Why Are Goalkeepers ALWAYS So Tall? (Football)

Last updated on September 15th, 2022

Before football matches start, players normally file out from the dressing rooms onto the pitch in an orderly fashion. In most instances, one player stands out for his size compared to the rest of the team. This player is usually the goalkeeper, and he normally towers over the rest of his teammates.

Presently, there are six goalkeepers among the ten tallest players in the Premier League, showing that goalkeepers are predominantly tall

Why, then, are goalkeepers usually tall? Does their height have an impact on their performance? Here’s what you need to know.

Why are goalkeepers always so tall?

In the 2021-22 season, the Premier League’s shortest goalkeeper was the six-foot tall Matt Ryan. However, Ryan is much taller than many of the league’s outfield players in spite of his “small frame”. 

The goalkeeper for a team should ideally be the tallest player on their roster. This is typical because he is the last line of defence and needs every inch of his height to prevent the ball from entering his own net.

For most sports, the primary responsibility of the goalkeeper is to prevent the ball from entering the goal. This can be summarised as “keep the ball out of the net.” This is still the primary responsibility of every goalkeeper in every football league around the globe. 

Because of the height of the goalpost, teams have come to the conclusion that taller players are most suited to play the position of goalkeeper in order to prevent their opponents from scoring goals against them.

The following are some of the specific reasons why goalkeepers need to have a height advantage over their opponents:

$1 Height Allows Goalkeepers to have a Greater Reach 

The length of a goalpost is simpler for a goalkeeper to cover if he or she is of a tall build. Thibaut Courtois, the Belgian goalkeeper, who stands 6 feet and 5 inches tall, made a remark on how Jordan Pickford, the goalkeeper for England, could have prevented a goal by Adnan Januzaj if he were a little bit taller during the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

To put that into perspective, Pickford stands at 6 feet and half an inch, which is below the average height for a goalkeeper

It’s possible that tall goalkeepers need to take just one step sideways from their starting position before diving to make saves. However, shorter goalkeepers must take a few extra steps and dive before reaching the ball.

The time disparity between taller and shorter goalkeepers could end up costing their teams the game!

#2 Length of Arms

It is a fact that is generally acknowledged that those who are taller have longer arms than those who are shorter. The same principle applies to goalkeepers; taller goalkeepers typically have longer arms than their shorter counterparts do. Having longer arms allows them to make saves more quickly and effectively.

In addition to this, it helps them to make high claims from crosses even when they are under pressure and not lose the ball. 

According to the official records of the Premier League, the two goalkeepers with the highest number of high claims in the Premier League 2021-22 season were Robert Sanchez and Nick Pope, who are both 6’5 tall. This is thanks to how long their arms are. 

Similarly, because of his enormous build, Emiliano Martinez had the highest claims in the previous season.

#3 Aerial Dominance

When compared to goalkeepers of a shorter height, those of a taller stature are more difficult to beat with crosses. They don’t need to wait for the other team to touch the ball before coming off their line to make the first contact on crosses.

Their height gives them an advantage in this situation since it enables them to jump higher than the outfield players and catch the potentially damaging high balls.

Shorter goalkeepers do not have this ability in their arsenal since they are more likely to be pinned down on crosses by players from the other team, causing them to be outcompeted in the air.

#4 Penalty Saves

In addition to the significant impact that agility has on a goalkeeper’s ability to make saves from the penalty spot, the goalkeeper’s height gives them an additional advantage in these scenarios. 

Several games illustrate this point, one of which was a quarterfinal encounter at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, played between the Netherlands and Costa Rica.

As the opportunity for penalty kicks became more likely, the then Dutch head coach Louis Van Gaal substituted Tim Krul for Jasper Cillessen in the goalkeeping position. The reason for this alteration was that Krul had a better penalty record than Cillessen which could be explained by the fact that Krul was taller than Cillessen.

In the penalty shootout, Krul’s performance determined whether or not his nation advanced to the semifinals. 

You can find out more about penalty shootouts here.

What’s more, you can find out why you can’t score from a penalty rebound here.

#5 Psychological Advantage

When compared to a shorter goalkeeper, a taller one has the ability to have a distinct impact on the players they face. When an opponent sees a tall goalkeeper standing in goal, they perceive the goalpost to be a tiny target. On the other hand, when an opponent sees a short goalkeeper standing in goal, the goalpost appears to be a much larger target

This advantage is useful in various situations, but it is most useful when there is a direct confrontation between an attacker and a goalkeeper. In addition, this aspect of the game might become relevant during penalty shootouts. 

In the penalty shootouts that decided who would win the European Championship in 2020 and Copa America in 2021, the goalkeepers for Italy and Argentina were able to capitalise on their height by standing taller than their opponents.

When Gianluigi Donnarumma and Emiliano Martinez stood with their feet apart across the goalline just as a penalty taker went up to take his kick, they made the goal appear much smaller than it actually was.

The imposing stature of these goalkeepers led to the players perceiving the goal as being significantly smaller than it actually was, even though it was much larger. 

Do goalkeepers have to be tall?

The position of goalkeeper in football does not have any strict height requirements imposed by the rules, so anyone can be a goalkeeper, regardless of their height.

However, most teams would rather not place themselves in a position where they are at a competitive disadvantage during games and opt instead to err on the side of caution by deploying tall goalkeepers. 

Few of the goalkeepers currently considered to be the finest in the world are shorter than 1.87m, which is the height generally agreed as adequate for a goalkeeper in today’s game.

The position of goalkeeper demands a wide range of talents, all of which should be displayed by an ideal candidate. It’s possible that goalkeepers don’t need to be very tall if they have other outstanding qualities that make them more desirable than goalkeepers who are taller. 

Iker Casillas, a legend for Real Madrid and Spain, is an excellent illustration of this point. Although only about 1.8m tall, Casillas had outstanding reflexes and agility throughout his career, which enabled him to play at the most excellent level conceivable.

This could be the reason why he retired so late as a goalkeeper too!

Here is a list of the 25 best goalkeepers in the world according to 90min football and their respective heights.

GoalkeeperHeight (cm)
Jose Sa192
Gregor Kobel194
Jordan Pickford185
Yassine Bounou190
Samir Handanovic193
Koen Casteels196
Andre Onana185
Unai Simon190
Yann Sommer183
Kasper Schmeichel189
Peter Gulacsi191
Wojciech Szczesny195
Emiliano Martinez193
Marc-Andre ter Stegen189
Mike Maignan187
Hugo Lloris188
David de Gea192
Keylor Navas183
Gianluigi Donnarumma196
Jan Oblak186
Thibaut Courtois199
Edouard Mendy197
Manuel Neuer193

The average height of the goalkeepers on this list is 190.7cm, equivalent to 6 feet 3 inches. This indicates that the best goalkeepers in the world are around this height, showing that taller goalkeepers are usually better.

From the list, the shortest goalkeepers are Keylor Navas and Yann Sommer at 183cm. Both men have excellent reflexes and are very agile, and these qualities enable them to be among the best goalkeepers in the world.

Yann Sommer even managed 19 saves against Bayern Munich, which is no mean feat!

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