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Top 10 Shortest Players In World Football Ever.

Updated: Dec 4, 2023

Top 10 Shortest Players In World Football Ever [Getty]
Top 10 Shortest Players In World Football Ever [Getty]

Did you know that the average height of a soccer player is around 5 ft 11”? At approximately 180 centimetres, that’s as tall as Spurs’ forward Heung-min Son, Manchester City's legendary playmaker Kevin De Bruyne, or Chelsea and Brazilian veteran defender Thiago Silva.

Over the course of football history, this average has been slowly increasing, from a modest 5ft 6" at the turn of the 20th century to more modern day statures, many players now at least six feet or above. Being ‘short’ as a football player has forever been associated with its benefits and limitations. Whilst smaller athletes can be bullied physically on occasion and aren't particularly effective aerially, they are usually tricky and elusive which always makes them a significant threat.

So who are the top 10 shortest players in world football ever?

10. Maximiliano Nicolás Moralez (5ft 3" or 160cm)

Argentine attacking midfielder "Maxi" Moralez has played for both Primera División club Racing and Serie A side Atalanta. Largely due to his size he has been nicknamed ‘frasquito’ or ‘little flask'. He featured for Argentina's under-20’s squad, and a year was part of his country’s FIFA under-20 World Cup title-winning team, notably lining up alongside Sergio Agüero in their attack.

In 2017, Maxi signed for New York City FC and was announced as a Designated Player - an MLS rule that allows American teams to recruit players that may be outside their particular pay grade. During his career Maxi scored consistently, finding the net 103 times in 576 appearances.

9. Rui Gil Soares de Barros (5ft 3" or 159 cm)

Rui Barros is a former Portuguese attacking midfielder who played for Porto, Juventus, and also in France's Ligue Un. Across eight seasons with Porto, he scored 43 goals in 191 matches. Barros also represented Portugal's national team 36 times and even scored four goals for his country. He built a solid reputation during his time with Juventus, although he was still unable to help Portugal qualify for the 1990 FIFA World Cup in Italy. In total Barros registered 409 club appearances. He was always a hard-working, technical sound, and pacey midfielder who excelled as part of Dino Zoff's counter-attacking Juventus side.

8. Daniel Villalva (5ft 3" or 158cm)

Daniel Villalva is an Argentinean attacking midfielder who currently features for Primera Nacional side Ferro Carril Oeste from the Argentine top tier. Back in 2009, he became the youngest player ever to feature for legendary club side River Plate, making his debut appearance as a substitute aged just 16 years, 7 months, and two days.

In 2007, he first played for Argentina during the South American Under-15 Football Championship in Brazil. This was quickly followed by a call-up to his national team under-17's where he even took part in the 2009 South American Championship, impressively scoring three goals in just five appearances.

7. Martin Pando (5ft 3" or 158cm)

During the 1950's Argentina forward Martín Pando played for Buenos Aires-based side Platense and Argentinos Juniors before eventually signing for River Plate in 1962. Pando also featured for Argentina during two 1962 FIFA World Cup qualifying matches and then at the tournament itself. Unfortunately, Argentina were eliminated in the group stage with Pando’s only appearance in a goalless draw against Hungary where he also captained the team. He died in May 2021 at the age of 86. Pando played 53 times for River Plate and scored six goals whilst for Argentina he appeared on eleven occasions and has three international strikes to his name.

6. Madson Formagini Caridade (5ft 2" or 157cm)

Known simply as Madson, the Brazilian attacking midfielder is well known for not only his lack of height but also his skill in set pieces taking and an intricate passing style. Beginning his career in the depths of Brazilian youth football, Madson eventually became a regular at both Vasco da Gama and Santos. He would move to Qatari club Al-Khor in the mid-2010s as part of a brief six-month deal and then by 2018 returned to Brazil to join Fortaleza who at the time were just newly promoted back to the Brazilian Serie A. Throughout his career, he played 162 games and scored an impressive 63 times for his various clubs.

5. Benedict Vilakazi (5ft 2" or 157cm)

South African midfielder Benedict Vilakazi is recognised as one of the smallest professional international footballers of his time but still boasted both strength and physicality. His two nicknames were "Tso" and "Little Napoleon" which seemingly reflected his skill in leadership on the pitch.

He has played for Danish Superliga club Aalborg BK with short stays at Swaziland side Malanti Chiefs and Botswana Premier League team Notwane FC. To this day, Valakwzi still holds the record for being the Orlando Pirates' highest scorer of all time with 52 goals. 'Tso' was also the head coach of Orange Vaal Professionals, a team battling down in the ABC Motsepe League, the third tier of South African Football.

4. Frederick Walden (5ft 2" or 156cm)

The oldest player on this list is Frederick Walden, an English outside right (in the modern game known as a winger or wide forward) who played for Northampton Town, Tottenham Hotspur, and England throughout the 1910s and 20s. At only 5 ft 2" tall, he was often touted as a tricky winger and was famed for his “darting, jinking runs down the right flank.” Due to his small frame, Walden was nicknamed 'Fanny' which was commonly used during the early 1900s for those of a 'dainty physique.'

Predictably, he is the record holder for the smallest-ever footballer to represent England at the international national level. Walden made a total of 342 career appearances and scored 48 goals.

3. Jafal Rashed Al-Kuwari (5ft 1" or 155cm)

Jafal Rashed Al-Kuwari is undoubtedly one of the shortest football players in the world. He is a Qatari midfielder who most famously played for club side Al Sadd. Al-Kuwari was once a member of the Qatar national team and for a time was even named their captain. He played 51 international games from 1992 to 2002 and scored two goals. He officially retired from the professional game in 2009 with a farewell testimonial match against Italian giants AC Milan. Al Kuwari was also Al Sadd's team manager and even one of their spokesmen. He has been known to play for the Qatar beach football team too.

2. Élton José Xavier Gomes (5ft 1" or 154cm)

Commonly known as Élton Arábia or just Élton, this Brazilian left-sided attacking midfielder began his career at legendary Romanian side Steaua București when he was just 21 years old. In his early years, he made an instant impact on both fans and coaches with Steaua Bucharest's Executive President Mihai Stoica on record in his praise for Elton's "incredible technique and dribbling tricks."

In 2007, he moved to Saudi side Al Nassr, which in recent times has become the now infamous home of Cristiano Ronaldo and his Arabian adventure. Elton was fairly prolific in his goals output and providing of assists where he was reportedly adored by the Al Nasr fan base. In 2017, he moved to Saudi side Al-Qadisiyah where he then became captain of the team and has also featured for numerous Qatari clubs.

1. Marcin Garuch (5ft 0" or 153cm)

Marcin Garuch is widely regarded to be the shortest professional footballer in the whole of world football. The Polish midfielder plays for National League club side Miedź Legnica II and has achieved a certain level of fame for his lack of height. Now aged 34, the veteran has won only a single trophy throughout the entirety of his professional career, lifting the Polish I Liga title with Miedź Legnica II at the end of the 2021/22 campaign. Whilst being largely well-known for his height record, Garuch has played nearly 400 games throughout his career and has scored 47 goals to date.

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