In his national bestseller, Soccernomics, Simon Kuper pioneered a new way of looking at soccer, the world's most popular game, through his witty and meticulous use of data. In Soccer Men, Kuper explores the heart and soul of the sport by getting up close and personal with soccer's greatest players and coaches. An inquiry into the genius and hubris of the modern game, Soccer Men details the lives of international stars such as Arsène Wenger, Jose Mourinho, Josep Guardiola, Lionel Messi, Wayne Rooney, and David Beckham, describing their upbringings, the soccer cultures they grew up in, the way they play or coach, and the baggage they bring to their relationships at work.
In this updated edition, Kuper profiles Hope Solo, Raymond Domenech, Andrea Agnelli, Robin van Persie, Carlo Ancelotti, and more. He also provides a brilliant comparison of two tales of immigrant life: Philip Roth's Portnoy's Complaint and the autobiography of Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Kuper (Soccernomics), who has covered professional soccer's headliners and newsmakers for a variety of publications, including the Financial Times and the Times of London, writes, "I have never thought that most soccer players, like in many other sports, have anything special to say." He adds that today's players are mostly followers whose worldview is limited to what happens on the pitch. Still, that doesn't prevent the author from employing eloquent criticism and biting wit in profiling everyone from legendary Argentine player/partier turned national coach Diego Maradona ("the fat cigar smoker and former cocaine addict with the geriatric's heart") to David Beckham ("an Andy Warhol painting come to life") to baseball executive Billy Beane, whose moneyball tactics have found their way into professional soccer. But over the course of a book, Kuper's winking, borderline contemptuous style and halfhearted reporting transform the soccer-loving author from observant cynic to incessant crank. This collection is best read in small chunks by soccer fans who don't mind seeing their idols take a tumble.