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Lisandro Martinez and five centre-backs who were considered ‘too short’

Martinez stands at just 5ft 9in at a time when the average height of a Premier League player is 6ft 0in; Photo/Stretty News
  • Manchester United are hopeful that Lisandro Martinez will be able to join his new teammates on their pre-season tour in Australia after agreeing on a deal with Ajax.
  • Martinez stands at just 5ft 9in at a time when the average height of a Premier League player is 6ft 0in and even taller for exclusively center-backs.
  • The 24-year-old was left out of the Dutch club’s training session on Thursday so as not to threaten his move to Old Trafford.

Manchester United are set to complete the signing of Argentinian Lisandro Martinez from Ajax, the versatile defender will feature in Erik Ten Hag’s defense as center-back for his new side despite being considerably undersized.

Martinez stands at just 5ft 9in at a time when the average height of a Premier League player is 6ft 0in and even taller for exclusively center-backs.

However, while his height may be a cause for concern to some, Martinez won more aerial duels for Ajax last season than 6ft 4in Harry Maguire did for United.

History proves that a lack of height does not stop a defender from being elite and Sports Leo takes a look at some of the best center-backs who may have been considered ‘too short’.

1. Carles Puyol – 5ft 10in

One of the most iconic defenders of all time, Carles Puyol spent his entire career with Barcelona, winning 18 trophies in 15 years as well as earning 100 caps for the Spanish national side.

Puyol began his career at right back but he eventually moved into the middle and developed a reputation as a commanding defender in the air despite his height.

Carles Puyol | Player Profile | Sky Sports Football

Puyol began his career at right back but he eventually moved into the middle; Photo/Sky Sports

A vocal leader with tremendous work ethic and intelligence, Puyol won every trophy available to him for both club and country and was voted in UEFA’s team of the year on six occasions.

2. Fabio Cannavaro – 5ft 9in

Fabio Cannavaro made history as Italy’s most capped outfield player as well as becoming the first defender this century – and the third overall – to win the Ballon d’Or in 2006.

The versatile defender was small by all accounts, at just 5ft 9 in, but was considered one of the best headers of the ball despite his size, due to his ability to outjump and win duels against taller players.

Cannavaro captained Italy to World Cup success in 2006 and won the Silver Ball at the tournament due to his side conceding just twice across the tournament, neither goal from open play.

3. Javier Mascherano – 5ft 9in

Javier Mascherano was initially known as a tough-tackling defensive midfielder however it was at Barcelona that he excelled as a ball-playing center-back under Pep Guardiola.

The Argentine struggled initially at Barcelona after not possessing the attributes Guardiola wanted in a defensive midfielder but he eventually was moved into defense where he made his mark, winning 19 trophies with the club.

However, Mascherano later admitted his frustration at playing a ‘thankless’ role, with him often considering leaving as he never got to play in midfield during his prime.

4. Thiago Silva – 5ft 11in

Martinez can look towards a current Premier League star in Thiago Silva as a modern-day player who has not let his height stop him from becoming one of the best defenders of his generation.

Thiago Silva makes Chelsea admission ahead of contract renewal decision -  Sports Illustrated Chelsea FC News, Analysis and More

Martinez can look toward a current Premier League star in Thiago Silva; Photo/Sports Illustrated

The Brazil captain has won titles across Europe with Milan, Paris Saint-Germain, and Chelsea due to his ability on the ball and reading of the game.

In fact, he was so revered at Milan that Baresi labeled Silva as his ‘heir’ and the player most like him – perhaps the highest praise a defender can receive.

5. Franco Baresi – 5ft 9in

Italian legend Franco Baresi is widely considered one of the greatest defenders to ever play the game and has graced the heart of Milan’s defense for 20 years from 1977 to 1997.

Baresi was described as the complete defender despite his stature of just 5ft 9in and he excelled as a sweeper, allowing Milan to press with a high line, something that was unheard of during his era.

Milan won 18 major trophies during Baresi’s time at the club and he revolutionized defending under manager Arrigo Sacchi, as well as partnering fellow legends such as Paolo Maldini and Alessandro Costacurta.

Elias Makokha is a professional Media Practitioner venturing into Corporate Communications, Radio Broadcast and Digital content creation with a keen interest in videography, photography and online Writing. He works well individually and collaboratively with his juniors, peers and seniors. He adheres to the hallmarks of journalism and accurately reports by conducting fact checks from reputable sources before publishing.

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