Socrates was different. Not just because he captained one of the greatest teams of all time, or because he spent more time thinking about politics than tactics. He was an athlete who graduated in medicine, yet he drank and smoked to excess. He was a leftist who voted for the return of Brazil's monarchy. He was a man who was fiercely loyal to his friends, yet he was unfaithful to his four wives and largely absent to his six children. He was passionate, charming and hedonistic, but above all he was a thinker. He was slight, 6ft 4in tall and had tiny size 5 feet, but he was incredibly skilful, a great dribbler of the ball and the backheel became his signature move. When he made his big transfer to Corinthians in Sao Paulo, he told the fans on his arrival that he supported their bitter local rivals Santos. He spoke out against the racism that was prevalent in the country, and set up a democratic movement within the club, whereby everyone from the kit man to the chairman had one vote on all decisions - all this at a time when the country was ruled by a military dictatorship. He even put his campaigning for democracy ahead of a lucrative move to Italy. Andrew Downie has had exclusive access to Socrates's unpublished memoir and many of the tape recordings left by Socrates, who died in 2011 at the age of 57. His widow and former team-mates have co-operated with Downie to ensure this is the most comprehensive and revealing biography of a unique sporting figure.
Andrew Downie is the Brazilian football correspondent for Reuters, and has lived in the country for 15 years. He has written on football for GQ, the Economist, the New York Times and the Guardian among others. He lives in Sao Paulo.