I t was all supposed to turn out differently for Mr Schulz. As a young man, he was on the brink of a professional football career when a serious knee injury destroyed his dreams.
H e dropped out of school without taking his final exams, and sank into alcoholism and depression.
But he dragged himself back from the brink and reinvented himself, first as a bookseller, then as a local politician in his home town of Würselen, near Aachen in the far west of Germany.
Since , he has been teetotal. Six years later, at the age of 31, he became the youngest mayor in North Rhine-Westphalia. But it was via the unlikely route of the European parliament that Mr Schulz rose to real prominence.
He was elected an MEP in , and found he had the networking and alliance building skills to rise above the hubbub of Brussels and propel himself to the top.
He was helped on his way by a public spat with Silvio Berlusconi. Mr Schulz dared to suggest that the then Italian prime minister might face a conflict of interests over his extensive media empire.
A furoious Mr Berlusconi told the upstart MEP he should audition for a film role as a concentration camp leader. There was uproar, but the incident made Mr Schulz a househole name in Germany.
In he became president of the European parliament, and became its fiercest champion, demanding more influence on EU decision-making.
Bat at the end of last year he abruptly decided to turn his back on Brussels and return to Germany for a belated career in national politics.
After the events of this week, that appears to have been a master-stroke. On Tuesday he decided to throw the towel in, and recommended Mr Schulz as his successor.
H e still faces an uphill struggle if he is to take on Mrs Merkel and win. Donald Trump President brands Macron's call for European army 'insulting'.
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