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'Messi' by Guillem Balague
'Messi' by Guillem Balague

The extraordinary rise of Lionel Messi has been captured in 628 pages by top Spanish football journalist Guillem Balague.

Having previously written about Messi’s former Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola, Balague is well placed to offer his take on arguably the greatest talent of the 21st century.

He begins with a shy, small child showing off his skills at a trial by the behemoth club, despite being born and raised over 6000 miles away near Rosario, Argentina.

Balague captures the atmosphere, the strangeness of the environment, and the moment the smallest kid on the pitch is transformed into a giant simply by placing a ball at his feet.

He explores Messi’s happy childhood, where he grew up and the challenges faced when a ‘barely’ teen catapulted into an alien environment.

There’s also a note of the controversial and expensive growth hormone treatment which was administered to Messi, and which saw him develop physically in a matter of months.

Of course, we also map his football career, for club and country, and the challenges he’s faced as his reputation grew worldwide.

What impresses most about the writing here is the wealth of people Balague has been granted access to, and the varying styles he utilises with the interviewees - be it family, friend, famous footballer or personality. The result is a very worthy footnote to one of the game’s greats.

is published in hardback by Orion, priced £20 (ebook £6.99).

Since Lance Armstrong admitted doping and was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles, professional cycling has struggled to convince a sceptical public that the sport is clean.

So Team Sky principal Dave Brailsford invited David Walsh – who was key in exposing the systematic doping within cycling and one of the few journalists to question Armstrong’s record – to embed with the team for eight months as they prepared for the Tour.

Inside Team Sky is a comprehensive account of the dedication, preparations and sacrifices that go into winning one of cycling’s grand tours.

‘Inside Team Sky’ by David Walsh is published in hardback by Simon & Schuster, priced £18.99 (ebook £10.99).