For a period that offers no domestic football of any consequence, July is an oddly manic month. Transfers here, transfer rumours there, transfer flights for summer friendlies everywhere – there’s no time to stand and stare. Unless you’re Andrea Pirlo.
The Italian keeps his head while all about him are losing theirs, so to take your mind off such a busy off-season, we’re paying tribute to a man who doesn’t do running. Or training. Or any unnecessary effort at all, really.
The hirsute leader of renaissance football is also the game’s last great luxury player; a man for the ages; a man for the perfect summer read. And we bet you didn’t know he’s a prankster.
Plus: in celebration of The Architect’s strolling magnificence, we present the style icon shootout. Who had the cool and swagger to define them as the ultimate hipster hero: Socrates? Georgie Best? Jay-Jay Okocha? Pirlo would be proud.
At the other end of the activity spectrum, but no less legendary, is Paul John Gascoigne. Before the tawdry tabloid tales of excess there was breathtaking brilliance that made the nation – the world – sit up and gasp. Thirty years on from his debut, and 25 years after his tears in Turin, FourFourTwo and the man himself look back at the lesser-known best of Gazza on the pitch. He could teach Pirlo a thing or two about pranks, too…
So, it’s summer, as you may have noticed. And if you’re one who takes the phrase ‘Sun’s out, guns out’ as a rule that must be obeyed, rest assured you're in good company: for decades, footballers have used July as an excuse to show off more than their skills. If you’ve ever wanted to see Kevin Keegan in tiny Union Jack pants – and why wouldn’t you? – then you’ll enjoy our Picture Special of players on holiday.
Lovely. But for real glitz and glamour, we head to the States and the 1980s. For a time, the USA’s home of football – real football – featured oiled-up players carrying long-stemmed roses as they entered the pitch from a replica spaceship. No, really. Welcome to the Major Indoor Soccer League, a world of dry ice, Disco Steve and a dozen goals per game. Our Action Replay feature on the madness of it all is a must-read.
Back in the present, we’re going to take the risk of sounding like hipsters and tell you this: Icelandic football is going places. As the national team edge closer to Euro 2016 qualification, FFT heads to the Arctic Circle to watch a title-deciding night match played in broad daylight. As you do.
Scouting these days is about more than simply identifying a player’s weakness in the air or gushing over his wand of a left foot. In fact, in our feature on scouting for personality we are told: “It’s about looking into a player’s life: what they do at weekends, what they did at school.” Football’s spies lift the lid on the lengths they go to so that a new signing is the right fit. Meanwhile, World Cup winner and Middlesbrough legend Juninho answers readers’ questions about going bald for Brazil and freezing his nips off in the North East. A sneak preview: he thinks Craig Hignett was vastly underrated.
Elsewhere in the magazine, available in print, on iPhone and on iPad, we celebrate summer in Performance by talking you through the right holiday books, booze and beach exercises, while asking Daley Blind for his off-season tips and showing you how to rock the beach like CR7.
You want more? Well, in Upfront we reveal the undiscovered rules of prehistoric football, found in cave etchings, put silly questions to a very confused Paulo Ferreira and listen to Guam’s World Cup qualifying song, made by Elvis Costello’s brother.
Still not enough? Then take a gander at Marco van Basten’s Perfect XI or flick through Planet Football, where we introduce you to Norway’s Moneyball FC, the misery being heaped on an overseas Newcastle side even more dysfunctional than Mike Ashley’s mob, and a German team that was promoted because nobody wanted to play them. Phew. Who needs a Kindle when you can pack all this into your suitcase?
The August 2015 issue of FourFourTwo was brought to you by Paul Gascoigne, Marco van Basten, Felipe Anderson, Gary Mabbutt, Tony Carr, Daley Blind, Alvin Martin, Juninho Paulista, Ally McCoist, Marco Schenardi, Adelio Moro, Davor Suker, Paul McVeigh, Dmitry Selyuk, Sam Hewson, Craig Allen, Paulo Ferreira, Glen Riddersholm, Rasmus Ankersen, Sol Campbell, Gary White, Ritchie Branagan, Toddy Orlygsson, Axel Witsel, Guy Butters, Peter Shilton, Andy Chapman, Nicklas Bendtner, Sam Tillen, Craig Hignett, Joe Allon (not Joe Allen), Andy Goram, Bjarki Gunnlaugsson, actor Daniel Mays, Elvis Costello’s brother and Luther Blissett. Available from July 1 in print, on iPad and on iPhone or SUBSCRIBE!