Soccer’s standing as the world’s game has opened it to a wealth of different viewpoints and cultural backgrounds, and the literature of the sport truly reflects this diversity. Whether the focus is on the game’s most interesting characters, the tactics, the supporters or the memorable events, soccer is a topic that has yielded some of the finest writing of any sport. Here is a selection of 18 of the best books concerning the beautiful game.
Brian Clough's doomed stint at Leeds United, where he replaced rival manager Don Revie, lasted all of eight matches. Clough had previously criticized both Revie and the Leeds United playing style, ensuring that his appointment was met with consternation among the Leeds players.
In this book, author David Peace writes from Clough's point of view as he fails to get his players behind him. It's a brilliant look at one of football's most outspoken and polarizing managers.
A Life Too Short is the tragic account of German goalkeeper Robert Enke. Enke played for Benfica, Barcelona, Hannover and won 8 caps with Germany while battling depression. This book, written by his friend Ronald Reng, details his life and struggle.
Nick Hornby's autobiographical book about his relationship with Arsenal FC epitomizes the life of a football fan like no other. If you're hesitant to read this book because of the horrible 2005 film starring Jimmy Fallon as a fan of the Red Sox, you're making a massive mistake.
If you find soccer tactics to be even remotely interesting, this book is a godsend. Jonathan Wilson meticulously follows the trends and shifts in tactics, from when teams used to play with five forwards to the shift to a false 9, and details some of the more memorable tacticians and philosophies in the game.
A seemingly impossible achievement that somehow weaves together art, architecture, landscape, history and football, David Winner's explanation of the brilliance of Dutch football is a masterpiece.
A seminal account of English hooliganism, Bill Buford, an American writer living in the UK, spent eight years documenting the unlawful behavior firsthand.
Another entry centered around the greatest manager the English national team never had, Brian Clough. Written by Duncan Hamilton, the Nottingham Evening Post's football correspondent, Hamilton had perhaps the best lens into Clough's managerial career as he coached Nottingham from 1975-1993.
At over 900 pages in length, this book may immediately repel many. However, can you imagine a global history of football being done well in less? And this book is done exceptionally well.
American writer Joe McGinniss set out to follow the fairytale of A.S.D. Castle di Sangro Calico, a club from a tiny town that had gained promotion to Serie B, and wrote this book detailing their year of incredible highs and lows.
While the quickest synopsis would be to say this is a historical account of global soccer, the truth is that it’s much more poetic and spiritual than that. This book focuses much more on the oddities, the madness and the beauty that riddles the sport.
A remarkably readable book detailing the evolution of soccer in Brazil while painting an unforgettable portrait of the country itself.
Intertwining the history of Germany and the German people’s relationship with the game, this book is gripped with seismic characters, events and entertainment.
History, politics, anecdotes and an enlightening look at Spain's extensive regionalism, Phil Ball does an incredible job of going beyond the cliched characterizations of Spanish football.
Published in 1973, The Glory Game is now a form of sports writing that's unlikely to ever be repeated. Author Hunter Davies was given complete access to the inner workings of Tottenham for a season, and the insight he was able to provide was truly groundbreaking.
Regarded by many as the greatest dribbler ever, Garrincha was a two-time World Cup champion with Brazil. However, his personal life was another thing entirely. This book looks at the moments of genius and the moments of madness from one of Brazil's greatest ever players.
England's run to the semifinals of the 1990 World Cup, before they were painfully eliminated on penalties by Germany, is documented unforgettably by Pete Davies.
Sid Lowe, a journalist for The Guardian, ESPN, World Soccer and TalkSPORT, has worked extensively in Spain throughout his career. With his extensive knowledge of Spanish football and history, Lowe provides one of the greatest accounts of the world's biggest rivalry: Real Madrid vs. Barcelona.
Author Gary Imlach traces the career of his father, Stewart, who played professionally and represented the Scottish national team. But Gary's father played in a time when footballers wages were around £8. It's an incredibly moving account of a different era and the relationship between father and son.