Lionel Messi’s five-star performance in the Champions League last night was another victory for football’s most famous ‘little man’.
The three time Ballon d’Or winner helped his Barcelona side reach the quarter-finals of the competition in a 10-2 aggregate win against German outfit Bayer Leverkusen, with goals, skill and swagger embarrassing Robin Dutt’s side at the Nou Camp.
But, at just short of 5ft 7in, Messi isn’t the first pint-sized player to take football by storm, with some of the greatest ever keeping all their skill close to the ground.
The Premier League has also enjoyed the delights of some short talents over the past 20 years, and we combine some of the best ever players past and present seen in world football…
Diego Maradona - 5ft 6in (Argentina)
The football maverick who helped win a World Cup for his country almost single-handedly (excuse the pun) back in 1986.
Love him or hate him, Maradona was the most gifted footballer of his generation, with an effortless ability to beat people with both style and speed – similar to Messi.
An entertaining career that saw spells with Boca Juniors, Barceona, Napoli and Sevilla to name but four of his clubs, Maradona will always remain an icon irrespective of his subsequent ‘blow-up’ after football.
Gianfranco Zola – 5ft 5in (Italy)
The little magician lit-up west London when he arrived at Chelsea in 1996, spending seven years at Stamford Bridge to become a cult hero of English football.
Scored 194 goals in 599 senior matches during his time with Nuorese, Torres, Napoli, Parma and Cagliari, as well as with the Blues, Zola is regarded as one of the all-time greats on the King’s Road.
Turned his hand to management at the end of his career, but West Ham United remains his one-and-only club job after two seasons in charge of the Italian U21s.
Garrincha – 5ft 6.5in (Brazil)
Regarded as one of the best dribblers in football history, Garrincha’s style has, in many ways, set the standard for other small players to follow.
A Botafogo legend, the winger was born with several problems that would have prevented many from becoming a footballer, but ‘the angel with bent legs’ was a little bit special.
World Cup glory came in 1958 and 1962, and with a career spent entirely in Brazilian domestic football, the man is still remembered as a legend 29 years after his death.
Paul Scholes – 5ft 7in (England)
The joint-tallest player in our list of football’s great ‘shorties’, Scholes has enjoyed a stunning career at Manchester United for close to two decades.
After breaking into the senior side in the 1994-95 season, the free-scoring midfielder claimed ten Premier League titles and two Champions League trophies before his retirement in the summer.
However, a shock return in January brought Scholes back to the public’s attention, and it’s like the veteran has never been away with a string of impressive performances.
One of England’s most gifted players, the 37-year-old scored 14 goals in 66 appearances for the Three Lions, calling time on his career in 2004 to prolong his time at Old Trafford.
Xavi Hernandez & Andres Iniesta – 5ft 7in (Spain)
Spanish football has never had it so good, and the key to their success can be found in midfield pair Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta.
Both brought up in same youth system as Messi at Barcelona, the pair play a similar brand of football, keeping the ball in midfield rather than beating players or scoring goals like all the above player.
They can both chip-in when needed mind you, and have won a World Cup, European Championship and two Champions League winners medals alongside each other. Not bad.
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