Shortest centre-backs in the Premier League: Lisandro Martinez tops list after Manchester United transfer

Shortest centre-backs in the Premier League: Lisandro Martinez tops list after Manchester United transfer

Manchester United have announced the imminent signing of Ajax defender Lisandro Martinez, bringing a former Erik ten Hag player from the Netherlands to the Premier League.

Reports claimed the Argentine international cost Man United around €60 million (£51.9m / $63.1m), a lofty price which brings high expectations to Old Trafford. Now 24 years old, Martinez came through the famed Newell’s Old Boys academy before joining Ajax in 2019. He spent three seasons in the Netherlands, making 118 appearances for the Dutch giants.

The early narrative around Martinez’s arrival has centered around his height, with fans concerned that Martinez does not have the physical stature to compete in the physical English top flight. Even an edit to Martinez’s Wikipedia page made light of the situation, listing Martinez at just 1 meter tall, or 3 feet and 3 inches.

Aerial dueling is a major part of being a centre-back, and fans have expressed fears that Martinez could disappoint at Old Trafford due to his stature. However, while height can often prove a standout quality for a professional athlete, it’s not necessarily the decisive component of a defender’s ability to protect his goal, or even more specifically, to compete in the air.

MORE: Latest Man United summer transfer news for 2022 window

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Shortest centre-backs in the Premier League

With Lisandro Martinez signing for Man United, the Argentinian becomes the shortest centre-back in the Premier League, standing at 175 cm (5 feet, 9 inches).

Chelsea, interestingly, have three of the players on this list, and are rumored to be interested in another — Nathan Ake of Man City. Should Chelsea complete a move for Ake, it would give the Blues three of the four shortest centre-backs in the Premier League, plus Malang Sarr who ranks seventh.

If Cesar Azpilicueta leaves Chelsea and moves to Barcelona as has been widely reported, it would see one of the numerous players in the Premier League listed at 185 cm, including Conor Coady or James Tarkowski, move into the top 10 rankings.

Information via Transfermarkt.

1. Lisandro MartinezMan United175 cm (5-9)
2. Cesar AzpilicuetaChelsea178 cm (5-10)
3. Nathan AkeMan City180 cm (5-11)
4. Thiago SilvaChelsea181 cm (5-11)
5. Marc GuehiCrystal Palace182 cm (5-11)
6. Calum ChambersAston Villa182 cm (5-11)
7. Malang SarrChelsea182 cm (5-11)
8. Ezri KonsaAston Villa183 cm (6-0)
9. Ben GodfreyEverton184 cm (6-0)
10. Japhet TangangaTottenham184 cm (6-0)

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Short centre-backs who became stars

The history of the game features many a defender who made his name without possessing a height advantage. In their case, it didn’t significantly impact their overall effectiveness on the pitch.

Below is a list of centre-backs considered among the shortest in their position, and it includes a combination of active and retired players.

Active players

Gary MedelBologna (Italy)171 cm (5-7)
Jules KoundeSevilla (Spain)178 cm (5-10)
David AlabaReal Madrid (Spain)180 cm (5-11)

Former players

Ivan CordobaInter Milan173 cm (5-8)
Javier MascheranoLiverpool, Barcelona174 cm (5-9)
Fabio CannavaroJuventus, Real Madrid176 cm (5-9)
Franco BaresiAC Milan176 cm (5-9)
Carles PuyolBarcelona178 cm (5-10)
Ronald KoemanBarcelona, Ajax181 cm (5-11)
Franz BeckenbauerBayern Munich181 cm (5-11)

Lisandro Martinez height: Why it may not be a factor at Man Utd

At 175 cm (5 feet, 9 inches), Martinez won’t be taller than many of the forwards he will be defending, but the numbers still say he’s an average defender when it comes to aerial duels. He also has other top-notch qualities to make up for any perceived deficiencies in the air.

The Argentine defender is exceptional on the ball, with fantastic ability to progress the ball upfield. He also performs extremely well at disrupting opposition moves, with a sharp tackling skill set and outstanding positional awareness.

“He’s a warrior and I think the fans will admire him,” said Man United boss Erik ten Hag. “He brings aggressiveness in the game, in a good way, and I think we need that. But he’s also skillful.”

Another mitigating factor is the fact that his potential centre-back partners at Man United are both known for being good in the air, with the duo of Harry Maguire and Raphael Varane performing well in that department.

It’s also not out of the realm of possibility that Martinez may ultimately see time at defensive midfield, where his best qualities can also be utilized.