Power Ranking the 11 Best 'Little Guys' in World Football

Geoff Ratliff@@geoffratliffContributor IIIAugust 9, 2012

Power Ranking the 11 Best 'Little Guys' in World Football

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    World football—unlike sports like U.S. football, basketball and, to a certain extent, hockey—is not a sport where a player's height necessarily limits his ability to be successful on the field. Many of the world's most dominant players are guys you wouldn't give a second look to if you saw them at your local shopping mall, grocery store or rec center.

    In fact, if you put together a team of the world's 11 best players that are 5'10" or shorter, you'd have a pretty good shot at winning a World Cup with that lineup.

    Not convinced? Check out this list of the 11 best world football players, by position, that meet the aforementioned height requirement.

11. Rene Higuita, G, Colombian National Team, 5'9"

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    Finding a goalie to fill out the 'Little Guys' roster was not an easy task. As world football enthusiasts can attest, goalkeepers are traditionally the tallest players on the team, and finding one under six-feet tall is nearly impossible.

    The shortest player among the world's top 20 goalkeepers is Victor Valdes of Spain who stands 6' even. While I was tempted to choose the shortest available option among current players, I decided to pull Colombian goalkeeper Rene Higuita out of retirement to remain true to the "Little Guys" theme.

    Higuita played for 12 different clubs over a 25-year career that ended with a three-year stint with Deportivo Pereira—a second division Colombian club—from 2008-2010. He spent most of his career with Atletico Nacional of the Colombian League, where he led them to multiple titles during two tours totalling nine years.

    He may be 45-years-old now, but it's only been two years since Higuita has played competitively. With Phillip Lahm, Daniel Alves, Ashley Cole and Jordi Alba fronting him, Higuita might not have to do much work.

10. Ashley Cole, D, Chelsea, 5'9"

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    This list of the world's top football talent would not be complete without a member of the English national football team, host of this year's Summer Olympics. Sentimentality aside, Chelsea's Ashley Cole, even at 31-years-old, remains one of the world's top defenders. 

    Cole is recognized as one of the top defenders of the past decade, during which he helped lead Arsenal to two Premier League titles and three FA Cups. Perhaps the world's top left back, he'll team up with Daniel Alves and Philipp Lahm to create an almost impenetrable backfield.

9. Mario Götze, MF, Borussia Dortmund, 5'9"

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    Mario Gotze is a rising star for Borussia Dortmund of the German Bundesliga and a member of the German national team. His natural position is as an attacking midfielder, but he's primarily played right wing for his club over the last two years, so his versatility would be a real asset to this fantasy team.

    He became the youngest member of the German national team to score a goal in a match against Brazil last August when he was just 19.

    Gotze has yet to make a huge impact on the international stage, but he just turned 20 in June so his future is bright. 

8. Daniel Alves, D, FC Barcelona, 5'8"

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    Brazil's Daniel Alves is one of the world's top defenders, and at 29, he has plenty of championship experience. He won two UEFA Cups and a Copa del Rey during a six-year run with Sevila FC.

    He'll be looking to add an Olympic gold medal to his trophy case when Brazil takes on Mexico in London this Saturday.

    Alves and Phillip Lahm of Bayern Munich combine to form a highly skilled and very experienced backfield for this dream team of world football talent.

7. Eden Hazard, MF, Chelsea, 5'8"

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    The 21-year-old Eden Hazard will be making his English Premier League debut for Chelsea this season. The Belgian born Hazard is an attacking midfielder and winner who's already drawn comparisons to fellow "Little Guy" Lionel Messi.

    Hazard combines elite speed and astounding creativity with a technically sound style that makes him a defender's worst nightmare. If Chelsea has any chance at competing for the EPL title this year, you can believe that Eden Harzard will play a major role in the team's success.

6. Philipp Lahm, D, Bayern Munich, 5'7"

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    Philipp Lahm may be small in stature, but his talent and commanding presence have made him the captain of both Bayern Munich and the German national football team. At 27, Lahm is one of the elder statesmen on this list. But his veteran leadership skills are just as important as his football prowess with so many young guns on this list.

5. Nani, MF, Manchester United, 5'9"

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    Nani is one of the top players on the Portuguese national football team and a main cog for Manchester Untied of the Premier League. He's no longer one of world football's rising stars at 26, but he does continue to show improvement every year.

    Nani's talent has naturally led people to compare him to countryman and former Man U teammate Cristiano Ronaldo. But he's been able to refine his game since Ronaldo transferred to Real Madrid.

    If he can take another step in his development this season, Nani could lead Manchester United back to the top of the EPL standings.

    Although he thrives as a winger playing in Europe, he is skilled enough to play midfield, and his talent is too immense to leave off this list.

4. Jordi Alba, D, FC Barcelona, 5'7"

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    23-year-old Jordi Alba adds some much needed youth to this list, but it doesn't come at the expense of talent. The Spanish left defender plies his trade for FC Barcelona, making him the third member of this group to represent the international powerhouse.

    Alba is still making a name for himself on the international stage, but he gained higher profile after helping Spain's national football team win the 2012 UEFA Championship, more commonly referred to as Euro 2012.

    Coming off that triumphant campaign, Alba will be looking to lead the club that he began his career with as a youth to a La Liga title.

3. Radamel Falcao, Striker, Atletico Madrid, 5'10"

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    Radamel Falcao is considered to be one of the best strikers in world football, a claim that was validated when he set a record by scoring 17 goals in the 2011 UEFA Champions League/UEFA Europa League season. He also led Porto to the Europa League championship in 2011.

    With more than 100 goals scored in just three season in Europe, the Colombian-born Falcao is arguably the second best goal scorer in Europe behind Lionel Messi.

2. Neymar, F, Santos, 5'9"

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    At just 20-years-old, Neymar has already stirred talk of being the best player in the world while playing for Santos in his native Brazil.

    Many have chosen to withhold such high praise until he takes his talents to one of the more competitive top leagues in Europe. But Neymar's talents will be on full display this Saturday as he leads Brazil against Mexico in the gold medal match of the London Olympics.

    If he can lead Brazil to the gold medal—something the Brazilian national football team has shockingly never achieved despite their five World Cup titles—it would definitely help legitimize his name in the discussion with Argentina's Lionel Messi and Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo.

1. Lionel Messi, F, FC Barcelona, 5'7"

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    Lionel Messi, at only 5'7" is arguably the best player in world football and there isn't an international award for football excellence that he hasn't received.

    In just the last three years, he's been awarded the FIFA Ballon d'Or (2010, 2011), Ballon d'Or (2009), FIFA World Player of the Year (2009) and World Soccer Player of the Year (2009, 2011) honors, not to mention the numerous other awards he's received in his amateur and professional careers.

    Messi has led Barcelona to five La Liga titles and three Champions League titles. He's set Champions League records for goals scored in a single game (5), single seasons (14) and consecutive games (4). He also led Argentina to an Olympic gold medal in the 2008 Games in Beijing.

    Messi set the world record for most goals scored in a season in 2011-2012 with 73, and also set the La Liga single-season record with 50 goals that same year. 

    Still just 25 years old, Messi should dominate the world football stage for years to come.