The lockdown has taken a particularly heavy toll on football followers. With virtually no football being played anywhere in the world, football followers have had no choice but to go through highlights and replays of old matches or play footie-related games. And even the appeal of those can begin to wane after a while.
Fortunately, the world of books is always open and when it comes to football, there is some fantastic reading at hand. So if you want to get your footy fix even in times of lockdown, here are seven books that will deliver just that:
By Jonathan Wilson
Perhaps there is no country in the history of football – not even Brazil or England – that has evoked as many different emotions as Argentina. The country has produced some of the world’s finest football players (Di Stefano, Maradona and Messi) and won the World Cup twice and yet has been at the centre of controversies (was its 1978 victory fixed). It has produced some dazzling football and yet also produced one of the most negative teams to ever grace a World Cup final (1990). Jonathan Wilson documents the history of this amazing football nation with a keen sense of history and anecdotes galore, sparing no one from praise and criticism alike – be they eccentric coaches, moody presidents or real and wannabe star players. This is one of the most entertaining books you will ever read about football, even if you are not a particularly big fan of Argentina.
By Paul Tomkins
Will the 2019-2020 Premier League season ever be finished? We do not know at the time of writing. But of this, there can be no doubt that Liverpool have easily been the team of the season, not just of England but perhaps of Europe. Which is why Paul Tomkins’ book on the team’s Champions League success last year is such compelling reading. Tomkins picks up the narrative from the months preceding Klopp’s joining the club and takes it all to the way to the 2019 Champions League victory. There is some heavy-duty analysis here, and Tomkins’ fondness for Liverpool shines through, but this is a great book on one of football’s most amazing turnarounds. And perhaps one of the best football teams of recent times.
By Michael Cox
Have you ever wondered what those football pundits in the studios keep blabbering about? All those fancy formations? Terms like “false nine”, “sweeper” and so on? Well, this extremely entertaining book will tell you exactly what they mean. Cox takes a look at the evolution of football tactics and strategy mainly in the Premier League. You get to learn of the changes in approach on and off the pitch not just by the likes of Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger but even managers of smaller clubs like Sam Allardyce and Tony Pulis. The best part? There is hardly any jargon and as Cox explains tactics through the history of the PL, you not only get to know more about the sport but also relive some thrilling moments.
By Jimmy Burns
One debate that is unlikely to be settled any time soon is about who is the best football player in the world right now – Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo. Both have been dominating world football for more than a decade and were going strong even when the Covid-19 pandemic hit the world. And while there have been plenty of books written about the two players, none is as well documented and objected as Jimmy Burns’ take on this fierce rivalry. Burns traces the careers of both players and tries to keep over the top adjectives at bay even as he compares the impact each has had on football. Some might get annoyed at his unwillingness to take sides, but this is the best book you can get on football’s greatest rivalry in player terms.
By Sid Lowe
Guess the football rivalry which makes Ronaldo vs Messi look like an informal tea party? Well, it is perhaps one of sports most bitter rivalries – Barcelona vs Real Madrid. Right from their formative roots – Barcelona being part of the Catalan section of Spain while Madrid was known for its links to dictator Franco – the two clubs have been at each other’s throats. Encounters between them are the equivalent of battles in a never-ending war, and have seen fights between fans, coaching staff and players – and once even a pig’s head was thrown on to the pitch. Packed with incident, Fear and Loathing in La Liga his as passionate a book as the fans’ feelings for their own clubs, and with a star cast that includes Puskas, Cryuff, Maradona, Zidane, Ronaldinho and of course, Ronaldo and Messi. Makes you understand why the legendary Bill Shankly said “Some people think that football is a matter of life and death…it’s much more serious that”!
By Tim Rich
Speak of great football coaches and the names you are most likely to encounter are those of the very successful ones – Jose Mourinho, Jurgen Klopp, Pepe Guardiola, Alex Ferguson, and so on. And yet, one of the most respected coaches in the world is an Argentinian with not a single major title to his name. Still, such is the awe in which he is held that the likes of Guardiola actually ask him for advice. Which is why Tim Rich’s book on the amazing and eccentric Marcelo Bielsa is a must-read for anyone interested in football management. One of the rare managers who actually worried more about football than results (he once forced his team to concede a goal because he felt it had scored an unfair one), the respect Bielsa evokes in the world is unparalleled. And this is his story, told in a manner that sometimes might seem a little too detailed but is still worth reading, not least because it has not been told that often. If at all.
by Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Messi and Ronaldo might break records, but when it comes to making headlines and controversy no one comes close to Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The Swede striker has always been larger than life, often referring to himself in third person and being a quote machine. And his autobiography is every bit as over the top as he the man himself. It actually starts with him arguing with Pep Guardiola at Barcelona, and takes no prisoners – team-mates and opponents alike are shredded time and again. And as he has played for top clubs in Spain, Italy, Netherland, and France, there are lots of beans to be spilled about a number of famous names, and this being Zlatan, those beans are duly served with some very spicy sauce. Not surprisingly, this is perhaps the most entertaining book on this list. But read between the lines and you could get a glimpse of the man beneath all the mythos. And surprisingly, he is not such a loud sort as most of the book would seem to indicate. There is a lot of hard work behind the facade and in the end, it does shine through.