Soccer players come in many different physical forms. Generally speaking, the tallest and heaviest players are goalkeepers, central defenders, and target man forwards. The shorter players tend to play in wide and attacking roles. However, there are many exceptions in every position.
The body types of soccer players? One thing that soccer players have in common is that they are cardio machines, they are slim and lean, and tend to have muscular legs. Their average height approximates that of the average person and their weight rarely exceeds 200lbs for a man and 155lbs for a woman.
This is largely due to the physical demands and endurance requirements of being a pro player. Playing the game of averages doesn’t bear any real relevance in soccer terms. Body types and physical characteristics are mere variables when it comes to the make-up of a player.
Scientifically speaking, there are 3 different body types:
Soccer players tend to fall into the categories of Ectomorphs and Mesomorphs, with mesomorphs being the most common body type. However, there are many examples of endomorphs in the game also. Physical characteristics and body type contribute to the ability of players and their suitability to certain positions but they are not definitive.
Throughout this article we will study the different body types of soccer players, looking into the types of bodies found in specific positions, as well as comparing the best examples with outliers.
The Body Types of Soccer Players
As mentioned, soccer players fall into various forms of the three general body type categories (somatotypes).
A mesomorph is naturally athletic. Mesomorphs have broad chests and shoulders, a large bone structure, they’re naturally muscular, and have low amounts of body fat.
Endomorphs are of a shorter build. They have a medium to large bone structure, with thick but short limbs. Endomorphs are usually quite strong but tend to gain weight/fat quite easily.
Soccer Body Types
Studies show that the majority of soccer players are either mesomorphs or ectomorphs. This is no surprise as soccer players tend to be good athletics with superior endurance levels.
Due to their muscular make-up, mesomorphs are statistically at less risk of injury when performing athletically. It’s important to note that these categories are relatively loose and that players can have traits from a mixture of body types.
Body Types per Position
Goalkeepers are usually the tallest and heaviest players on the field. In the 2018 World Cup, the tallest position was GK, where the average height was 6ft 2”. The tallest player in the tournament was Croatian GK, Lovre Kalinic who is 6ft 7”. The tallest player in the world currently is also a GK: Simon Bloch Jorgensen, who stands 6ft 10½”.
- The average weight of a GK at the 2018 World Cup was 184lbs, almost 14lbs heavier than the average player.
- For women, goalkeepers are also the tallest players. The average female GK stands at just under 5ft 10”.
- The body types of goalkeepers are mainly mesomorphs and endomorphs.
Outside of goalkeepers, center-backs are usually the tallest and heaviest players in a squad. Not known for their speed, CBs need to be physically strong and powerful in order to win aerial duels and command their defensive line.
In the 2018 World Cup, the average height for a defender was 6ft 1”, almost 2 inches taller than the average player. They also outweighed the average outfield player by 4lbs.
The average height of a female soccer player is just under 5ft 6”. Like their male counterparts, female CBs tend to be on the heavier end of outfield players, weighing in between the range of 130 – 145 lbs.
The center midfield position is interesting when it comes to body types. There are a host of different CM roles in the modern game, played in different ways by athletes of varying shapes and sizes. Some of these roles are suited to the short and stocky hatchet builds, while others are suited to the long-legged, gut-busting, box-to-box style midfielders. Let’s take a look at a few of these roles:
Defensive Midfielder – No. 6
The number 6 was historically the defensive-minded player in a midfield two. These days, defensive midfielders operate in many different styles and are often deployed to play the position solo.
In some instances, the CDM is of a relatively stocky shape. They are the front line of defense and throw themselves into challenges, giving everything for their team. Their role includes reading the opposition’s attack, tackling, marking, intercepting, and covering. Not known to be tall, they often fill the endomorph category. This type of player is naturally strong and physically durable.
Claude Makelele (Real Madrid, Chelsea & PSG) revolutionized this position and is the best example of this type of player. Other great examples are Javier Mascherano, Gennaro Gattuso, Lucas Torreira, and Fernandinho.
Another form of a defensive midfielder is best described using a player example: Sergio Busquets, the perfect modern defensive midfielder. Players of this type are long, lean, strong athletes, that are capable of covering distance and making physical challenges, as well as having an elite tactical and positional ability.
They are somewhat of a hybrid between ectomorph and mesomorph. Many stand well over 6ft and don’t look very strong, but carry lean muscle and strength on their slender frame.
- Examples of this type of CDM are Nemanja Matic (6ft 4”), Fabinho (6ft 2”), Casemiro (6ft 1”), and Frenkie De Jong (5ft 11”).
Deep lying playmakers occupy defensive positions on the field but are usually free of significant defensive duties. They have a phenomenal passing range and amazing vision. It’s common to see this type of role filled by a player of slight build. Their height varies but often their strength and physicality are lacking. Examples of this type of player are Pirlo, Xavi, Jorginho, and Xabi Alonso.
The number 8 is usually the more attacking-minded of a midfield pair or a box-to-box style player. They cover the most distance in a game. Their fitness and stamina levels are through the roof. Therefore, they are often the lightest and leanest players. In the 2018 World Cup, the average midfield player weighed 163lbs, 5lbs lighter than the avg. outfield player.
Heightwise, this type of midfielder exemplifies the variance of size in the sport. For example, here are some of the most notable midfielders of this ilk in recent times: N’Golo Kante (5ft 6”), Roy Keane (5ft 10”), Arturo Vidal (5ft 11”), Steven Gerrard (6ft), Bastian Schweinsteiger (6ft), Yaya Toure (6ft 2”), and Patrick Vieira (6ft 4”).
The stylistic approach from a manager or the overall skillset of the player can have more of an influence on the game than size.
Like with certain midfield positions, attackers’ sizes can vary significantly. Advanced playmakers, center-forwards, and wingers are frequently short and quick, with low centers of gravity.
They are light in order to be able to dribble, pass and move quickly in the opposition third but tend to have good core strength. The typical physical build of such a player is that of Lionel Messi, Paulo Dybala, David Silva, Sadio Mane, or Eden Hazard.
However, there are a number of tall, powerful, fast and skillful athletes that play in attacking roles. These are the outliers. Such players can run like gazelles, turn on a sixpence, compete physically with defenders, make pin-point crosses, and score goals.
These physically gifted players almost always fall into the mesomorph category, as pure natural athletes. Perhaps the best example of this would be Cristiano Ronaldo. Other examples include Gareth Bale (6ft 1”), Thierry Henry (6ft 2”), Ivan Perisic (6ft 1”), and Marcus Rashford (6ft).
The number 9 or striker position is one that can have the largest contrast when it comes to body type.
On one end of the scale, we have target men such as Romelu Lukaku and Zlatan Ibrahimovic – 6ft 3” and 6ft 5” respectively, and both weighing over 200lbs. These powerhouses share the physical stats of GKs and CBs, while also possessing the skill and athleticism of an attacker.
On the other end of the scale, we can look at players like Sergio Aguero and Wayne Rooney. Both fall into the endomorphic category, with their stocky builds. Neither are “typically” athletic but both possess superior strength and balance, complementing their unique skillsets and adding to their effectiveness on the field.
Many more strikers fall somewhere between a Zlatan and an Aguero.
There is no average soccer player
Interestingly, statistics from the 2018 World Cup showed that although height and weight varied between positions, players’ BMI levels were about even across the board (23.2). Female pros tend to have a slightly lower BMI (22.4). Soccer is played by athletes with different body types but they are most definitely in peak physical condition.
Ronaldo and Messi are undoubtedly the best players of their generation, if not of all time. Their goalscoring feats, as well as their teams’ successes, have been breathtaking.
One of the most interesting aspects of this is how different both players are physically, as well as stylistically, even though they fill similar roles. Ronaldo, at 6ft 2”, 185lbs, is built like a Greek God, while Messi, although athletic and lightning-quick, at 5ft 7”, 158lbs, could easily pass as your local barista.
There is no average body type in soccer. Some might argue that there is an optimal type for a position but then there are always exceptions (and lots of them). As a game that can be played by anyone, there’s no wonder that soccer is the most popular sport in the world.
How fit do soccer players have to be? Pro soccer players require an elite level of fitness. Their cardiovascular levels are very high. They run the most distance per game in all ball sports (7 miles on average).
Who is the heaviest soccer player in the world? The heaviest player in the world currently is Englishman, Adebayo Akinfenwa, who plays for Wycombe Wanderers F.C. He weighs 227lbs.