In Masters of Modern Soccer US journalist Grant Wahl interviews a broad range of figures from across the beautiful game to get a deep insight into how they approach the sport. Wahl interviews leading players in different positions both on and off the pitch including Vincent Kompany, Xabi Alonso, Manuel Neur, Roberto Martinez, and Michael Zorc.
The book provides a lot of fascinating insight and Wahl has clearly picked exceptionally intelligent interviewees. It is clear that Wahl put a tremendous amount of time and thought into the interviews and this is reflected in the quality of the book. I particularly liked the sections where he watched highlights of key moments with a player and let them explain their thinking at the time in a level of detail I’ve not seen elsewhere.
For me, the book really shines a light on the intensity and detail that goes into training and preparing for games at the highest level. The old British football stereotype of managers naming an XI and letting them figure it out on the pitch is well and truly dead. A number of the interviews are fascinating in their focus on set patterns that teams seek to repeat during a game.
I particularly enjoyed the interviews with Christian Pulisic, who is just now making waves with Chelsea, and with Dortmund legend Michael Zorc. I’m not a fan of Roberto Martinez (and especially his unwillingness to release Irish players for international duty!) but even I have to admit the interview with him is fascinating.
Some of the chapters could have been more tightly edited and a lot of the linking back to American Football was unnecessary in my view. Any book on soccer aimed at the US market, the use of ‘Americanisms’ can jar with a reader raised on British football – even the phrase ‘masters of modern soccer’ is just not one a non-American would ever use (although being Irish I refer to the sport as soccer a lot of the time!). Overall however each chapter provides some unique insights and overall is a very welcome addition to any sports book shelf.