He 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. Now, more than 42 years on, Martin Schulz is presenting the fiercest opposition yet to Angela Merkel’s attempts to win a fourth term as German chancellor.
The 61-year-old, who is returning to his homeland after 23 years in the European parliament – acting as its president since 2012 – is seen as offering the Social Democratic party (SPD) the best chance in years to reverse its fortunes, following a period of falling membership and poor electoral performances.
Although his chances of ousting Merkel in September are slim, Schulz’s challenge has been widely interpreted as a step towards undoing voter disenchantment and limiting the number of protest votes going to the rightwing populist party Alternative für Deutschland.
That he’s ghastly is not one of these things which divides people. Rather, has he actually stopped drinking?