Looking for a stocking-filler for a sportshead this Christmas? We've picked out the top five sports books of this year to help you find the perfect gift.5. Fear and Loathing in La Liga – Sid Lowe
Sid Lowe’s bestseller tells the tale of El Clásico as you’ve never seen it before. A debt-ridden Spain may be suffering on the global political stage, but in terms of football they are untouchable.
FC Barcelona and Real Madrid are two superclubs whose rivalry is ingrained in football folklore. Each time they do battle it becomes a fight between two cities and two styles of play.
Join the esteemed Guardian Spanish Football Writer as he trawls through the history of these great clubs, with interviews from legends like Johnan Cruyff, Zinedine Zidane and David Beckham. Find out how Real was founded by two Catalans and which recent member of the Barca board was a participant in the Franco regime. The greatest rivalry in world football is one steeped in politics and culture.
A must read for all La Liga fans.4. I Am Zlatan – Zlatan Ibrahimovic
This might well be one of the most compelling autobiographies by a footballer. Ibrahimovic’s intense drive to succeed took him from an unhappy childhood with his divorced parents to become a global superstar, winning a league title in nine of his past ten seasons. I
Am Zlatan was actually published in 2011 but has enjoyed a new lease of life thanks to its recent release in English paperback form. In writing the book, Zlatan revealed he “had to go back in my memory, and shit, I realised I hadn’t always been a good person”.
The man who turned down a trial at Arsenal aged 17 because he “doesn’t do trials”, recalls his clashes with former Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola and his love for José Mourinho, whom he “would die for”.
I Am Zlatan is a modern rags-to-riches tale from one of the game’s best footballers and, more importantly, best characters.3. Mugsy: My Story – Owen Mulligan
Former Tyrone footballer Owen Mulligan has caused plenty of controversy in his recent autobiography, recalling an outstanding career where he collected Ulster and All Ireland titles at all levels.
This well written and honest book is remarkably the first written by one of Tyrone’s All-Ireland winning footballers in the last decade and is set to be the best selling GAA book this Christmas.
Mugsy recounts his journey to top the and the big stories along the way, including his many battles with Kerry and Paul Galvin in particular, the infamous brawl with Dublin, his fight with alcoholism and how Mickey Harte ended his inter county career without so much as a phone call. Below are a couple of our favourite quotes from the book to give you a taste:
2. Seven Deadly Sins – David Walsh
“As soon as I went in it seemed to explode, Dublin players turned their attention to me and it descended into a pure boxing match”
“A few days later I got a call from Canavan. Galvin had been in touch, that p*ssed me off for a start. Why is he ringing Canavan, I fumed.”
“Not allowing supporters on the pitch after an All Ireland final is a disgrace in my view. That’s what memories are made of.”
Fresh from Lance Armstrong’s admittance of doping for all seven of his Tour De France wins, Sunday Times journalist David Walsh covers his 13 year pursuit of the former cycling hero.
Walsh was one of a select few who persisted in raising questions about Armstrong’s incredible feats as he continued to dominate the world in cycling. His brilliant insight into the murky underworld of cycling details the struggles he underwent to expose Armstrong.
Walsh continued to probe Armstrong’s secret amid constant barriers before he was eventually proven to be correct when the American’s lie crashed and burned. T
his updated book includes Armstrong’s eventual confession to Oprah Winfrey. A fantastic read.1. Fairytale in New York – Paul Fitzpatrick
The last All-Ireland final to take place outside of these shores was way back in 1947, when the Polo Grounds in New York hosted the decider between Kerry and Cavan. Paul Fitzpatrick, a Cavan handballer, details the persuading, organising and hosting of the final, which he describes as Cavan GAA’s finest hour.
Take a look with astonishing detail at the GAA in the 1940s. While most of the world was recovering from the Second World War, the GAA captured the imagination of the public by arranging a remarkable occasion for the Irish Diaspora in New York, with almost 40,000 in attendance. Fitzpatrick brings Irish sporting legends like Owen Roe McGovern, Mick Higgins and Willie Doonan to life in this fascinating insight.
Some memorable yarns are told about how Congress eventually voted in favour of hosting the final in New York, not least the story of Armagh’s Gerry Arthurs who provided some intense opposition of the idea. But come final day in the Polo Grounds, Arthurs was leaning against a goalpost, having taken up his position as umpire.
This book might not feature highly on other lists, but it is a quirky and enjoyable read that stands apart from your conventional sports book.