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Lisandro Martinez, Fabio Cannavaro & the best 13 centre-backs under 6ft

15:09 EAT 28/07/2022
Fabio Cannavaro Lisandro Martinez Carles Puyol
Manchester United have spent big on an Argentine that does not fit the standard defensive mould, but he finds himself in illustrious company

Lisandro Martinez has become another big-money signing at Manchester United, with the Red Devils investing £46.5 million ($56m) worth of faith in the Argentina international. He arrives at Old Trafford with plenty of pedigree, having won Eredivisie titles with Ajax and the Copa America with his country, but questions are being asked of his suitability to life in the Premier League.

That is because the South American stands at just 5ft 9in tall – relatively short for a centre-half readying himself for the physical demands of English football – but he is in illustrious company when it comes to breaking the mould for players in his position.

Among the others to have bucked a trend there are World Cup winners from Spain, Italy, Germany and England, while iconic figures from Barcelona, AC Milan and Inter have also shown that size can be irrelevant when ability takes over. Here, GOAL takes a look at 13 of the best centre-halves under six foot.

  • Puyol Alemania España Eurocopa 2008

    Carles Puyol - 5ft 10

    A product of the famed La Masia academy system, Puyol spent his entire professional career on the books at Barcelona. He became a talismanic club captain for the Blaugrana, taking in 593 appearances for the club while claiming six La Liga titles and three Champions League crowns. The no-nonsense centre-half also savoured World Cup and European Championship triumphs while earning 100 caps for Spain.

  • Fabio Cannavaro

    Fabio Cannavaro - 5ft 9

    The Italian was never one to let a lack of height stand in his way, with his career peaking when captaining his country to World Cup glory in 2006. He would go on to collect the Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player of the Year award later that year – becoming only the third defender in history to land the prestigious Golden Ball. At club level, Cannavaro represented Parma, Inter, Juventus and Real Madrid with distinction.

  • Franco Baresi

    Franco Baresi - 5ft 9

    A man that broke the mould across 20 iconic years – many of them spent as skipper – at AC Milan. Diminutive in size, but a born leader that belied his stature to become a legend at San Siro. Won six Serie A titles and three European Cups as part of a great Rossoneri side and also earned 81 caps for Italy – coming agonisingly close to winning the World Cup with them in 1994.

  • Ronald Koeman Barcelona Sampdoria Champions League 1992

    Ronald Koeman - 5ft 11

    The Dutch star thrived in a sweeper role that was favoured by many leading sides in the 1980s and 90s, with a reputation forged at PSV and Ajax enhanced considerably on the books at Barcelona. It was his goal at Wembley Stadium in 1992 that landed the Blaugrana a first European Cup. A classy operator that took free-kicks and penalties netted 239 goals at club level and 14 for the Netherlands.

  • Franz Beckenbauer Deutschland 1974

    Franz Beckenbauer - 5ft 11

    An all-time great that started out as a midfielder but would go on to make the ‘libero’ sweeper role his own. Beckenbauer spent 13 memorable years as a senior star at Bayern Munich, helping them to four Bundesliga crowns and three European Cups over the course of 564 appearances. He won 103 caps for West Germany and skippered them to European Championship glory in 1972 and a World Cup triumph in 1974.

  • Frank de Boer Ajax

    Frank de Boer - 5ft 11

    Began his career as a left-back but was quickly moved inside to centre-half despite lacking the height possessed by many in that role. A product of the legendary youth system at Ajax took in 431 appearances for the Eredivisie giants, claiming domestic and continental titles along the way, before going on to spend time at Barcelona, Galatasaray and Rangers.

  • Bobby Moore England

    Bobby Moore - 5ft 10

    A man that made the art of defending look easy, with the West Ham legend learning how to make up for his lack of height and pace across the ground. His football brain was sharper than most, while his positional sense helped to make him almost unbeatable at times. Moore forms part of England’s centurion club when it comes to caps and famously skippered them to World Cup glory on home soil in 1966.

  • Javier Mascherano Barcelona La Liga

    Javier Mascherano - 5ft 8

    Another of those that was converted into a centre-half, with that positional move coming much later in Mascherano’s career than it did for the likes of Koeman and Beckenbauer. The Argentine was a combative holding midfielder before being asked to take a step back by Barcelona and his national team. He continued to thrive in a new role and only Lionel Messi can claim to have bettered his haul of 147 caps for the Albiceleste.

  • Thiago Silva Chelsea 2021-22

    Thiago Silva - 5ft 11

    The Brazil international is still going strong at 37 years of age, with the South American another of those that has learned how to make the most of his defensive capabilities. He may not be the tallest or the quickest, but he knows how to contain opposition attackers. That skill set has earned him 107 caps along with domestic titles at AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain and a Champions League medal with Chelsea.

  • David Alaba Real Madrid

    David Alaba - 5ft 11

    The Austrian could slot into just about every position on the field and not look out of place, but it is in defence that he has continued to star at club level. He was used as a full-back early on at Bayern Munich, but became a centre-half in time and has filled a position at the heart of Real Madrid’s back four since completing a move to Spain as a free agent – landing La Liga and Champions League crowns during his first season with the Blancos.

  • Ivan Cordoba Inter

    Ivan Cordoba - 5ft 8

    The Colombian may not have been physically imposing, but he certainly knew how to throw his weight around. Rival strikers knew that they had been in a game when crossing the South American’s path, as he was never one to back down from a challenge. Cordoba spent 12 years of his career in Italy with Inter and won five Serie A titles and a Champions League winners’ medal during his time in Milan.

  • Cesar Azpilicueta Chelsea 2021-22

    Cesar Azpilicueta - 5ft 10

    The Spaniard would consider right-back to be his more natural position, but he has shown that he can be just as productive in a centre-half berth. That is particularly true when operating in a three-man defensive unit, which has often been the case at Chelsea. The Blues’ club captain has taken in 476 appearances for Premier League heavyweights, helping them to two title triumphs along with FA Cup, League Cup, Europa League, Champions League and Club World Cup successes.

  • Lisandro Martinez Argentina Copa America 2021

    Lisandro Martinez – 5ft 9

    The Argentine has an opportunity to etch his name alongside the legends of years gone by after taking the decision to follow Erik ten Hag from Ajax to Manchester United. He will have to hit the ground running at Old Trafford, with serious leaks sprung by the Red Devils in 2021-22, and will face fierce competition for places. He has, however, shown that he is capable of rising to any challenge put in front of him.