Zola And Creativity
The phenomenon of short players in Argentina, Spain, England and Germany has even spread to Italy, where big men have predominated in recent years. This has led to the emergence of players such as Empoli’s Sebastian Giovinco (1.64m) and Torino’s Alessandro Rosina (1.68m), both of whom are Italian U-21 internationals, Frenchman Ludovic Giuly (1.64m) at Roma and Fabrizio Miccoli (1.68m) at Palermo. In France, this season has seen Marseille’s Mathieu Valbuena (1.63m) make the headlines after scoring the only goal in his club’s 1-0 victory over Liverpool at Anfield.
Italian legend Gianfranco Zola (1.68m) believes the emergence in Italy of quality players who lack height is good for football. “Because we have a lower centre of gravity, we find it easier to find our way out of enclosed spaces and have certain advantages because we are closer to the ball. We can use our creativity to break the tactical deadlock. I am pleased that short players are making an impact because we provide excitement for the supporters,” he says.
Short players such as Brazilian Roberto Carlos (1.69m) have even made their mark as defenders, proving that a lack of height can be compensated for with speed and positional sense.
In the past, football was dominated by great footballers in small sizes such as Brazil’s Garrincha (1.68m) and Vava (1.67m), who won the FIFA World Cup™ in 1958 and 1962, Denmark’s Allan Simonsen (1.67m), who won the Ballon d’Or in 1977, and midfielders Jean Tigana (1.68m) and Alain Giresse (1.63m), members of the great French side of the 1980s.
The best example is perhaps the pocket-sized Portuguese Rui Barros (1.59m), who won the European Cup and Intercontinental Cup with Porto in 1987 before a spell at Juventus. England and Germany are also not immune to the power of short players. Kevin Keegan (1.70m) and Michael Owen (1.73m) are the last two British footballers to win the Ballon d’Or, the former in 1978 and 1979 and the latter in 2001, whereas Germany’s Lothar Matthaus (1.70m) is still the only German to have been voted FIFA World Player following his triumph in 1991.
Pele and Maradona brought pint-sized footballers to power and they have ruled the game ever since.