios - 1.54m
Narrowly inching past the 5 feet mark, Daniel Villalva is the runner-up on our list of shortest footballers on the planet. Hailing from Argentina, Villalva is a striker for Goias Esporte Clube in Brazil.
Apart from being the shortest player in the team, Villalva also has another unique distinction to his name – in 2009, he became the youngest player to play for River Plate at 16 years, seven months, and two days.
This 27-year-old has also featured for Argentina in the 2009 U-17 World Cup.
1. Élton José Xavier Gomes - 1.54m
While this may not be an exhaustive list, as there are plenty of footballers around the world who haven't been recognised as much, Elton Jose Xavier Gomes is the shortest footballer of all time. At 1.54m, Elton Gomes is a Brazilian who plays as an attacking midfielder for Saudi club Al-Wehda.
The diminutive midfielder also played for Romanian side Steaua Bucuresti in 2007, and his strong performances led to the fans voting him in the best side of the decade.
His unique technique and dribbling has made him a fan favourite, and so has his trademark afro style. In the 2012-13 season, the pint-sized footballer smashed in 11 goals for his side and spearheaded them to win the league title for the first time in their history.