What are the best football autobiographies? Ibrahimovic, Ferguson & books to buy

Wondering what to get for the lover of the beautiful game in your life? Fear not, we’ve got a few potential gift selections for you to ponder

Chances are, if you are a footballer and you’ve enjoyed any degree of success you will have book publishers looking to tell your story.

Autobiographies revealing the details of a player’s journey to the top of the game can be found in book shops across the world, but some stories are just more interesting than others.

The path to success and stardom can be mind-numbingly prosaic, but others have taken the road less travelled.

Football is full of strong personalities, innovators and rebels – people who have been through the mill and have something to say.

It’s World Book Day, so Goal takes a look at some of the best autobiographies to buy for the football fans in your life.

The evolution of modern football as realised through the teams of Pep Guardiola would not have transpired without the influence of Johan Cruyff.

Known by many as “The Maestro”, the Netherlands and Barcelona icon who paved the way for Guardiola was an innovative, if obstinate, force throughout his career.

Cruyff died in 2016, but his posthumously released autobiography My Turn brings forth the vitality of his inimitable personality – and philosophy.

“I don’t feel pressure. I spent the afternoon of Sunday July 9, 2006 in Berlin sleeping and playing the PlayStation. In the evening I went out and won the World Cup.”

Andrea Pirlo was one of the finest midfielders of his generation and his 2013 autobiography I Think Therefore I Play is a must read for anyone who has been enraptured by his ability.

The former Italy, Juventus and AC Milan star regales the reader with tales from his career, including his relationships with managers such as Antonio Conte and Jose Mourinho, as well as his incessant teasing of midfield partner Gennaro Gattuso. 

A must-read for Arsenal fans, Stillness and Speed gives an insight into the mind of Dennis Bergkamp, the man whose elegance lit up north London for over a decade in what was one of the club’s most successful periods.

Bergkamp’s story begins at Ajax, where he studied his craft under the tutelage of Johan Cruyff and Louis van Gaal, and it traces his ascension to the pantheon of Premier League greats.

The former Netherlands international reflects on his development as a footballer and a person, but also looks to his future as he explains his vision of how he believes the game should be played.

What does it take to manage Manchester United? 

Sir Alex Ferguson’s 27-year reign at Old Trafford was a glittering success as the Scot filled the United trophy cabinet with silverware, setting the bar impossibly high for each of his successors since.

The 2013 publication My Autobiography follows on from Ferguson’s first book Managing My Life (1999) and in it he reflects on the totality of his career, having finally stepped down as manager of United. 

Ferguson reflects on how the club – and the game – changed since the dominance of the late 1990s and delves into his relationships with stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo and David Beckham.

While Ferguson offers advice to businessmen and the like in his 2015 book Leading, My Autobiography is more concerned with telling the story of his career.

Roy Keane is widely regarded as one of the finest midfielders of his generation, setting the standard high as Manchester United dominated English football and reached the pinnacle in Europe in the 1990s and 2000s.

While he was a fearsome competitor on the pitch, Keane’s tongue-lashings are the stuff of legend and the Irishman has never been shy about making his voice heard, a quality which certainly lends itself to the medium of the autobiography.

The Second Half (2014) is the follow-up to the former Red Devils captain’s highly controversial 2002 autobiography, Keane, and it adopts a much different tone to its predecessor, though it remains typically cutting.

Bizarre voicemails from Robbie Savage, the prospect of joining Real Madrid and the difficulty of management all feature in the smorgasbord that is The Second Half of Roy Keane’s story.

It is difficult to tell the difference between the ‘real’ Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the so-called “literary Ibrahimovic”, but the truth can probably found somewhere in between.

I Am Zlatan Ibrahimovic was released in 2011 and it was an instant best seller, with good reason.

The Swede’s trademark high self-regard shines through in moments such as his famous ‘Ferrari/Fiat’ spat with Pep Guardiola, but his journey from poverty to superstardom is the real story.

Ibrahimovic dedicates the book to “kids who feel different, who don’t quite fit in” and tells them: “Keep believing in yourself.”

Rio Ferdinand won six Premier League titles and a Champions League with Manchester United. He won 81 caps for England and was involved in three World Cups.

However, the most pivotal moment in his life happened away from the pitch, when his wife Rebecca died in 2015 after a battle with breast cancer.

Thinking Out Loud: Love, Grief and Being Mum and Dad is Ferdinand’s account of when his world “fell apart”, coping with that loss and attempting to carry on for the sake of his children.

It is not a typical footballer’s autobiography and it is sure to be a challenging read for many, but Ferdinand’s hope is that it will serve to help others who have endured similar loss.

In How To Be a Footballer, Peter Crouch invites the reader to “walk with [him] into the dressing room” as he pulls back the curtain on life as a professional footballer.

The former Liverpool and England star is now famed for his light-hearted personality, something he has demonstrated in abundance with silly goal celebrations and self-deprecating humour on Twitter.

Delving into “the strangest, funniest, most baffling world of all”, the 6 foot 7 inch striker reveals all sorts of details about the odd habits of those he has encountered in the game – including Cristiano Ronaldo.

It is Crouch’s second autobiography, following on from the 2007 book Walking Tall: My Story.

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