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Study: Size matters when it comes to football

  • Story Highlights
  • Research at a UK university finds taller footballers more likely to succeed
  • Study finds successful teams have taller and younger players
  • Professor Alan Nevill recommends talent scouts seek tall recruits
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By Mike Steere
For CNN
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Sports researchers have found that body shape is a key ingredient to success for footballers.

Height of success: A study has found tall footballers like Peter Crouch are more likely to succeed.

A study has found tall footballers like Peter Crouch are more likely to succeed.

The study compared official English Football Association data from the the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and between 2003 to 2004 to reach its conclusions.

It was authored by Professor Alan Nevill, a lecturer at the University of Wolverhampton, United Kingdom.

Nevill told CNN tall, lean players like England star Peter Crouch, Thierry Henry and Ruud van Nistelrooy are the most successful -- and went as far to suggest that talent scouts should consider looking for this body type when searching for new recruits.

More than 800 players were assessed for the research, and whether the player was in a top six team or not, at the end of each season was used as a measure for success, as they were more likely to be playing in European competitions, Nevill said.

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Recent analysis also showed that players in more successful teams were taller, more linear, and younger than those from less successful teams, he said.

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This assertion from the research suggests that the top teams in the Premier League and other major competitions would be more likely to win if they have taller, leaner and younger team members.

"Successful teams appear to have players nearly two years younger on average than other teams," he said.

Nevill told CNN the findings linked in to how the game of football had changed in recent decades.

"The less successful teams today are characterized as being a bit more muscular. However, in the 1980s, this was linked with more success.

"I'm quite convinced that the younger, lighter, more nimble and also taller players are more capable of making the finishing touches today," he said.

Nevill said there were several reasons why the taller player had advantages.

"Apart from the fact that taller players will be more successful at heading the ball both defensively and in attack, they will be able to close down or limit opposition players' ability to pass and distribute the ball.

"Furthermore, taller, thinner people are able to dissipate heat more rapidly than shorter, heavier people."

Players had also increased in size over the study period, Nevill said.

"The results of the study show that professional footballers are getting taller and heavier per decade, with a small but significant rise in the BMI (Body Mass Index) over the four decades."

Despite the findings, Nevill said it was not the end for shorter players, as there would always be cases where shorter and bulkier players could still succeed.

"Obviously there will be lots of anecdotes where our findings are not going to be the case," he said.

The findings of the research have been published in the Journal of Sports Sciences.

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