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A dedicated football fan would probably give an arm and a leg to know what happens in a famous footballer’s life beyond the pitch.
This is partly due to the fact that what we often get to see in player press conferences and tunnel interviews are choreographed, media-friendly responses that are usually devoid of the footballing personality that we so desperately crave.
For these reasons and others not mentioned, football autobiographies have become a great source of entertainment and provider of insight into the lives of these global superstars.
In this article I’ll be taking a deeper look at some of the best football autobiographies that have been published to date. In addition to this, the post will recommend a few gems that are set to be released later in the year.
Ok, it’s time to get stuck in!
1. Zlatan Ibrahimovic – I Am Zlatan: My Story on and Off the Field
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is most likely the living embodiment of footballing confidence.
The 38-year-old AC Milan forward – who recently signed a 1-year extension with the Rossoneri – has carried an aura of invincibility throughout his footballing career.
His so-called feistiness has, in the past, led to a managerial bust up with one of football’s most innovative managers in Pep Guardiola.
This very frequency with which he is in the limelight, accompanied by his exemplary performance on the pitch, makes him such a controversial figure in the sport.
I Am Zlatan tells a tale of a Balkan immigrant who gradually rose from the depths of poverty to international stardom.
The book details how the young and immensely talented Zlatan would ride to football practice on stolen bicycles and upon arrival, outperform the kids who came from more financially affluent families.
Ultimately, the Swede is able to confidently convey how he has forged lifelong friendships and intense feuds with some of the biggest names in football.
2. Andrea Pirlo – I Think Therefore I Play
It’s most certainly been quite the week for Italian legend Andrea Pirlo.
The 2006 World cup winner was appointed as Juventus first team coach just 10 days after being named as the Juventus Under 23’s trainer!
But as expected, the maestro himself remains calm and collected. And his autobiography consistently conveys this composure and cold bloodedness.
However, it also portrays the funny dressing room snippets and the behind the scenes dramas quite well, with former AC Milan owner Berlusconi playing the piano whilst cracking jokes at the training ground, and Filippo Inzaghi’s egregious pre-match routine.
What’s more, this piece is not short on headliners, as the likes of Paulo Maldini, Marcelo Lippi, Mario Balotelli, Gianluigi Buffon, Clarence Seedorf, Carlo Ancelotti, Antonio Conte and Ronaldo (R9) all feature.
3. Dennis Bergkamp – Stillness and Speed
Bergkamp is a footballing enigma.
In fact, I can’t even begin talk about his career exploits without reliving this majestic pirouette goal he scored against Newcastle whilst playing for Arsenal in 2002:
In his revealing book, the former Dutch star opens up about his personal life in addition to his famed footballing career, with particular emphasis on what motivates and inspires him.
The book also draws the reader’s attention to his formative years, where he was a footballing student of the great Johann Cruyff.
He learnt from one of the game’s greatest minds and once he had signed for Arsenal, he was able to share his vision for the game with Arsene Wenger. The team went on to win seven major trophies, with Bergkamp playing a pivotal role in the side.
4. Jamie Vardy – From Nowhere, My Story
This list of best football autobiographies would certainly not be complete without the inclusion of Jamie Vardy’s story.
The 33-year-old Leicester City forward – who was the top scorer this season with 23 goals – is a Premier League winner after all!
Vardy’s career timeline is truly remarkable and proves that anything can be achieved no matter how unlikely or far-fetched something seems.
He was born and raised in Sheffield, and having been rejected as a teenager by his boyhood club Sheffield Wednesday, Jamie thought he had lost his chance to become a professional footballer.
Nonetheless, he carried on playing, albeit semi-professionally, for Stocksbridge Park Steels where he was earning £30 a week. This was on top of his other hustle as a factory worker.
His good performances on the pitch earnt him stints at Halifax and Fleetwood Town, and before long he was under the scouting radar of Championship and Premier League sides as he was tearing it up in the lower divisions.
Eventually, Vardy signed for Leicester City and after surviving Premier League relegation under former manager Nigel Pearson, is team went on to win the Premier League in an unforgettable season where he also became the first player to score in 11 consecutive Premier League matches.
This is the miraculous story of a boy from Sheffield who went from playing non-league football all the way to the pinnacle of the English game.
5. Peter Crouch – How to Be A Footballer
If you’re looking for a book that will give you a proper laugh all the way through, then look no further than Peter Crouch’s literary masterpiece.
Footballers are some of the highest paid athletes in the world, which opens up a tremendous range of possibilities that the average Joe could only dream of having.
Crouch does a stellar job of showing football fans what their favourite stars get up to behind the glare of the camera.
From how one has so many sports cars that they forget their own Porsche at the train station, to those that pay £250 for a haircut when a tenner would suffice.
This book is so hilarious that it was voted the winner of the 2018 Telegraph Sports Book Awards Sports Bestseller of the Year.
6. Roy Keane – The Second Half
As a Manchester United fan, I always remember Roy Keane as a disciplined captain who would always give it his all. He was a fierce leader on the pitch and, by all account, within the dressing room as well, and his outspokenness has certainly rubbed a few people the wrong way over the years.
His book is such a fascinating read as you can see the contrast between his life as a footballer and some of the footballers of the present day who live quite extravagantly.
Keane talks about his last days as a player, his interesting time as an ITV pundit and some of the highs and lows of his managerial career.
7. Paul Merson – How Not to Be a Professional Footballer
Now I must admit, Paul Merson doesn’t do himself any favours these days with his outlandish predictions and incorrect takes as a Sky Sports pundit.
On the other hand, his book is quite the opposite.
It’s written in an advisory style which is quite refreshing, and it focuses on some of the pitfalls he had to overcome as a footballer.
Merson was a gifted footballer who made waves with his breath-taking skills on the pitch in the 1980s and 1990s, all whilst battling with gambling, drug and alcohol addiction.
Having overcome these afflictions, Merson now gives us an entertaining account on his 25-year association with the sport.
8. Jimmy Bullard – Bend It Like Bullard
Here’s a player with a fairly similar career trajectory to that of Jamie Vardy.
Before turning professional, Bullard used to work as a painter and a decorator so he knows all too well about what it takes to make it within this physically and mentally demanding sport.
During his career he played under the likes of Harry Redknapp, Barry Fry and Phil Brown, not to mention having people such as Paulo di Canio and Neil Ruddock as team mates.
This book takes its readership on a transformative journey that sees Jimmy Bullard progress from being a cable TV fitter to a football cult hero.
9. Ray Parlour – The Romford Pele: It’s Only Ray Parlour’s Autobiography
The Romford Pele is a nickname that was given to Ray Parlour by his team mate Marc Overmars.
And it is quite a fitting description of the player!
Parlour made 339 appearances for Arsenal and in an action packed 16-year footballing career, he battled tirelessly on the pitch although he was often in the shadows of some of his team mates.
His book documents nights out with the legendary defender Tony Adams, to golf sessions with the Dutch maestro Dennis Bergkamp and teaching French sensation Thierry Henry cockney rhyming slang.
Ultimately, this autobiography looks back on football’s golden age and relives all the banter and success stories that were a part of that era.
10. Sam Allardyce – Big Sam: My Autobiography
Whenever a club in the Premier League are flirting with relegation and are in need of a manager to steady the ship to safety, Sam Allardyce is usually the top man on the recruitment shortlist.
With almost 20 years of playing experience and approximately another 25 managing on the touchline, Big Sam is one of the most recognisable figures in British football.
He stands by a defence first approach which has seen him successfully stave of relegation with clubs like Sunderland, Newcastle, Crystal Palace, Everton, West Ham and Bolton Wanderers.
In his autobiography, he tells readers how the game has changed so much from when he made his professional debut back in 1973, and he offers intriguing insight into the changing face of players and mangers with honesty and refreshing opinions.
11. Harry Redknapp – Always Managing: My Autobiography
Widely known for his “wheeling and dealing antics” in the transfer window, over the years Harry Redknapp has pretty much seen everything happen in football.
From the nostalgic 1970s where training pitches had trees right in the middle of them, to winning the prestigious FA Cup trophy and challenging world footballing heavy weights Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League.
Harry’s autobiography is certainly an eventful one, and he rolls back the curtain to reveal every dramatic moment that he has lived through in his professional career.
He also predictably pays tribute to certain aspects of the British game that have evolved dramatically over the last five decades. In an era that is filled with foreign coaches, Harry is one of the remnants of the old-fashioned English football men who was able to adapt and keep packing the punches.
12. Rio Ferdinand – #2Sides: My Autobiography
Once again here I have to mention the fact that I’m a Manchester United fan.
Watching the Rio Ferdinand – Nemanja Vidic partnership at the heart of the defence was an absolute joy. They had the perfect combination of composure, positioning, bravery and tacking ability.
#2Sides is a catchy name for an autobiography to say the least, and it does in fact serve to illustrate the spectrum of Rio Ferdinand’s life; from his early days on the streets of Peckham to winning Champions League title in Moscow.
Rio also gives a good account of his relationships with those in the game, such as his difficult period under the management of David Moyes and his interesting time in the media spotlight with John Terry.
13. Joey Barton – No Nonsense: The Autobiography
Mr Barton was ever a player consistently in the sports headlines a few years ago, and usually for the wrong reasons.
Despite his talent and skill on the pitch saw him represent some of England’s biggest teams such as Manchester City and Newcastle United, Barton had built up a reputation of being a trouble maker.
The controversy surrounding him probably peaked in 2008 when he was sent to prison for assault. It was a moment that now looks to be the catalyst for the recovery and re-evaluation of his personal life.
His book pulls back the curtains on his life and career in a candid and entertaining manner. And Barton doesn’t spare himself from criticism in it, as he details his tough upbringing in the city of Liverpool, along with his troublesome addiction to gambling.
What’s more, his autobiography reveals how has emotionally channelled his energies towards his family since the birth of his children, as well as his plans for the future.
14. Paul McGrath – Back from the Brink: The Autobiography
Now I’m quite sure that those of you that have got this far in the article will probably be surprised to see this autobiography in the list.
That’s because Paul McGrath is not very well known among the younger football fans of today and those living outside of the Republic of Ireland.
Despite this, he played for arguably England’s biggest club side – Manchester United – and was an iconic presence on the field in a 14-year career which also saw him represent his country at the European Championships of 1988 and the FIFA World Cup in 1990 and 1994.
Paul has truly been through it all.
From being an orphan and experiencing a bruising childhood in the Dublin, to having two painful marriage break-ups and a public struggle with alcoholism.
His book isn’t just a story about football, it’s full of high and low moments and documents a black kid’s rise to the top in spite of the oppression and bullying that a person of his colour had to endure back in the 1960s.
It really is a rollercoaster of a ride.
15. Steven Gerrard – My Story
No player encapsulates Liverpool Football Club better than the legendary Steven Gerrard.
The man had the perfect combination talent, hard work and longevity, as he broke into Liverpool’s first team at the tender age of 18 and became the club captain at 23 years old, ultimately racking up over 700 appearances for the Scousers.
In addition to that, he went onto captain England and represent them at the highest level in a professional career that lasted 20 years.
Gerrard fully dissects his playing career in this book, reliving the miraculous 2005 final in Istanbul where Liverpool overturned a 3-goal deficit at half time to become Champions of Europe.
He also isn’t shy to speak about his time within the international setup, analysing what went right and what went wrong for England’s golden generation.
What’s also interesting is the relationships with players and managers that he’s forged over his illustrious career, particularly his friendship with Luis Suarez and his contrasting experiences under the tutelage of Brendan Rodgers and Roy Hodgson.
We also get to hear Gerrard’s perspective on the ups and downs that come with being a one club man.
16. Didier Drogba – Commitment: My Autobiography
I cannot recall a player who got to bow out at the very top of the sport as victoriously as Didier Drogba.
He led Chelsea to their first ever UEFA Champions League trophy after scoring the winning penalty against Bayern Munich in their own stadium!
In his autobiography he speaks candidly about his life as an immigrant in Paris, not to mention the importance of his education. More so, he reveals how he has been able to keep his feet on the ground as a result of finding success in professional football much later than is expected.
Drogba also touches on what went on behind the scenes at Stamford Bridge, which I’m sure many would look forward to reading as the squad was full of personalities at the time.
17. Jamie Carragher – Carra: My Autobiography
Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher have become the face of today’s football punditry and they continue to do a fantastic job in this respect.
The latter had a successful career at Liverpool, as he was the club’s vice-captain and one of a select few to make over 500 appearances for the club.
In this autobiography, Carragher takes readers deep into the heart of Anfield, as he relives past glories and reveals why he abandoned his Evertonian roots to become a red.
He is forthright with his views on the international team and also provides his own perspective on the managers who have come and gone during his time as a professional, including the likes of Gerrard Houllier and Rafa Benitez.
18. Alex Ferguson – My Autobiography
Being widely acclaimed as the greatest manager of all time is a huge deal.
Millions of fans across the globe would certainly be keen to find out how Sir Alex achieved such sustained success with Manchester United over the years.
And his autobiography certainly lives up to the expectations, as the Scotsman reflects on a managerial career that comprises of unprecedented levels of success for Aberdeen and 26 amazing seasons in Manchester.
First published in 2014, it’s been updated with events that have since taken place after he announced his retirement from management.
19. Carlo Ancelotti – Quiet Leadership: Winning Hearts, Minds and Matches
Ancelotti has been involved in football for many years has embraced the opportunity to manage some of the best teams in the world.
Stints at AC Milan, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Juventus, Chelsea and Paris Saint Germain have brought about plenty of managerial success for the Italian.
The aforementioned makes this autobiography all the more intriguing as he has been known to favour a less intense and a more measured approach to managing sides; a stark contrast to his rival counterparts.
So, strap yourself in for this one and discover Ancelotti’s methods, mistakes and triumphs, not to mention commentary on some of the characters and decisions that have shaped his life.
20. Tony Adams – Sober: Football. My Story. My Life
I’m sure that this next autobiography fills Arsenal fans with a sense of nostalgia!
Tony Adams spearheaded a team that played scintillating football under Wenger that in my opinion culminated two years after Adams’ departure from the club with their invincible season where they went unbeaten on their way to the league title.
Adams set the tone on the field, but off it he struggled with a serious alcohol addiction.
In this autobiography he provides a detailed account of his 20-year struggle with the bottle, along with insight on the impact of Arsene Wenger’s arrival and how his new methods at the time helped to prolong his playing career and bring newfound success in England.
21. Ian Wright – A Life in Football: My Autobiography
Here we have yet another Arsenal legend who has written an extraordinary story.
If you were to pick an iconic attacking player for each footballing era in Arsenal’s history, Ian Wright is a name that is likely to be mentioned much more than just a handful of times.
The Arsenal legend, former England international and now TV pundit documents his journey from a South London council estate to becoming a Highbury hero.
Ian also touches on a plethora of issues that footballers have to face in the modern age, such as adjusting to retirement, navigating social media, dealing with racism and why music has become so important.
And you can bet your house he’ll have something to say about London rivals Tottenham!
22. Gary Neville – Red: My Autobiography
It was certainly a sad time for Manchester United fans worldwide when Gary Neville decided to hang up his playing boots and retire from the beautiful game.
Since then, the team haven’t had a player of the same calibre in that position, and the right flank has been an area that has needed attacking reinforcement for quite some time. Hopefully Wan Bissaka and the rumoured arrival of Jadon Sancho can change that.
But United’s struggles on the pitch are a story for another day.
Gary Neville has been synonymous with United’s glory years having risen form the youth ranks in the famed “Class of ‘92”.
As a one club man, he tells us his story of the club under Sir Alex Ferguson, paying tribute to certain events like the historic Treble in 1999; his formative years with Giggs, Scholes and Beckham; along with his experiences playing for England and the controversy that often accompanies the team.
23. Michael Carrick – Between the Lines: My Autobiography
Calm and collected on the ball is probably the best way to describe Michael Carrick during his playing days.
The former Tottenham and Manchester United midfielder was a vital cog in both teams, as he was able to effectively pick up the ball in deep positions and distribute vertical passes with pinpoint accuracy towards his team mates who were positioned further up the field.
He had a fantastic career and, in his book, he tells readers what it’s like to win relentlessly under Sir Alex Ferguson, as well as showcasing some of the hidden secrets buried inside the Carrington training ground.
Quite interestingly, Carrick also discloses the battle he has had with his own mental health, along with his struggles playing with England.
All proceeds from the sale of the book are donated to the Michael Carrick foundation, who provide financial support to underprivileged children.
24. James Milner – Ask A Footballer
This is a quality book even though it is not written in the style of a typical autobiography.
If there was ever a person who would be best suited to answering questions about what it’s like to be a professional footballer, James Milner would be the ideal man.
This is because there isn’t a current player who has played top flight Premier League football for as long as Milner has, which gives him a unique perspective on how the game has changed over the years.
What’s more, Milner has played under a variety of managers such as Terry Venables, Fabio Capello, Sir Bobby Robson, Martin O’Neill and Jurgen Klopp.
In this book, Milner discloses how a footballer’s working week unfolds – from what the players eat to how they prepare physically, mentally, tactically and technically for matches.
He also shares some of the dressing room experiences he’s had and reflects on the Champions League success and all the work that went into making that dream a reality behind the scenes.
25. Michael Owen – Reboot: My Life, My Time
Very few players have burst onto the professional football scene at the highest level as well as Michael Owen.
I can only recall the likes of Wayne Rooney, Lionel Messi and Cesc Fabregas having such an immediate impact on a team, which tells you the calibre of player that Owen was back when he was a teen.
He made his Premier League debut at the age of 17 and one year later he was top scorer in the League and became England’s youngest goal scorer at a World Cup. He then went on to win the Ballon d’Or at 22!
It’s safe to say that he was one of the most naturally talented players that the world has ever seen.
But after a series of injuries he became a shadow of the player that he once was and he is now seen and regarded as a divisive figure among football fans.
Seven years after retirement, Owen sets out to explain what really happened in a career that was chock full of ups and downs.
26. Robbie Fowler – My Life in Football: Goals, Glory & The Lessons I’ve Learnt
As the sixth highest goal scorer in Premier League history, Robbie Fowler was more than just a club legend for Liverpool.
This autobiography takes readers on a journey through the matches that shaped his life and football philosophy in a 25-year career.
Brace yourself for an emotionally gripping read that tells of his achievements and struggles, along with captivating recollections of moments with some of his legendary team mates like Ian Rush, Michael Owen and Steven Gerrard.
27. Chris Kamara – Mr Unbelievable
Kammy has built a reputation for himself as an enthusiastic and hilarious at-the-ground football reporter for Sky Sports Soccer Saturday.
Perhaps one of the funniest moments I recall is this video:
His autobiography is not short of amusing moments either, as it documents Kamara’s rags to riches story in a way that is hugely entertaining.
As a player, he had stints with the likes of Bradford City, Stoke City and Portsmouth where he suffered from shocking racial abuse.
On the flip side, in the twilight years of his professional career he was part of a swashbuckling Leeds United side where he played with the majestic Eric Cantona.
Upon retirement, he ventured into football management before joining the Sky Sports crew and largely becoming what he’s known as today.
28. Arsene Wenger – My Life in Red & White: My Autobiography
For the first time, Wenger opens up about his life managing teams in red and white – Nagoya Grampus, Nancy, Monaco and Arsenal.
We get to learn about his principles for success on and off the field, along with fascinating tales about his 22 years as Arsenal manager where he achieved unprecedented levels of success.
Focus is also placed on his bittersweet resignation in 2018 after years of unrest at the club, as well as insight into his current role as the Chief of Global Football Development for FIFA.
This is a title that is not only a must read for Arsenal fans, but also for fans of the sport all across the world.
29. Paul Gascoigne – Gazza: My Story
One of England’s greatest footballing legends gives us a glimpse into his past in this book.
Having made a dazzling impression from a young age, Gascoigne recounts the emotional moments that were some of the highlights of a career that promised so much more.
Career threatening injury, mental health problems, alcoholism and family disputes arguably placed a significant dent in his footballing career, and the constant glare of the media spotlight made this even more difficult to bear for the young Geordie.
My Story is an account that will leave you on the edge of your seat as Gascoigne confronts the demons of his past.
30. Kevin Keegan – My Life in Football: The Autobiography
Football fans distinctly remember Keegan’s passionate outburst when he was in the midst of an epic battle with Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United for the Premier League title in 1996.
The legendary Newcastle manager led the club from the depths of the second tier to the brink of Premier League success, playing an expansive brand of football all along the way.
Now enjoying a peaceful retirement, Keegan tells us about his ascendance through the sport as a player, where he now holds the prestigious record of being the only English player to have won the coveted Ballon d’Or twice!
Relive the highs and the lows of Kevin Keegan’s life in and out of football.
31. Johan Cruyff – My Turn: The Autobiography
Without a shadow of a doubt, Johan Cruyff was one of the most talented footballers to ever grace the sport along with having one of the smartest footballing minds at the same time.
He was synonymous with “Total Football” – a tactical style where there is complete flexibility, with every player capable of playing in any position on the field.
This brilliant philosophy is present in some of the greatest football teams of the present age – Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester City.
Note: Our blog post on the best football tactics books may also be interesting for fans interested in the more sophisticated elements of the game
His book tells a story of the significant successes he achieved whilst playing for Ajax, as well as his time in Europe with Barcelona. The 3-time Ballon d’Or winner also led the Netherlands to the 1974 World Cup final.
However, his life outside of the pitch was more turbulent, having encountered and survived a kidnapping attempt and bankruptcy.
The book also reflects on his managerial career where he enjoyed success with Ajax and Barcelona.
32. Matt Le Tissier – Taking le Tiss: My Autobiography
Wrapping up this product roundup on the best football autobiographies is none other than Southampton legend Matt Le Tissier.
The definition of a flair player at his very best.
He lit up matches with his exquisite ball control and superb technique, dazzling the fans with audacious goals and inventive pieces of skill.
In this autobiography we discover the answers to some important questions.
Did he enjoy being a “small fish in a big pond”? Were there opportunities for Le Tissier to play at bigger clubs? Were England managers correct in their decision to not select him again and again?
Ultimately, we see an intriguingly self-deprecating account of a man who also preferred a Big Mac and French fries over the healthier foods.
And that brings me to the end of this product roundup on the best football autobiographies!
There are so many good books to read in this day and age that people are often spoilt for choice.
I hope this article has been useful in highlighting the best literary work. If you have any thoughts or comments feel free to share them below.