Five legendary centre-backs who prove size isn’t everything and give 5ft 9in Lisandro Martinez hope at Man Utd


LISANDRO MARTINEZ caught the eye when he linked up with Erik ten Hag at Manchester United.

Not because the former Ajax defender cost £55million.

Lisandro Martinez looks to be struggling for Man Utd because of his height

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Lisandro Martinez looks to be struggling for Man Utd because of his heightCredit: Reuters

But because Martinez, signed to play centre-back, stands at just 5ft 9in.

Those who questioned the Argentine’s height watched gleefully as he was given the run-around in United’s defeats to Brighton and Brentford.

Even Red Devils fans are calling for a change in plan, with many now urging Ten Hag to deploy Martinez as a holding midfielder.

Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher echoed those feelings last night on Sky Sports, declaring: “Now, we should never judge managers or players too early, but I’m convinced this can’t work because the size of him playing in a back four. 

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“Maybe he could go left-back, maybe he could play in a back three, but in a back four, he cannot play there in the Premier League.”

However, Martinez is not the first pint-sized centre-back to play at the top level in football.

Indeed, some of the best-ever defenders have been under the 6ft mark.

And judging by the success of the following legends, who proved that size isn’t everything, there is surely some hope for Martinez and United yet…

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Fabio Cannavaro led Italy to World Cup glory in 2006

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Fabio Cannavaro led Italy to World Cup glory in 2006Credit: Getty

FABIO CANNAVARO – 5FT 9IN

REAL MADRID, Inter Milan and Juventus are just some of the sides to reap the benefits of Italian ace Cannavaro.

He famously captained his country to World Cup glory in 2006.

And Cannavaro also won the Ballon d’Or in the same, becoming just the THIRD defender in history to land the coveted individual award.

He made 695 club appearances in 18 years, and was also capped 136 times by Italy.

After retiring in 2011, Cannavaro went into management in the Far East and Saudi Arabia, but is yet to take a job since stepping down as China boss in 2019.

Franco Baresi remains an AC Milan legend

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Franco Baresi remains an AC Milan legendCredit: Reuters

FRANCO BARESI – 5FT 9IN

ANOTHER Italian legend, Baresi is regarded as arguably the greatest centre-back in history.

A one-club man, the brother of Inter Milan icon Giuseppe, spent his entire career at the San Siro playing for rivals AC – and is now the club’s honorary vice-president.

Baresi made 719 appearances in 20 years, leading Milan to six Serie A titles and three European Cups.

He was also capped 81 times by Italy as they fell just short in three World Cups.

And Baresi even came close to scooping a Ballon d’Or win in 1989, finishing second behind Milan teammate Marco van Basten.

Javier Mascherano did the business for Liverpool and Barcelona

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Javier Mascherano did the business for Liverpool and BarcelonaCredit: Getty – Contributor

JAVIER MASCHERANO – 5FT 8IN

A CLASSIC example of a midfielder transformed into a world-class defender, Mascherano starred for both Liverpool and Barcelona.

He became a cult figure at Anfield in 139 games, losing the 2007 Champions League final to AC Milan.

But Mascherano really found his feet at Barcelona, winning five LaLiga titles, five Spanish Cups and two Champions Leagues in just eight years.

The ace also finished a runner-up in the 2014 World Cup final with Argentina, winning 147 caps.

And Mascherano is looking to make things right with his country after becoming head coach of their Under 20s.

Carles Puyol won plenty of trophies as Barcelona captain

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Carles Puyol won plenty of trophies as Barcelona captainCredit: AFP

CARLES PUYOL – 5FT 10IN

SYNONYMOUS with Barcelona and instantly recognisable, Puyol will go down as one of the game’s greats.

593 games at the Nou Camp resulted in an incredible six titles and three Champions Leagues.

A centurion for Spain, Puyol also won Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup with his country.

The curly-haired defender was known for his leadership qualities, captaining Barca for 10 years.

And he is now back with the Catalan giants in a role with their Foundation, as well as other club solidarity projects.

Ivan Cordoba was part of Inter's huge success in the 2000s

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Ivan Cordoba was part of Inter’s huge success in the 2000sCredit: News Group Newspapers Ltd

IVAN CORDOBA – 5FT 8IN

A BEDROCK of the Inter side which dominated Serie A in the 2000s, Cordoba is one of South America’s finest defenders.

The ace made a seamless transition to European football when he joined Inter in 1999, going to make 455 appearances for the Italians.

Cordoba won five Serie A titles, four Italian Cups and the 2010 Champions League.

And the 73-time Colombia ace also led his country to Copa America glory in 2001.

Cordoba is now back in Italy as sporting director of Venezia.





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