The changing shape of successful professional footballers

A Nevill, Roger Holder, A Watts

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    41 Citations (Scopus)


    Football coaches and sports scientists are always seeking to identify key characteristics that can distinguish between successful and less successful footballers and teams. The purpose of the present article was to identify whether any body size, shape, and age characteristics might be associated with more successful professional footballers and whether any such characteristics might have changed over time. We found that despite a significant increase in professional footballers' height, body mass, and body mass index (BMI) from 1973-74 to 2003-04, no differences in the body shape parameter, reciprocal ponderal index (RPI) or age were identified. Goalkeepers, central defenders, and central strikers were found to be taller (P0.001), heavier (P0.001), and older (P0.001) than players playing in wider positions, but midfielders and wider players were found to have both lower BMI and RPI than central players. However, when players from successful teams (top six) were compared with less successful teams using binary logistic regression, players from successful teams were found to be taller and more linear (as identified by a greater RPI and ectomorphy score; both P0.05) and also younger (P0.05), a trend that appears to have increased in the most recent season studied, 2003-2004, a characteristic that is most marked among forwards (P0.05). In conclusion, these results suggest that football coaches and talent scouts should pay attention to the body shape (selecting taller/more linear athletes with a high RPI) when selecting potential players for their squads.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)419-426
    Number of pages8
    JournalJournal of Sports Sciences
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2009


    • reciprocal ponderal index
    • binary logistic regression
    • Body shape
    • ectomorphy


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