As a youth, Martin Schulz, now 61, had been well on his way to becoming a professional footballer when a meniscus tear put paid to his dreams and he fell into a state of depression, alcoholism and chain-smoking. He trained as a bookseller and is known to be a voracious reader, with a penchant for historical biographies; he has cited the works of Eric Hobsbawm, John Steinbeck (below) and Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa as among his favourites. He is proficient in six languages, His political career began in 1987 when he became the mayor of Würselen, near Aachen, a post he held for 11 years. He has been a member of the European parliament since 1994, and head of the SPD MEPs since 2000. In 2012 he was elected to the post of president of the European parliament. In the same year Schulz received the Nobel peace prize on behalf of the EU. He has been a member of the SPD’s executive committee since 1999.