Football Features

Short(ish) goalscorers with surprisingly dangerous aerial ability

By Squawka News

Published: 11:00, 28 January 2021 | Updated: 19:11, 28 January 2022


Heading the ball is one of the most common occurrences in any football match.

Usually, it’s an activity reserved for the larger players, mostly the big strikers up front and the tall centre-backs in defence.

Logic would dictate that the bigger the player, the better the header. But there are a number of small footballers who prove that logic wrong.

Here are a few surprising aerial threats from past to the present.

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1. Tim Cahill

Few midfielders, especially those below 6ft in height, could head the ball as well as Tim Cahill.

The former Everton and Australian star was most often seen towering above his marker and sending the ball past goalkeepers.

Remarkably, as pointed out by Duncan Alexander on Twitter, Cahill in 2018 had been responsible for 1% of the headed goals scored in the Premier League so far in the 21st century.

2. Michael Owen

Michael Owen was Liverpool’s top scorer every season until he left the club in 2004, and most of his goals were scored with his feet.

However, despite only being 1.73 m (5ft 8in) tall, the former England international was a danger to his opposition in the air.

In total, 11% of his Premier League goals were scored with his head. He scored some memorable headers for England, too, including a winning goal against Argentina in 2005.

3. Javier Hernandez

Most of Javier Hernandez’s goals aren’t very memorable. He is a poacher, after all, who relies on his ability to peel off the last defender and finish from close range.

But the Mexican is responsible for one of the best headed goals in Premier League history. Chicharito’s unbelievable back-header for Man United against Stoke City will live long in the memory.

Hernandez’s incredible knack of finding space between defenders in order to score headers is even more impressive when you consider that he is only 175cm tall (5ft 7in).

4. Romario

The Brazilian striker is regarded by some as one of the greatest strikers of all time, renowned for his clinical finishing.

Romario is one of the few players to actually surpass the 1,000 goal mark. His finishing has made him one of the most prolific strikers in history.

Former Sweden goalkeeper Thomas Ravelli said on Romario’s heading ability, per the Chicago Tribune: “It’s timing, if you have good timing, you can be good on headers, no matter if you are small.”

And small Romario was; just a mere 1.67 m (5ft 6in) off the ground.


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5. Denis Law

The former Scotland international enjoyed great success with Manchester United throughout the sixties and early seventies. He is one part of the famous ‘United Trinity’ statue at Old Trafford with Sir Bobby Charlton and George Best.

Law scored 171 goals in his 309 appearances for United and earned himself the prestigious Ballon d’Or award in 1964.

His ability to jump and seemingly hang in the air meant that he could out-leap much taller defenders despite standing at just 1.75m (5 ft 9 in).

6. Henrik Larsson

Larsson had a remarkable scoring record during his time at Celtic, bagging 174 goals in 221 games.

His combination of superb movement, supreme vision and deadly finishing has him topping the lists for Scottish and Swedish football’s greatest ever player, titles aided by his excellent heading.

The former Sweden international went on to play for Barcelona and Manchester United, such was his quality.

7. Andy Gray

Perhaps better known for the wrong reasons in contemporary football circles, Andy Gray was once a fine header of a football in his playing days.

The Scotland international was never afraid to put his head in where it hurt and was famous for his diving headers. He won both the PFA Young Player of the Year and PFA Players’ Player of the Year in 1977.

His header for Everton against Sunderland is a testament to his supreme aerial ability.

8. Falcao

Once considered one of the best strikers in world football, Falcao is no longer in that bracket due to injuries and form issues at the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea before a rebirth at Monaco and he’s now showing a semblance of his old self at Rayo Vallecano.

It’s worth remembering, though, that Falcao was incredibly good for Porto and Atletico Madrid, and he eventually rediscovered that form at Monaco, to an extent.

In the 2011-12 season for Atletico, 29.2% of his goals were headers. The Colombian is able to combine power and direction when in the air, a rare skill.

9. Paul Scholes

When it comes to his aerial ability, Scholes is perhaps most fondly remembered for his headed goal against Manchester City in 2010. The header kept Manchester United alive in the title race, a race they eventually won.

He had a knack of timing his runs into the box just in time to nod in crosses from the likes of Beckham and Giggs. Despite his small stature, measuring in at 1.68m (5ft 6in), his heading ability surprised everyone.

Former Manchester United teammate Nani, speaking to the club’s official website, once said: “He’s the best midfielder I’ve ever seen. He can pass, score goals with his left, right, his head – he can do anything.”


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10. Antoine Griezmann

Of the 22 goals Griezmann scored in his first season at Atletico Madrid, five came from headers, the third most in La Liga in 2014/15.

He has continued to sporadically contribute with his head, an impressive feat for a player who is the opposite to imposing in terms of his physicality.

At just 1.76 m (5 ft 9 in), Griezmann is able to take defenders by surprise in the air. And failing that, he can use his feet just about as well as any other player in the world.

11. Diogo Jota

It took a while for Diogo Jota, who had greatly impressed at Wolves, to become an established fixture with Liverpool. The Portuguese international needed to bide his time for an opportunity, but when it came — Roberto Firmino sidelined — the diminutive forward never looked back.

Jota’s equaliser for Liverpool at Tottenham resulted in an offhand comparison with the aforementioned Law from Jamie Carragher.

The Portuguese has scored six headers since the start of the Premier League 2020/21 season. To put this in some perspective, only Dominic Calvert-Lewin (8) and Christian Benteke (7) have more headed goals in the competition during this aforementioned period.

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