Romario The Exception
These two triumphs come at a time when various players of diminutive stature are making headlines, which suggests that a new trend is taking over.
Dutchman Wesley Sneijder and Brazilian Robinho, who measure in at 1.70m and 1.72m respectively, have become key figures at Real Madrid.
Then there is Franck Ribery of Bayern Munich (1.70m), who was voted France’s footballer of the year in 2007, while the Spanish national team includes midfielders Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta, neither of whom is over 1.70m.
“I don’t think there was ever a time when people stopped believing in smaller players. They’ve always been around and always will be because the most important thing is individual quality and talent. It’s true that a footballer of shorter stature can dribble better, run faster or be more mobile,” explains Messi.
Although Messi asserts that people have always believed in short players, this is not backed up by the facts, which show that clubs have been very inflexible over the past two decades, rejecting players on grounds of height and giving precedence to taller ones.
Tostao, a player short in stature who won the FIFA World Cup™ in 1970 alongside Pele and Jairzinho, thinks that even in Brazil, more importance has been attached to physique in recent years. “Small players arc rejected by Brazilian junior teams. Romario was the last great forward who was short. The Europeans copied our skill and improvisation and we copied their marking systems, discipline and efficient aerial play, with the result that goals scored by beating opponents arc on the decline and will end up as rarities,” he says.