The following are the views of the author and not necessarily of Goal.com.
While watching a football trial session a few months ago, a pint-sized player caught my attention with his dribbling. According to the trial sheet, he was 5 ft 3 inches (1.60 m) tall and the kid had a bit of flair about him; after all he was playing on the right side of the midfield.
In my opinion he was the outstanding player - in fact he was the only one who took on players and generally beat them with a mixture of fakes and extremely agile turns (then again you'd assume his height would facilitate his centre of gravity).
Yet after those three trials, he ended up being rejected. I was bemused because there wasn't any other player in the trail who had as much flair as he had. So I took at quick peek at the coaches’ trial sheet.
Under the kid’s name, for the dribbling routine, he had scored a 9/10, shooting a 8/10, skills a 9/10 and thus for the non-game section, he had scored 26/30 -- joint top score for that section. However, under a game situation, he only scored 6/10.
The coach had scribbled down: height issue - cannot contest aerial challenges.
It was almost as if the coach had rejected the kid regardless of how many times he had got past the left full back – the kid could not contest aerial challenges. The coach had a point because the kid would be a liability in defending set pieces (Rafa Benitez once played Peter Crouch on Ashley Cole specifically with the intention of playing the direct route thus also nullifying Ashley Cole's wing back duties).
How could the kid contest against the left full back? After all, the full back was 6 ft 2 in but when right back played the ball on the ground to the kid, it was on the onus of the full back not to get beaten by the kid. I must emphasise this point, especially to all coaches reading this: generally football games are won on the ground, not the air.
This leads to my main point. It’s as if there is an unwritten convention with most football coaches that you must recruit "prototype footballers" (5 ft11in). Have coaches seemingly forgotten that some of the best players to have graced this game had "height issues"?
Diego Maradona was only 5 ft 5in, Garrincha was only 5 ft 7in, George Best was only 5 ft 7in, Vava, the first player ever to score in two consecutive World Cup finals, was only 5 ft 5 1/2 (1.68 m), Romario was only 5 ft 6in. Now in the current era, we are entertained and amazed by Lionel Messi who is only 5ft 7in.
Keep in mind that Maradona was once rejected by Lanus because of his height, Romario was rejected by various Brazilian clubs because of his height and even Gerd Muller at a standard 5 ft 9 in was once rejected for his inability to contest aerial challenges.
I wonder how many of Muller’s 398 goals in 453 matches for Bayern Munich were scored with his head? I wonder how many of those 68 goals in 62 games for Germany (which included eight hat tricks) were scored with his head?
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