Cruyff with the Netherlands in 1974
|Full name||Hendrik Johannes Cruijff|
|Date of birth||25 April 1947|
|Place of birth||Amsterdam, Netherlands|
|Date of death||24 March 2016(aged 68)|
|Place of death||Barcelona, Spain|
|Height||1.78 m (5 ft 10 in)|
|1978–1979||Los Angeles Aztecs||23||(13)|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only|
Hendrik Johannes Cruijff OON (Dutch: [ˈjoːɦɑn ˈkrœyf] (listen), internationally spelled Cruyff; 25 April 1947 – 24 March 2016) was a Dutch professional football player and coach. As a player, he won the Ballon d'Or three times, in 1971, 1973, and 1974. Cruyff was a proponent of the football philosophy known as Total Football explored by Rinus Michels, and is widely regarded as one of the greatest players in football history.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Dutch football rose from a semi-professional and obscure level to become a powerhouse in the sport. Cruyff led the Netherlands to the final of the 1974 FIFA World Cup and received the Golden Ball as player of the tournament. At the 1974 finals, he executed a feint that subsequently was named after him, the "Cruyff Turn", a move widely replicated in the modern game. Wearing the number 14 jersey, he set a trend for wearing shirt numbers outside the usual starting line-up numbers of one to eleven. After finishing third in UEFA Euro 1976, Cruyff refused to play in the 1978 World Cup in protest of Argentine dictator Jorge Videla. At club level, Cruyff started his career at Ajax, where he won eight Eredivisie titles, three European Cups, and one Intercontinental Cup. In 1973, he moved to Barcelona for a world record transfer fee, helping the team win La Liga in his first season, and was named European Footballer of the Year. After retiring from playing in 1984, Cruyff became highly successful as manager of Ajax and later Barcelona; he remained an influential advisor to both clubs after his coaching tenures. His son Jordi also played football professionally.
In 1999, Cruyff was voted European Player of the Century in an election held by the International Federation of Football History & Statistics, and came second behind Pelé in their World Player of the Century poll. He came third in a vote organised by the French magazine France Football consulting their former Ballon d'Or winners to elect their Football Player of the Century. He was included in the World Team of the 20th Century in 1998, the FIFA World Cup Dream Team in 2002, and in 2004 was named in the FIFA 100 list of the world's greatest living players.
Considered to be one of the most influential figures in football history, Cruyff's style of play and football philosophy has influenced managers and players alike. Ajax and Barcelona are among the clubs that have developed youth academies based on Cruyff's coaching methods. His coaching philosophy helped lay the foundations for the revival of Ajax's international successes in the 1990s, and Spanish football's successes at both club and international levels during the years 2008 to 2012 have been cited as evidence of Cruyff's impact on contemporary football.
—Cruyff said in a documentary on TV3 channel (2015).
Hendrik Johannes "Johan" Cruijff was born on 25 April 1947 in Amsterdam, on a street five minutes away from Ajax's stadium, his first football club. Johan was the second son of Hermanus Cornelis Cruijff and Petronella Bernarda Draaijer, from a humble, working-class background in east Amsterdam. Cruyff, encouraged by his influential football-loving father and his close proximity in Akkerstraat to the De Meer Stadium, played football with his schoolmates and older brother, Henny, whenever he could, and idolised the prolific Dutch dribbler, Faas Wilkes.
In 1959, Cruyff's father died from a heart attack. His father's death had a major impact on his mentality. As Cruyff recalled, in celebration of his 50th birthday, "My father died when I was just 12 and he was 45. From that day the feeling crept stronger over me that I would die at the same age and, when I had serious heart problems when I reached 45, I thought: 'This is it.' Only medical science, which was not available to help my father, kept me alive." Viewing a potential football career as a way of paying tribute to his father, the death inspired the strong-willed Cruyff, who also frequently visited the burial site at Oosterbegraafplaats. His mother began working at Ajax as a cleaner, deciding that she could no longer carry on at the grocer without her husband, and in the future, this made Cruyff near-obsessed with financial security but also gave him an appreciation for player aids. His mother soon met her second husband, Henk Angel, a field hand at Ajax who proved a key influence in Cruyff's life.
Gloria Ajax and the golden era of Total Football
Cruyff joined the Ajax youth system on his tenth birthday. Cruyff and his friends would frequent a visit "playground" in their neighbourhood and Ajax youth coach Jany van der Veen, who lived close by, noticed Cruyff's talent and decided to offer him a place at Ajax without a formal trial. He showed talent both on the pitcher's mound and behind the plate, as a catcher, before having to leave the club's baseball section at age 15 to focus on football. He made his first team debut on 15 November 1964 in the Eredivisie, against GVAV, scoring the only goal for Ajax in a 3–1 defeat. That year, Ajax finished in their lowest position since the establishment of professional football, in 13th. Cruyff really started to make an impression in the 1965–66 season and established himself as a regular first team player after scoring two goals against DWS in the Olympic stadium on 24 October 1965 in a 2–0 victory. In the seven games that winter, he scored eight times and in March 1966 scored the first three goals in a league game against Telstar in a 6–2 win. Four days later, in a cup game against Veendam in a 7–0 win, he scored four goals. In total that season, Cruyff scored 25 goals in 23 games, and Ajax won the league championship.
In the 1966–67 season, Ajax again won the league championship, and also won the KNVB Cup, for Cruyff's first "double". Cruyff ended the season as the leading goalscorer in the Eredivisie with 33. Cruyff won the league for the third successive year in the 1967–68 season. He was also named Dutch footballer of the year for the second successive time, a feat he repeated in 1969. On 28 May 1969, Cruyff played in his first European Cup final against Milan, but the Italians won 4–1.
In the 1969–70 season, Cruyff won his second league and cup "double"; at the beginning of the 1970–71 season, he suffered a groin injury. He made his comeback on 30 October 1970 against PSV, and rather than wear his usual number 9, which was in use by Gerrie Mühren, he instead used number 14. Ajax won 1–0. Although it was very uncommon in those days for the starters of a game not to play with numbers 1 to 11, from that moment onwards, Cruyff wore number 14, even with the Dutch national team. There was a documentary on Cruyff, Nummer 14 Johan Cruyff and in the Netherlands there is a magazine by Voetbal International, Nummer 14.
In a league game against AZ '67 on 29 November 1970, Cruyff scored six goals in an 8–1 victory. After winning a replayed KNVB Cup final against Sparta Rotterdam by a score of 2–1, Ajax won in Europe for the first time. On 2 June 1971, in London, Ajax won the European Cup by defeating Panathinaikos 2–0. He signed a seven-year contract at Ajax. At the end of the season, he was named the Dutch and European Footballer of the Year for 1971.
In 1972, Ajax won a second European Cup, beating Inter Milan 2–0 in the final, with Cruyff scoring both goals. This victory prompted Dutch newspapers to announce the demise of the Italian style of defensive football in the face of Total Football. Soccer: The Ultimate Encyclopaedia says, "Single-handed, Cruyff not only pulled Internazionale of Italy apart in the 1972 European Cup Final, but scored both goals in Ajax's 2–0 win." Cruyff also scored in the 3–2 victory over ADO Den Haag in the KNVB Cup final. In the league, Cruyff was the top scorer with 25 goals as Ajax became champions. Ajax won the Intercontinental Cup, beating Argentina's Independiente 1–1 in the first game followed by 3–0, and then in January 1973, they won the European Super Cup by beating Rangers 3–1 away and 3–2 in Amsterdam. Cruyff's only own goal came on 20 August 1972 against FC Amsterdam. A week later, against Go Ahead Eagles in a 6–0 win, Cruyff scored four times for Ajax. The 1972–73 season was concluded with another league championship victory and a third successive European Cup with a 1–0 win over Juventus in the final, with the Encyclopedia stating Cruyff "inspired one of the greatest 20-minute spells of football ever seen".
Barcelona and the first La Liga title in 14 years
In mid-1973, Cruyff was sold to Barcelona for 6 million guilders (approx. US$2 million, c. 1973) in a world record transfer fee. On 19 August 1973, he played his last match for Ajax where they defeated FC Amsterdam 6–1, the second match of the 1973–74 season.
Cruyff endeared himself to the Barcelona fans when he chose a Catalan name, Jordi, for his son. He helped the club win La Liga for the first time since 1960, defeating their fiercest rivals Real Madrid 5–0 at their home of the Santiago Bernabéu. Thousands of Barcelona fans who watched the match on television poured out of their homes to join in street celebrations. A New York Times journalist wrote that Cruyff had done more for the spirit of the Catalan people in 90 minutes than many politicians in years of struggle. Football historian Jimmy Burns stated, "with Cruyff, the team felt they couldn't lose". He gave them speed, flexibility and a sense of themselves. In 1974 Cruyff was crowned European Footballer of the Year.
During his time at Barcelona, in a game against Atlético Madrid, Cruyff scored a goal in which he leapt into the air, twisted his body so he was facing away from the goal, and kicked the ball past Miguel Reina in the Atlético goal with his right heel (the ball was at about neck height and had already travelled wide of the far post). The goal was featured in the documentary En un momento dado, in which fans of Cruyff attempted to recreate that moment. The goal has been dubbed Le but impossible de Cruyff (Cruyff's impossible goal). In 1978, Barcelona defeated Las Palmas 3–1, to win the Copa del Rey. Cruyff played two games with Paris Saint-Germain in 1975 during the Paris tournament. He had only agreed because he was a fan of designer Daniel Hechter, who was then president of PSG.
Brief retirement and spells in the United States
Cruyff briefly retired in 1978. But after losing most of his money in a series of poor investments, including a pig farm, that were counseled by a scam artist, Cruyff and his family came to the United States. As he recalled, "I had lost millions in pig-farming and that was the reason I decided to become a footballer again." Cruyff insisted that his decision to resume his playing career in the United States was pivotal in his career. "It was wrong, a mistake, to quit playing at 31 with the unique talent I possessed", and adding that "Starting from zero in America, many miles away from my past, was one of the best decisions I made. There I learned how to develop my uncontrolled ambitions, to think as a coach and about sponsorship."
At the age of 32, Cruyff signed a lucrative deal with the Los Angeles Aztecs of the North American Soccer League (NASL). He had previously been rumoured to be joining the New York Cosmos but the deal did not materialize; he played a few exhibition games for the Cosmos. He stayed at the Aztecs for only one season, and was voted NASL Player of the Year. The following season, he moved to play for the Washington Diplomats. He played the whole 1980 campaign for the Diplomats, even as the team was facing dire financial trouble. In May 1981, Cruyff played as a guest player for Milan in a tournament, but was injured. As a result, he missed the beginning of the 1981 NASL soccer season, which ultimately led to Cruyff choosing to leave the team. Cruyff also loathed playing on artificial surfaces, which were common in the NASL at the time.
Return to Spain with Levante
In January 1981, Cruyff played three friendly matches for FC Dordrecht. Also in January 1981, manager Jock Wallace of English club Leicester City made an attempt to sign Cruyff, and despite negotiations lasting three weeks, in which Cruyff expressed his desire to play for the club, a deal could not be reached. Cruyff instead chose to sign with Spanish Segunda División side Levante.
In March 1981, Cruyff took the field for the first time for Levante. Injuries and disagreements with the administration of the club, however, blighted his spell in the Segunda División, and he only made ten appearances, scoring two goals. Having failed to secure promotion to the first division, a contract with Levante fell through.
Second spell at Ajax
After his spell in the U.S. and his short-lived stay in Spain, Cruyff returned to play in his homeland, rejoining Ajax on 30 November 1980 as "technical advisor" to trainer Leo Beenhakker, Ajax being eighth in the league table at the time after 13 games played. After 34 games, however, Ajax finished the 1980–81 season in second. In December 1981, Cruyff signed a contract extension with Ajax.
In the 1981–82 and 1982–83 seasons, Ajax, along with Cruyff, became league champions. In 1982–83, Ajax won the Dutch Cup (KNVB-Beker). In 1982, he scored a famous goal against Helmond Sport. While playing for Ajax, Cruyff scored a penalty the same way Rik Coppens had done it 25 years earlier. He put the ball down as for a routine penalty kick, but instead of shooting at goal, Cruyff nudged the ball sideways to teammate Jesper Olsen, who in return passed it back to Cruyff to tap the ball into the empty net, as Otto Versfeld, the Helmond goalkeeper, looked on.
Final season at Feyenoord and retirement
At the end of the 1982–83 season, Ajax decided not to offer Cruyff a new contract. This angered Cruyff, who responded by signing for Ajax's archrivals Feyenoord. Cruyff's season at Feyenoord was a successful one in which the club won the Eredivisie for the first time in a decade, part of a league and KNVB Cup double. The team's success was due to the performances of Cruyff along with Ruud Gullit and Peter Houtman.
Despite his relatively advanced age, Cruyff played all league matches that season except for one. Because of his performance on the field, he was voted as Dutch Footballer of the Year for the fifth time. At the end of the season, the veteran announced his final retirement. He ended his Eredivisie playing career on 13 May 1984 with a goal against PEC Zwolle. Cruyff played his last game in Saudi Arabia against Al-Ahli, bringing Feyenoord back into the game with a goal and an assist.
As a Dutch international, Cruyff played 48 matches, scoring 33 goals. The national team never lost a match in which Cruyff scored. On 7 September 1966, he made his official debut for the Netherlands in the UEFA Euro 1968 qualifier against Hungary, scoring in the 2–2 draw. In his second match, a friendly against Czechoslovakia, Cruyff was the first Dutch international to receive a red card. The Royal Dutch Football Association (KNVB) banned him from Ajax games but not internationals.
Accusations of Cruyff's "aloofness" were not rebuffed by his habit of wearing a shirt with only two black stripes along the sleeves, as opposed to Adidas' usual design feature of three, worn by all the other Dutch players. Cruyff had a separate sponsorship deal with Puma. From 1970 onwards, he wore the number 14 jersey for the Netherlands, setting a trend for wearing shirt numbers outside the usual starting line-up numbers of 1 to 11.
The Clockwork Orange of the early 1970s
Cruyff led the Netherlands to a runners-up medal in the 1974 World Cup and was named player of the tournament. Thanks to his team's mastery of Total Football, they coasted all the way to the final, knocking out Argentina (4–0), East Germany (2–0) and Brazil (2–0) along the way. Cruyff scored twice against Argentina in one of his team's most dominating performances, then he scored the second goal against Brazil to knock out the defending champions.
The Netherlands faced hosts West Germany in the final. Cruyff kicked off and the ball was passed around the Oranje team 15 times before returning to Cruyff, who then went on a run past Berti Vogts and ended when he was fouled by Uli Hoeneß inside the box. Teammate Johan Neeskens scored from the spot kick to give the Netherlands a 1–0 lead and the Germans had not yet touched the ball. During the latter half of the final, his influence was stifled by the effective marking of Vogts, while Franz Beckenbauer, Uli Hoeneß and Wolfgang Overath dominated the midfield as West Germany came back to win 2–1.
In an interview published in the 50th anniversary issue of World Soccer magazine, the captain of the Brazilian team that won the 1970 World Cup, Carlos Alberto, went on to say, "The only team I've seen that did things differently was Holland at the 1974 World Cup in Germany. Since then everything looks more or less the same to me.... Their 'carousel' style of play was amazing to watch and marvellous for the game."
With regards to role models, Brazilian football manager and former player Telê Santana has mentioned in one interview that he had no idols, though, "My greatest satisfaction would be to manage a team such as 1974 Holland. It was a team where you could pick [Johan] Cruyff and place him on the right wing. If I had to put him in the left-wing, he would still play [the same]. I could choose Neeskens, who played both to the right and to the left of the midfield. Thus, everyone played in any position."
Cruyff retired from international football in October 1977, having helped the national team qualify for the upcoming World Cup. Without him, the Netherlands finished runners-up in the World Cup again. Initially, the reason given for missing the 1978 World Cup were political reasons given a military dictatorship was in power in Argentina at that time. In 2008, Cruyff stated to the journalist Antoni Bassas in Catalunya Ràdio that he and his family were subject to a kidnap attempt in Barcelona a year before the tournament, and that this had caused his retirement. "To play a World Cup you have to be 200% okay, there are moments when there are other values in life."
Entry into management with Ajax
After retiring from playing, Cruyff followed in the footsteps of his mentor Rinus Michels, coaching a young Ajax side to victory in the European Cup Winners' Cup in 1987 (1–0). In May and June 1985, Cruyff returned to Ajax again. In the 1985–86 season, the league title was lost to Jan Reker's PSV, despite Ajax having a goal difference of +85 (120 goals for, 35 goals against). In the 1985–86 and 1986–87 seasons, Ajax won the KNVB Cup.
It was during this period as manager that Cruyff was able to implement his favoured team formation—three mobile defenders; plus one more covering space – becoming, in effect, a defensive midfielder (from Rijkaard, Blind, Silooy, Verlaat, Larsson, Spelbos), two "controlling" midfielders (from Rijkaard, Scholten, Winter, Wouters, Mühren, Witschge) with responsibilities to feed the attack-minded players, one second striker (Bosman, Scholten), two touchline-hugging wingers (from Bergkamp, van't Schip, De Wit, Witschge) and one versatile centre forward (from Van Basten, Meijer, Bosman). So successful was this system that Ajax won the Champions League in 1995 playing Cruyff's system – a tribute to Cruyff's legacy as Ajax coach.
Return to Barcelona as manager and building the Dream Team
After having appeared for the club as a player, Cruyff returned to Barcelona for the 1988–89 season, this time to take up his new role as coach of the first team. Before returning to Barcelona, however, Cruyff had already built up plenty of experience as a coach/manager. In the Netherlands, he was strongly praised for the attacking flair he imposed on his sides and also for his commendable work as talent spotter, discovering, for example Marco van Basten and Dennis Bergkamp. With Barça, Cruyff started work with a completely remodelled side after the previous season's scandal, known as the "Hesperia Mutiny" ("El Motí de l'Hespèria" in Catalan). His second in command was Carles Rexach, who had already been at the club for a year. Cruyff immediately had his Barça charges playing his attractive brand of football and the results did not take long in coming. But, this did not just happen with the first team, the youth teams also displayed that same attacking style, something that made it easier for reserve players to make the switch to first team football. As Sid Lowe noted, when Cruyff took over as manager, Barcelona of the late 1980s "were a club in debt and in crisis. Results were bad, performances were worse, the atmosphere terrible and attendances down, while even the relationship between the president of the club Josep Lluís Núñez and the president of the Spanish autonomous community they represented, Jordi Pujol, had deteriorated. It did not work immediately but he [Cruyff] recovered the identity he had embodied as a player. He took risks, and rewards followed."
At Barça, Cruyff brought in players such as Pep Guardiola, José Mari Bakero, Txiki Begiristain, Andoni Goikoetxea, Ronald Koeman, Michael Laudrup, Romário, Gheorghe Hagi and Hristo Stoichkov. With Cruyff, Barça experienced a glorious era. In the space of five years (1989–1994), he led the club to four European finals (two European Cup Winners' Cup finals and two European Cup/UEFA Champions League finals). Cruyff's track record includes one European Cup, four Liga championships, one Cup Winners' Cup, one Copa del Rey and four Supercopa de España.
Under Cruyff, Barça's "Dream Team" won four La Liga titles in a row (1991–1994), and beat Sampdoria in both the 1989 European Cup Winners' Cup final and the 1992 European Cup final at Wembley Stadium. On 10 May 1989, goals from Salinas and López Rekarte led Barcelona to a 2–0 victory against Sampdoria. Over 25,000 supporters travelled to Switzerland to support the team. Cruyff's new Barça took home the club's third Cup Winners' Cup. The European Cup dream became a reality on 20 May 1992 at Wembley in London, when Barça beat Sampdoria. Cruyff's last instruction to his players before they stepped onto the pitch was "Salid y disfrutad" (Spanish for "Go out and enjoy it" or "Go out there and enjoy yourselves"). The match went to extra time after a scoreless draw. In the 111th minute, Ronald Koeman's brilliant free kick clinched Barça's first European Cup victory. Twenty-five thousand supporters accompanied the team to Wembley, while one million turned out on the streets of Barcelona to welcome the European champions home. Victories under Cruyff include a 5–0 La Liga win over Real Madrid in El Clásico at the Camp Nou, as well as a 4–0 win against Manchester United in the Champions League. Barcelona won a Copa del Rey in 1990, the European Super Cup in 1992 and three Supercopa de España, as well as finishing runner-up to Manchester United and Milan in two European finals.
The legacy that Cruyff gave Barcelona, however, was about more than just trophies and records, as he gave Barça a winning mentality and footballing identity/ideology that runs through the club till this day. As Barcelona manager, he laid systemic foundations for a prominent school of football: "Barçajax school" or "Barça–Ajax school", as it has been termed by many. The predominant style of play, now known as tiki-taka or tiqui-taca, had been transferred and improved from Ajax to Barça. It was that which has sustained Barcelona since the days of Vic Buckingham, Rinus Michels and Cruyff (as player) in the early 1970s: they were the ideas of Ajax; Total Football, a predominant belief in possession-oriented football with an attack-minded 3–4–3/4–3–3 team formation, rooted in a high offside line, pressing and the interchange of players on the field. When Cruyff became Barcelona's manager in 1988, he reinforced this footballing philosophy. He was also responsible for introducing "rondos" (a circle of players pass the ball to each other, while one in the centre tries to catch it) into the team's training sessions. About Cruyff's lasting influence on Barça's youth academy La Masia, Guillem Balagué noted, "Cruyff demanded changes at the academy and La Masía began regularly producing the players he wanted as well as providing the kids with a sound education, dual ambitions of the Dutch coach and the club. "The player who has come through La Masía has something different from the rest, it's a plus that only comes from having competed in a Barcelona shirt from the time you were a child", says Guardiola. He is talking not only about the understanding of the game and their ability, but about human qualities. The players who go through La Masía are taught to behave with civility and humility. The theory being that, not only is it pleasant to be unassuming, but also if you are humble, you are capable of learning – and the capacity to learn is the capacity to improve. If you aren't capable of learning you won't improve. Since his arrival, Johan had tried and succeeded in convincing the club to train all the junior teams in the same way as the first eleven – and to favour talent over physique."
Cruyff used to smoke 20 cigarettes a day prior to undergoing double heart bypass surgery in 1991 while he was the coach of Barcelona, after which he gave up smoking. He also led the anti-smoking campaign developed by the Health Department of the Catalan autonomous government. Cruyff juggled a cigarette pack 16 times in an anti-tobacco video sponsored by the Catalan Department of Health.
With 11 trophies, Cruyff was Barcelona's most successful manager, but has since been surpassed by his former player Pep Guardiola, who achieved 15. Cruyff was also the club's longest-serving manager. In his final two seasons, however, he failed to win any trophies, falling-out with chairman Josep Lluís Núñez, who ultimately sacked him as Barcelona coach.
Catalonia national team
On 2 November 2009, Cruyff was named as manager of the Catalonia national team. It was his first managing job for 13 years. On 22 December 2009, they played a friendly game against Argentina, which ended in a Catalonia win, 4–2 at Camp Nou. On 28 December 2010, Catalonia played a friendly against Honduras winning 4–0 at Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys. On 30 December 2011, Catalonia played Tunisia in a goalless draw at the Lluís Companys. In their last game under Cruyff, on 2 January 2013, Catalonia drew with Nigeria at the Cornellà-El Prat, 1–1.
As a technical advisor
Unofficial advisor to Barcelona president Joan Laporta
I chose Frank Rijkaard, Txiki Begiristain and Pep Guardiola because Johan told me to.— Joan Laporta, in an interview (March 2017)
Later in his reign as Barcelona manager, Cruyff suffered a heart attack and was advised to quit coaching by his doctors. He left in 1996, and never took another top job, but his influence did not end there. Though he vowed never to coach again, he remained a vocal football critic and analyst. Cruyff's open support helped candidate Joan Laporta to victory in Barcelona's presidential elections. He continued to be an adviser for him, although he held no official post at Barcelona. Back in an advisory capacity alongside Joan Laporta, he recommended the appointment of Frank Rijkaard in 2003. Again Barca was successful, winning back-to-back league titles and another Champions League crown in 2006.
After two relatively disappointing campaigns, Laporta survived a censure motion and an overhaul was needed. In summer 2008, Rijkaard left the club and even though José Mourinho was pushing for the job at Camp Nou, Cruyff chose Pep Guardiola. Many were quick to point to Guardiola's lack of coaching experience, but Cruyff said, "The biggest test for a coach at a team like Barça is the strength to make decisions and the ability to talk to the press, because they don't help and you have to manage that. After that, it's easy for those who know football. But there aren't many who know."
On 26 March 2010, Cruyff was named honorary president of Barcelona in recognition of his contributions to the club as both a player and manager. In July 2010, however, he was stripped of this title by new president Sandro Rosell.
Return to Ajax as technical director
On 20 February 2008, in the wake of a major research on the ten-year-mismanagement, it was announced that Cruyff would be the new technical director at his boyhood club Ajax, his fourth stint with the Amsterdam club. Cruyff announced in March that he was pulling out of his planned return to Ajax because of "professional difference of opinion" between him and Ajax's new manager, Marco van Basten. Van Basten said that Cruyff's plans were "going too fast", because he was "not so dissatisfied with how things are going now".
On 11 February 2011, Cruyff returned to Ajax on an advisory basis after agreeing to become a member of one of three "sounding board groups". After presenting his plans to reform the club, in particular to rejuvenate the youth academy, the Ajax board of advisors and the CEO resigned on 30 March 2011. On 6 June 2011, he was appointed to the new Ajax board of advisors to implent his reform plans.
The Ajax advisory board made a verbal agreement with Louis van Gaal to appoint him as the new CEO, without consulting Cruyff. Cruyff, a fellow board member, took Ajax to court in an attempt to block the appointment. The court overturned the appointment, saying that the board had "deliberately put Cruyff offside". Due to the ongoing quarrel within the advisory board, Cruyff resigned on 10 April 2012, with Ajax stating that Cruyff will "remain involved with the implementation of his football vision within the club".
Technical advisor for Chivas Guadalajara
Cruyff became a technical advisor for Mexican club Guadalajara in February 2012. Jorge Vergara, the owner of the club, made him the team's sport consultant in response to the losing record Guadalajara sustained in the last few months of 2011. Although signed to a three-year contract, Cruyff's contract was terminated December 2012 after just nine months with the club. Guadalajara said that other members of the team's coaching staff would likely not be terminated.
Ambassador for Belgium and the Netherlands joint bid to host the World Cup
Style of play and views on the game
The total footballer
I loved the Dutch in the '70s, they excited me and Cruyff was the best. He was my childhood hero; I had a poster of him on my bedroom wall. He was a creator. He was at the heart of a revolution with his football. Ajax changed football and he was the leader of it all. If he wanted he could be the best player in any position on the pitch.
An on-field manager: the Dutch team was largely his [Cruyff's] creation. It was Cruyff, the captain, who told midfielder Arie Haan that he would play as libero. (“Are you crazy?” Haan replied. It proved to be a brilliant idea.) It was Cruyff who had groomed striker Johnny Rep as a youngster at Ajax, sometimes screaming at the bench during games, “Rep must warm up!” It wasn't Cruyff's best month in football, but it was the month that most people saw him and the style he had invented. For many, the Cruyff they know is the Cruyff of his only World Cup. He notionally spent the tournament at centre-forward, but he was everywhere. He'd sprint down the left wing and cross with the outside of his right foot. He'd drop into midfield and leave centre-backs marking air. He'd drop back just to scream instructions. Arsene Wenger tells the story of Cruyff telling two midfielders to swap positions, and returning 15 minutes later to tell them to swap again. To Wenger, this showed how hard it was to replicate the fluidity of “total football” if you didn't have Cruyff himself.
Throughout his career, Cruyff became synonymous with the playing style of "Total Football". It is a system where a player who moves out of his position is replaced by another from his team, thus allowing the team to retain their intended organizational structure. In this fluid system, no footballer is fixed in their intended outfield role. The style was honed by Ajax coach Rinus Michels, with Cruyff serving as the on-field "conductor". Space and the creation of it were central to the concept of Total Football. Ajax defender Barry Hulshoff, who played with Cruyff, explained how the team that won the European Cup in 1971, 1972 and 1973 worked it to their advantage: "We discussed space the whole time. Cruyff always talked about where people should run, where they should stand, where they should not be moving. It was all about making space and coming into space. It is a kind of architecture on the field. We always talked about speed of ball, space and time. Where is the most space? Where is the player who has the most time? That is where we have to play the ball. Every player had to understand the whole geometry of the whole pitch and the system as a whole."
The team orchestrator, Cruyff was a creative playmaker with a gift for timing passes. Nominally, he played centre-forward in this system and was a prolific goalscorer, but dropped deep to confuse his markers or moved to the wing to great effect. In the 1974 World Cup final between West Germany and the Netherlands, from the kick-off, the Dutch monopolised ball possession. At the start of the move that led to the opening goal, Cruyff picked up the ball in his own half. The Dutch captain, who was nominally a centre-forward, was the deepest Dutch outfield player, and after a series of passes, he set off on a run from the centre circle into the West German box. Unable to stop Cruyff by fair means, Uli Hoeness brought Cruyff down, conceding a penalty scored by Johan Neeskens. The first German to thus touch the ball was goalkeeper Sepp Maier picking the ball out of his own net. Due to the way Cruyff played the game, he is still referred to as "the total footballer". Former French player Eric Cantona states, "If he wanted he could be the best player in any position on the pitch."
Cruyff was known for his technical ability, speed, acceleration, dribbling and vision, possessing an awareness of his teammates' positions as an attack unfolded. Despite his relatively unimpressive stature and strength, Cruyff's tactical brain and reading of the game were exceptional. "Football consists of different elements: technique, tactics and stamina", he told the journalists Henk van Dorp and Frits Barend, in one of the interviews collected in their book Ajax, Barcelona, Cruyff. "There are some people who might have better technique than me, and some may be fitter than me, but the main thing is tactics. With most players, tactics are missing. You can divide tactics into insight, trust and daring. In the tactical area, I think I just have more than most other players." On the concept of technique in football, Cruyff once said: "Technique is not being able to juggle a ball 1,000 times. Anyone can do that by practising. Then you can work in the circus. Technique is passing the ball with one touch, with the right speed, at the right foot of your team mate." As Van Basten noted, "Johan is so technically perfect that even as a boy he stopped being interested in that aspect of the game. He could do everything when he was 20. That's why he's been very interested in tactics since he was very young. He sees football situations so clearly that he was always the one to decide how the game should be played." In 1997, Dutch journalist Hubert Smeets wrote, "Cruyff was the first player who understood that he was an artist, and the first who was able and willing to collectivise the art of sports." Sports writer David Miller believed that Cruyff was superior to any previous player in his ability to extract the most from others. He dubbed him "Pythagoras in boots" for the complexity and precision of his passes and wrote, "Few have been able to exact, both physically and mentally, such mesmeric control on a match from one penalty area to another."
According to England's 1966 World Cup-winning striker Bobby Charlton, "He [Cruyff] was pretty intelligent, too! A real football brain. He had superb control, he was inventive and he could perform magic with a ball to get himself out of trouble instinctively. He got a lot of goals, and although he was so skilful, he didn't show off – he played to the strengths of the players around him. This side would really keep hold of the ball."
Importance of style and identity as cultural values in football
Winning is just one day, a reputation can last a lifetime. Winning is an important thing, but to have your own style, to have people copy you, to admire you, that is the greatest gift.— Johan Cruyff
He [Cruyff] didn't have preparation methods and he trusted others to take decide how to train, but he did have a playing method. He didn't move onto plan B, as he instead made plan A stronger.
We don't want to win in just any way. This is the Dutch school of Michels, Cruyff, Van Gaal and Rijkaard. At the centre of every decision is the ball; if you treat it well, you will be rewarded. We are a global club, respected and admired, with the mission to entertain.
Cruyff always considered aesthetic and moral aspects of the game; it is not just about winning, but about winning with "right" style/way. He also always spoke highly of entertaining value of the game. The beautiful game, for him, is about as much the entertainment and joy as the results. In thinking of Cruyff, the victory is truly meaningful when it can fully capture the minds and hearts of competitors and spectators. As he once noted, "Quality without results is pointless. Results without quality is boring,". For Cruyff and the Cruyffistas (Cruyff's devout followers), to choose a "right" style of play to win is even more important than winning itself. Cruyff always believed in simplicity. He sees simplicity and beauty as inseparable. "Simple football is the most beautiful. But playing simple football is the hardest thing", as Cruyff once summed up his fundamental philosophy. "How often do you see a pass of forty meters when twenty meters is enough?... To play well, you need good players, but a good player almost always has the problem of a lack of efficiency. He always wants to do things prettier than strictly necessary." Cruyff also perfected a feint now known as the "Cruyff Turn". The feint is an example of the simplicity in Cruyff's football philosophy. It was neither carried out to embarrass the opponent nor to excite the watching crowd, but because Cruyff estimated that it was the simplest method (in terms of effort and risk versus expected result) to beat his opponent. Cruyff looked to pass or cross the ball, then, instead of kicking it, he dragged the ball behind his planted foot with the inside of his other foot, turned through 180 degrees, and accelerated away. As Swedish defender Jan Olsson (a "victim" of the Cruyff Turn at the 1974 World Cup) recalled, "I played 18 years in top football and seventeen times for Sweden but that moment against Cruyff was the proudest moment of my career. I thought I'd win the ball for sure, but he tricked me. I was not humiliated. I had no chance. Cruyff was a genius." With its high effectiveness and unpredictability, the Cruyff Turn remains one of the most commonly used dribbling moves in modern football.
Like Dutch football in general until the mid-1960s, Cruyff's early playing career was considerably influenced by coaching philosophy of British/English coaches such as Vic Buckingham. However, his footballing philosophy also shares aspects with the free-flowing style of South American football (Brazilian football in particular) than traditional British/Anglo-Saxon school of football (with distinctively direct, aggressive, heavily athletic, muscular, physical elements in coaching and playing style). However, as Tim Vickery has pointed out, at the 1974 World Cup Cruyff's Netherlands side "rendered South American football obsolete", with the Dutch comfortably defeating Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil on their way to the final: their willingness to press their opponents denied the South American nations' playmakers the time on the ball they were used to having. The effect of this encounter with Total Football on Argentinian and Brazilian football was significant: in Argentina, César Luis Menotti, who became coach of the national team after the 1974 World Cup exit, sought to combine the traditional Argentine passing game with a faster tempo of play, emphasising relatively small but hard-working players like Osvaldo Ardiles in leading the national team to victory on home soil in the 1978 World Cup. Whilst Brazil attempted to implement a Total Football philosophy without success in 1978 under coach Cláudio Coutinho before reverting to their traditional style in 1982, Brazilian coaches eventually came to believe that they needed to catch up to the Europeans in terms of their physical development, with the gap in physical size being closed by the turn of the millennium: the nature of Brazil's passing game also changed, coming to emphasise quick counter-attacks down the flanks rather than long passing sequences.
The mind-body duality always plays an important role in his footballing philosophy. In Cruyff's words, quoted in Dennis Bergkamp's autobiography Stillness and Speed: My Story, "...Because you play football with your head, and your legs are there to help you. If you don't use your head, using your feet won't be sufficient. Why does a player have to chase the ball? Because he started running too late. You have to pay attention, use your brain and find the right position. If you get to the ball late, it means you chose the wrong position. Bergkamp was never late." For Cruyff, football (the so-called beautiful game) is much an artistic-oriented mind-body game instead of an athletic-oriented physical competition. As he put it, "Every trainer talks about movement, about running a lot. I say don't run so much. Football is a game you play with your brain. You have to be in the right place at the right moment, not too early, not too late." The creativity is always the key element in his footballing philosophy, both as a player and as a manager. Cruyff once compared his more intuitive and individualistic approach with Louis van Gaal's more mechanized and rigid coaching style, "Van Gaal has a good vision on football. But it's not mine. He wants to gel winning teams and has a militaristic way of working with his tactics. I don't. I want individuals to think for themselves and take the decision on the pitch that is best for the situation... I don't have anything against computers, but you judge football players intuitively and with your heart. On the basis of the criteria which are now in use at Ajax [recommended by Van Gaal] I would have failed the test. When I was 15, I could barely kick the ball 15 metres with my left and with the right maybe 20 metres. I would not have been able to take a corner. Besides, I was physically weak and relatively slow. My two qualities were great technique and insight, which happen to be two things you can't measure with a computer."
Cruyff's favourite world XI
In his posthumously released autobiography My Turn: The Autobiography, Cruyff reveals his dream all-time XI in his favourite 3–4–3/4–3–3 formation. Cruyff's side (in the 3–4–3 diamond formation) reads as follows: Lev Yashin (goalkeeper); Ruud Krol (full back/wing-back), Franz Beckenbauer (central defender/libero), Carlos Alberto (full-back/wing-back); Pep Guardiola (holding midfielder/midfield anchor), Bobby Charlton, Alfredo Di Stéfano, Diego Maradona (playmaker/attacking midfielder/second striker); Piet Keizer (winger), Garrincha (winger), and Pelé (centre-forward/striker). For humility, Cruyff didn't put himself in there, but there is a spot for his pupil, Pep Guardiola and his former teammates, Ruud Krol and Piet Keizer. It's a typically attacking line-up but Cruyff explains the selection in detail. "For the ideal squad, I also try and find a formula in which talent is used to the maximum in every case", notes Cruyff. "The qualities of one player have to complement the qualities of another."
Cruyff's 14 rules
In his autobiography, Cruyff explained why he made a set of 14 basic rules, which are displayed at every Cruyff Court in the world, "I read an article once about the building of the pyramids in Egypt. It turns out that some of the numbers coincide completely with natural laws – the position of the moon at certain times and so on. And it makes you think: how is it possible that those ancient people built something so scientifically complex? They must have had something that we don't, even though we always think that we're a lot more advanced than they were. Take Rembrandt and van Gogh: who can match them today? When I think that way, I'm increasingly convinced that everything is actually possible. If they managed to do the impossible nearly five thousand years ago, why can't we do it today? That applies equally to football, but also to something like the Cruyff Courts and school sports grounds. My fourteen rules are set out for every court and every school sports ground to follow. They are there to teach young people that sports and games can also be translated into everyday life."
And he listed his 14 basic rules that include:
- Team player – 'To accomplish things, you have to do them together.';
- Responsibility – 'Take care of things as if they were your own.';
- Respect – 'Respect one another.';
- Integration – 'Involve others in your activities.';
- Initiative – 'Dare to try something new.';
- Coaching – 'Always help each other within a team.';
- Personality – 'Be yourself.';
- Social involvement – 'Interaction is crucial, both in sport and in life.';
- Technique – 'Know the basics.';
- Tactics – 'Know what to do.';
- Development – 'Sport strengthens body and soul.';
- Learning – 'Try to learn something new every day.';
- Play together – 'An essential part of any game.';
- Creativity – 'Bring beauty to the sport.'
Influence and legacy
There may have been better players in the history of the game, though I doubt you can count them on more than one hand. And there may have been better managers, too, if only because his coaching career only lasted 10 and a half years (during which he won 14 trophies, not a bad return). But it's tough to argue that any man has exerted a greater influence – on the pitch and on the bench – on the game as we know it today.
Cruyff is widely seen as an iconic and revolutionary figure in history of Ajax, Barça, and the Oranje. David Winner, the author of Brilliant Orange, wrote about Cruyff's influential career in the football world, "There have been lots of brilliant football figures down the years, but none has been as significant as Johan Cruyff. As a player with Ajax, Barcelona and the Netherlands, he put himself in the pantheon along with greats such as Pelé, Diego Maradona, Ferenc Puskás, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane. As coach at Ajax and Barcelona, he built thrilling sides, nurtured a remarkable number of genius players and influenced many of the most important teams in the world. The all-conquering Spain and Barcelona of Xavi and Andrés Iniesta, brilliant Bayern Munich and Germany of today, AC Milan of the late 1980s and many other memorable champions would have been unthinkable without Cruyff. Once radical and revolutionary, Cruyffian principles have become standard throughout the modern game. His blueprint for developing young players has been copied all over the world."
Referring to the influence of his style of play at Ajax, Barcelona ("Dream Team"), and with the Netherlands ("Total Football"), in addition to the 200 Cruyff Courts he set up around the world for kids to hone their skills, football journalist Graham Hunter states, "Johan Cruyff is, pound for pound, the most important man in the history of football." In his 2011 book, Barça: The Making of the Greatest Team in the World, Hunter writes,
If the 175,000 FC Barcelona members queued up in an orderly line, night after night, to massage his tired feet, cook his dinner and tuck him into bed; if they carried his golf clubs round Montanyá's hilly 18 holes; if they devoted 50 percent of their annual salary to him ... it still wouldn't be near enough to repay the debt those who love this club owe Johan Cruyff. If he had not installed a culture, a philosophy at the Nou Camp, then Lionel Messi would have been rejected and sent home as an underdeveloped 13-year-old kid. Andrés Iniesta wouldn't have been selected.
Dietrich Schulze-Marmeling, author of the German biography of Cruyff ("Der König und sein Spiel: Johan Cruyff und der Weltfußball" or "The King and His Game: Johan Cruyff and the World Football" in English), concluded that the Dutchman was the most influential figure in football history, stating no one made a bigger impact both as a player and as a manager.
Cruyff is sometimes described as a typical kind of 'artist-footballer' or 'footballer-thinker' who considers football, the so-called 'beautiful game', not a purely athletic/physical competition but an artistic-oriented mind-body game. Because of his distinctive footballing views, Cruyff was called 'the Spinoza of football' by some. He believed in a certain style of play, which has the power to put a smile on the people's faces as he described it. When Cruyff, both as a player and as a manager, spoke about football he often mentioned the entertainment value of the game, that there is more to it than winning. In a 2009 interview with Sportmail's Martin Samuel, Arsène Wenger, as a devout follower of Cruyff's footballing ideology, once shared his opinion about football's artistic value,
I believe the target of anything in life should be to do it so well that it becomes an art. When you read some books they are fantastic, the writer touches something in you that you know you would not have brought out of yourself. He makes you discover something interesting in your life. If you are living like an animal, what is the point of living? What makes daily life interesting is that we try to transform it to something that is close to art. And football is like that. When I watch Barcelona, it is art.
Chérif Ghemmour, the author of Cruyff's French biography, called him 'the greatest actor in the history of football' because Cruyff was an exception (possibly the only one) being the man who 'played' outstandingly well multiple roles in the world of football: player, manager, and thinker. For many people, more than just a great footballer or sportsman, Cruyff is also a remarkable cultural figure. Outside football, there were many articles about the applicability of Cruyff's principles and views in the football world into other fields, such as business management and education.
As a player
There was also no rational reason why Dutch football should produce someone like Cruyff at the time that he began kicking around a ball in the East Amsterdam planned neighbourhood of Betondorp... Until he pulled on the Oranje jersey, the Dutch national team had failed to qualify for a major tournament since before World War II. No Dutch side had won European silverware. It was very much a footballing backwater, as likely to spawn a guy who would change the sport forever as Jamaica is to produce the world's greatest downhill skier.
Regarded by many as Europe's first true football superstar, Cruyff is often mentioned alongside the pair widely considered the finest to have played the game, Pele and Maradona. As a player, he greatly helped turn the previously backward and obscure Dutch football (at both club and international level) into a world-class powerhouse in the 1970s. In Simon Kuper's words, "without Cruyff, Holland [Netherlands] wouldn't have had a footballing tradition." Cruyff is always considered to be an indisputable icon in Ajax's history, especially in the club's golden era (1966–1973). He was instrumental in Ajax's transformation from a semi-professional club into a dominant force in European club football. Cruyff inspired Ajax to win the European Cup three times in succession at the beginning of the 1970s before moving to Barcelona in 1973 and helping the club win their first La Liga title in 14 years. In 1974, he led the Netherlands to their first FIFA World Cup final and received the Golden Ball as player of the tournament.
Cruyff was the most famous exponent of the school of football known as Total Football (Totaalvoetbal in Dutch) pionereed by Jack Reynolds and later explored by his protégé Rinus Michels. Being known as "the total footballer", he was also one of the brilliant pioneers of the "false nine" position/role in modern football. In Total Football's heyday (in the early 1970s), Cruyff was truly an 'on-field tactician', an 'on-field manager', or a 'coach-player' at the same time, before the concept of player-coach was at the height of its popularity in professional football during the 1980s and 1990s. As Argentinian World Cup winner Jorge Valdano said of Cruyff, in an interview with Thomas Goubin of SoFoot.com,
Never in my life have I seen a player like Cruyff rule matches. He was the owner of the show. Much more than his team, the referee or the fans. His grip on what was happening on the field was amazing. He was a player, coach and referee at the same time.
Chris McMullan (of FootballFanCast.com) writes that "he [Cruyff] was an anomaly. A man who played football like no one else. He didn't physically play football after all, he played it with his mind. An esoteric pursuit that completely changed the game. A visionary, a departure, a flight of fancy – Cruyff is the ultimate because his contribution to the game wasn't simply personal. He didn't break records, he didn't win golden boots, and only occasionally dazzled with skills. The reason he is a great is because he understood the game like no one else ever did and probably ever will. ... His vision, his ability to see the game in a way that no one else could have was his gift. It showcases his talent, the way he formulated the game in his head and then was able to execute it perfectly with his legs." And he concludes, "There is no one goal, no one clip of football that can encapsulate Johan Cruyff's contribution to football. No one piece of video could ever do that. That's not surprising. Cruyff wasn't a Pele or a Maradona whose careers can be summed up with a series of vines and clips, mountains of goals and skills after another. With Cruyff, you have to think in order to be able to understand it. It doesn't simply happen before your eyes, but it's something altogether more thoughtful, and ultimately more rewarding."
One of very few players who actually have a dribbling move named after them, Cruyff also perfected and popularized a feint now known as the Cruyff Turn (or Cruijff Turn). With its simplicity, effectiveness and unpredictability, the Cruyff Turn remains one of the most commonly used dribbling moves in modern football. He was the first player to win the Ballon d'Or three times, in 1971, 1973 and 1974. His world record move from Ajax to Barcelona in 1973 made him the first player to cost more than two million US dollars.
In 1999, Cruyff was voted European Player of the Century in an election held by the International Federation of Football History & Statistics (IFFHS), and came second behind Pelé in their World Player of the Century poll. He came third in a vote organised by the French magazine France Football consulting their former Ballon d'Or winners to elect their Football Player of the Century. He was elected the third-best footballer of the 20th century in a poll by the World Soccer magazine. Cruyff was also chosen on the World Team of the 20th Century in 1998, the FIFA World Cup Dream Team in 2002, and in 2004 was named in the FIFA 100 list of the world's greatest living players.
In an interview in 2011, when Argentina's 1978 World Cup-winning coach César Luis Menotti was discussing Lionel Messi's place in the pantheon of footballing greatness, he mentioned Cruyff in the same breath as Pelé and Maradona: "There have been four kings of football – Di Stéfano, Pelé, Cruyff and Maradona – and the fifth has not yet appeared. We are awaiting the fifth, and it is sure to be Messi, but so far he is not among the kings. You can't give him the crown after five years." Several notable figures in the world of football such as Arsène Wenger, Michel Platini, Eric Cantona, Marco van Basten, Michael Laudrup, Emilio Butragueño, Rafael Benítez, and Joan Laporta once revealed that they considered Cruyff as their "childhood hero", "idol", or "inspiration". Arrigo Sacchi, Arsène Wenger, Carlos Alberto Torres, Telê Santana, and Marcelo Bielsa were among the great admirers of Cruyff-inspired Dutch school of Total Football. Over the past years, several footballing starlets were dubbed the 'new Johan Cruyff', including Kaká, Luka Modrić, Shinji Kagawa, and Adnan Januzaj.
As a coach/manager
If you look at the greatest players in history, most of them couldn't coach. If you look at the greatest coaches in history, most of them were not great players. Johan Cruyff did both – and in such an exhilarating style.
You can separate Barça's history into BCE (Before Cruyff Era) and CE (Cruyff Era). And, yes, Barça are still, nearly 20 years after he coached his final game for the club, still very much in the Cruyff Era.
Cruyff was regarded by many as one of the few truly great players who made the transition to being a great manager as well. His greatness was summed up by the former Dutch international Johan Neeskens, "If you look at the greatest players in history, most of them couldn't coach. If you look at the greatest coaches in history, most of them were not great players. Johan Cruyff did both – and in such an exhilarating style." Cruyff is undisputedly regarded as one of the greatest and most influential managers in history of the game, despite his top-level coaching career only lasted 11 years with two clubs. In July 2011, website Football Pantheon included him on its list of the top 50 greatest managers of all time. However, Cruyff's coaching legacy was about not just trophies and records but also the style and identity.
As the manager of AFC Ajax, Cruyff was able to implement his favoured team formation (3–4–3): with three mobile defenders; plus one more covering space – becoming, in effect, a defensive midfielder, two "controlling" midfielders with responsibilities to feed the attack-minded players, one second striker, two touchline-hugging wingers and one versatile centre forward. So successful was this system that Ajax won the Champions League in 1995 playing Cruyff's system. The starting point of his system was always the Total Football doctrine of dominating the game with ball possession. When Manchester United lost against Barcelona in the European Cup in 1994 with 4–0, Sir Alex Ferguson remarked about the system Cruyff was using:
That was a big lesson for me. They showed us how important it is to possess the ball. I hadn't understood it until then. I learned how important it is to have control of the ball in European matches.
As Barcelona's manager for nearly a decade, he helped create one of the greatest dynasties in the history of the club and continental football, both in terms of trophies and playing style. When Cruyff took over as manager in 1988, Barcelona were in a situation of severe crisis (the so-called 'Hesperia Mutiny') and debt. In the space of just six years (1988–1994), Cruyff the manager, with his leadership and management skills, turned Barça from the domestic strugglers and perennial underachievers into a truly permanent powerhouse of La Liga and European club football in general. Between 1960 and 1990 the club won just two La Liga titles. In the early 1990s, the rise of Cruyff's Barça also officially marked the end of Real Madrid's era of overwhelming dominance (1960s–1980s) in La Liga history. Jonathan Wilson wrote that "He [Cruyff] was a beautiful, brilliant and inspirational player and that alone would have placed him firmly in the pantheon, but what he did as a coach is unparalleled. When he took over Barcelona in 1988, they had won two league titles in 28 years. Crisis had followed crisis. In the 27 years since, they have won 13 league titles and five Champions Leagues... All with the football of Cruyff." At Barcelona, he assembled the so-called Dream Team with brilliant graduates from La Masia as well as world-class foreign players. He used a mix of Spanish players like Pep Guardiola, José Mari Bakero and Txiki Begiristain while signing international players such as Ronald Koeman, Michael Laudrup, Romário and Hristo Stoichkov. Under Cruyff's guidance, Barcelona won four consecutive La Liga titles from 1991 to 1994 and the club's first European Cup in particular. They beat Sampdoria in both the 1989 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup final and the 1992 European Cup final at Wembley, with a free kick goal from Dutch international Ronald Koeman. They also won a Copa del Rey in 1990, the European Super Cup in 1992 and three Supercopa de España trophies. With 11 trophies, Cruyff became the club's most successful manager at that point. He also became the club's longest consecutive serving manager, serving eight years.
La Masia, Barça's youth academy and talent factory, was among Cruyff's lasting legacy. It was the brainchild of Cruyff. In 1979, he wanted to establish a copy of the Ajax Youth Academy in Barcelona. His proposal was accepted by president Josep Núñez. It was ten years after the inception of the youth program, La Masia, when the young players began to graduate and play for their first team. One of the first graduates, who would later earn international acclaim, was previous Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola. On 11 July 2010, Spain won the World Cup final with eight players from Barcelona; seven were from La Masia, and six of them were in the starting line-up: Gerard Piqué, Carles Puyol, Andrés Iniesta, Xavi, Sergio Busquets, and Pedro. This set a record for the most players to be provided by a club side for a team in a World Cup final. On 10 January 2011, La Masia achieved a record breaking honour becoming the first youth academy to have trained all three finalists for the Ballon d'Or in a single year, with Andrés Iniesta, Lionel Messi and Xavi. On 25 November 2012, for the first time in the club's history, away at Levante's Estadi Ciutat de València, Barcelona played with eleven players formed at La Masia. In an English biography of Pep Guardiola, Guillem Balagué writes, "Cruyff introduced some passing drills into Barça's 'arterial' system. And since then, the rondos have been not just a method but a symbol of the club's playing style: of dominating and never losing the ball. Cruyff blended several ideas and concepts and converted them into a philosophy – the seeds of which were planted throughout a club in urgent need of a footballing identity. Until then, the first team of Barcelona had been comfortably living in a world of excuses and enemies, content with their role as victims when faced with Real Madrid, an institution seen from Catalonia as the club of the Establishment", and adding, "Xavi Hernández describes the style in its purest form: 'I pass the ball and move, or I pass the ball and stay where I am. I make myself available to help you; I look at you. I stop, I keep my head up and look, and, above all, I open up the pitch. Whoever has the ball is running play. That comes from the school of Johan Cruyff and Pep Guardiola. This is Barça.'" On the legacy of Cruyff's football philosophy and the passing style of play he introduced to the club, former Barcelona manager Guardiola stated, "Cruyff built the cathedral, our job is to maintain and renovate it." One of the most famous La Masia graduates, Xavi, said, "He [Cruyff] changed the idiosyncrasy of the club. He introduced the philosophy to keep the ball, to play in triangles, to attack. That philosophy remains true to this day. We're all students of Cruyff and his school of thought."
As an ideologue
Cruyff established a very clear philosophy at Barcelona, he gave birth to that philosophy, he created Barça's DNA.
The predominant style was that which has sustained Barcelona since the arrival of the Ajax coach Rinus Michels in 1971. He brought with him Total Football, a belief in possession football, rooted in a high offside line, pressing and the interchange of players on the field and, in 1973, the great Dutch forward Johan Cruyff. When Cruyff became Barcelona's manager in 1988, he reinforced this philosophy and, although he saw the version of the game practised by his successor as manager, Louis van Gaal, as overly mechanised, the starting point was the same. This was perhaps the greatest coaching seminar in history, and the philosophy it taught was that which had been flowing from Ajax to Barcelona, which believed the same things but had more money, for three decades: what we might perhaps term the Barçajax school.
More than merely a great player or great manager, Cruyff is also regarded as a brilliant thinker who founded and represented a distinctive school of thought in football and a style/way of playing that is predominant today. He is officially considered as the founding father of now famous Barça–Ajax school of football (also known as 'Barçajax school'), with a distinctive footballing philosophy and predominant style of play, that was born in Barcelona but has roots in the 1970s Dutch (Amsterdam) school of Total Football. Generally seen as a highly influential ideological figure in the football world, Cruyff was also a brilliant tactical innovator in history of the game. Writing in his weekly blog for Kicca.com, Spanish international midfielder Juan Mata, a graduate of Real Madrid's youth academy, hails Cruyff's overall footballing vision, "I consider him [Cruyff] the ideological father of the football; the one I try to play like and the one I look to learn from as a spectator whenever I watch a game. The intelligent use of the ball and the spaces, the importance of talent over the physical condition and the understanding of football as a team sport are concepts that I definitely endorse." His influence at Ajax and Barcelona went beyond his playing and managerial spells as he helped shape the footballing philosophy/identity of both clubs. La Masia, Barça's youth academy, was the brainchild of Cruyff. As a prominent graduate from the famed Ajax Youth Academy, he always believed using regularly young home-grown players in first-team squad. He established a unique model at La Masia where the youth players could grow up and have a better chance to be part of the senior team, as they would already be accustomed to the style of play. As former La Masia technical director Pep Segura said of Cruyff: "It is about creating one philosophy, one mentality, from the bottom of the club to the top. Cruyff is the one who started it all. He has been the club's most influential figure. We all have the ability to do certain things, but I would not have been able to build something from scratch like Cruyff did. I learned a lot of things from him. I cannot imagine the current Barcelona without Cruyff's work." The style of play Cruyff introduced at Barcelona came to be known as tiki-taka — characterised by short passing and movement, working the ball through various channels, and maintaining possession — which was adopted by UEFA Euro 2008-, 2010 World Cup- and Euro 2012-winning Spain national team. After decades of being known as the perennial underachievers on the international stage, Spain created one of the most dominant dynasties in international football history between 2008 and 2012. By winning Euro 2012, Spain became the first national team to win three straight world and continental championships and the first to win consecutive Euro titles. According to Xavi, the Barcelona and Spain midfielder at the heart of tiki-taka style of play, "Our model was imposed by [Johan] Cruyff; it's an Ajax model. It's all about rondos [piggy in the middle]. Rondo, rondo, rondo."
I'm a footballing romantic just like Cruyff. We like football that is attractive, attacking and easy on the eye. When you win playing like this it's twice as satisfying. (...) I've always played attacking football: my footballing ideals are very clear and well-defined. I've grown up at Barcelona with that style and that's the one I like. I think it's good to win like that, by taking the initiative right from the off.
I met him, I played against him and we had some exchanges. We shared many ideas and I personally have been influenced by Johan Cruyff and this Dutch generation of football. (...) I have a big respect in general for the Dutch school, and Johan Cruyff especially, because let's not forget he is the product of a school in Holland which was around before him. People like Rinus Michels, who influenced his players too, because this is not an isolated way of thinking. Johan Cruyff had it too - that personality, the character to say 'yes, I believe in this game, and I'm strong and brave enough to apply it on the pitch.' That's what I admired.
Cruyff's footballing principles have significantly influenced the football career of many players and managers, including Frank Rijkaard and Pep Guardiola, two devoted disciples and successors of the Cruyffian (Barça–Ajax) school of football. Without Cruyff operating behind the scenes as the spiritual father of Barça, there could be no Joan Laporta presidency, and Rijkaard and Guardiola, two largely unproven managers, could never have been appointed. Guardiola, a typical product (graduate) of Cruyffian school, who was the manager of Barcelona between 2008 and 2012, stated: "Throughout my career I've simply tried to instil what I learned from Johan Cruyff. He has had the biggest influence on football out of anyone in the world, first as a player and then as a coach. He taught me a lot and you can see that in the fact that so many of his former players are now coaches". Guardiola added, "Johan Cruyff built the cathedral, our job is to maintain and renovate it." In regards to how the football world will remember Cruyff's posthumous legacy, he said, "As a player and as a manager he won a lot of titles, but that's not his legacy. The titles only help. Johan has changed two clubs. Not only did he change Ajax, but also Barcelona – and then the Dutch and Spanish national teams, too. Forget the titles. I've won more titles than him. Messi, for example, is someone runs less and in that he's the best of Cruyff's alumni. ... I would not have been capable of doing what he did at Barcelona. He changed everything. He did it all. What Cruyff's done for football cannot be compared. The statue thing is superficial. He has made us love this sport so openly that there's no way we can forget him."
Jürgen Klinsmann, former head coach of the United States national team, said about Cruyff's overall impact on contemporary football, "More than an athlete, Cruyff was also a great thinker, someone who reinvented the sport... Cruyff has left us now, but his vision and philosophy will hopefully live forever. You can see it in the way Barcelona—one of two clubs Cruyff revolutionized, along with Ajax—still plays every week. It's a style that has admirers around the world. I think a lot of people share that [philosophy] with him. You want to see this type of game, where you set the tone, you control the game, you make it fast, you make it attractive and attacking. He's always been famous for his version of the 4–3–3 with the wide wingers, all technically highly gifted and fast. This is his mark."
The Germany national team that won the 2014 World Cup had deep Cruyffian (via Pep Guardiola) influences. After leaving Barcelona, Guardiola implanted the Cruyffian vision at Bayern Munich. Germany and Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, who completed more passes at the 2014 World Cup than Argentina's Lionel Messi did, incarnates the goalkeeper whom Cruyff dreamt up in the 1960s and 1970s: A footballer in gloves. It had always bothered Cruyff that goalkeepers just stopped shots. He thought it was a waste of a player. As Cruyff once said, "In my teams, the goalie (goalkeeper) is the first attacker and the striker the first defender." He wanted a goalkeeper who could also get involved in the passing. Thus, the goalkeeper effectively becomes the 11th player, like Edwin van der Sar at Ajax or Víctor Valdés at Barcelona.
Cruyff's footballing ideas also influenced considerably Belgian football's coaching revolution leading by the former national technical director Michel Sablon in the early 2000s, with the introduction of the Barçajax-inspired youth system that developed the talents of Belgium's new golden generation.
Named after Cruyff/Cruijff
- Cruyff Turn (Cruijff Turn), a dribbling trick perfected by Cruyff. The trick was famously employed by Cruyff in the 1974 World Cup, first seen in the Dutch match against Sweden and soon widely emulated.
- Johan Cruyff Shield (Johan Cruijff Schaal in Dutch), a football trophy in the Netherlands, also referred to as the Dutch Super Cup.
- Johan Cruyff Award or Dutch Football Talent of the Year (Dutch: Nederlands Voetbal Talent van het Jaar), the title has been awarded in the Netherlands since 1984 for footballers under 21. The award Dutch Football Talent of the Year was replaced by the Johan Cruyff Trophy (Johan Cruijff Prijs in Dutch) in 2003.
- 14282 Cruijff, the asteroid (minor planet) was named after Cruyff. The International Astronomical Union (IAU) officially ratified the naming of Cruijff on 23 September 2010.
- Johan Cruyff Institute, an educational institution, founded by Johan Cruyff, aimed at educating athletes, sport and business professionals in the field of sport management, sport marketing, football business, sponsorship and coaching through a network that currently has five Johan Cruyff Institute (postgraduate and executive education), three Johan Cruyff Academy (graduate education) and five Johan Cruyff College (vocational training).
- Johan Cruyff Foundation, founded in 1997 from the wish of Cruyff to give children the opportunity to play and be active.
- Johan Cruyff Academy, offers elite athletes an opportunity to balance sports with a four-year Bachelor of Business Administration program in Sport Marketing, a learning track of Commercial Economics. There are Johan Cruyff Academy in Amsterdam, Groningen and Tilburg. These Johan Cruyff Academy are part of Dutch universities of applied science.
- Johan Cruyff College, offers elite athletes from all kinds of sports an opportunity to balance sport with vocational education. The programs of the Johan Cruyff College are designed for students who practice sports at the highest levels in The Netherlands, and are delivered in Dutch. There are five Johan Cruyff College in The Netherlands: Amsterdam, Enschede, Groningen, Nijmegen and Roosendaal. Each Johan Cruyff College is part of a Regional Education Centre or ROC, academic centers that are administered by the Dutch government.
- Cruyff Courts, smaller sized football fields suitable for seven-a-side game. A Cruyff Court is a modern alternative to the ancient green public playground, which one could find in a lot of neighborhoods and districts, but that over the years has been sacrificed due to urbanization and expansion.
- Cruyff Classics, a sportswear brand conceived by Johan Cruyff.
- Cruyffian school of football (also known as Barça–Ajax school or Barçajax school), a Total Football-inspired system of training and playing that was laid the foundations by Cruyff (1988–1996) and perfected by Guardiola (2008–2012).
- Cruijffiaans, the name given to the way of speaking, or a collection of sayings, made famous by Cruyff, particularly "one-liners that hover somewhere between the brilliant and the banal".
- Cruyffista (mainly in Spain), a follower/supporter of Cruyff's views (principles) on football development philosophy and sports culture. Some notable Cruyffistas include Joan Laporta, Pep Guardiola, Xavi, Luis Enrique, Ronald Koeman, Frank Rijkaard, Dennis Bergkamp, Roberto Martínez, Óscar García, Quique Setién, Arsène Wenger, and Jürgen Klinsmann.
- Johan Cruyff Stadium (Estadi Johan Cruyff in Catalan) FC Barcelona's newly constructed stadium is named after Cruyff.
- Johan Cruyff Arena (Johan Cruijff Arena in Dutch), previously known as the Amsterdam Arena.
In popular culture
In 2018, Cruyff was added as an icon to the Ultimate Team in EA Sports' FIFA video game FIFA 19, receiving a 94 rating. British sportswriter David Winner's 2000 book on Dutch football, Brilliant Orange, mentions Cruyff frequently. In the book, Dutch football's ideas (in particular Cruyff's) effectively related to the use of space in Dutch painting and Dutch architecture.
In 1976, the Italian-language documentary film Il profeta del gol was directed by Sandro Ciotti. The documentary narrates the successes of Johan Cruyff's football career in the 1970s. In 2004, the documentary film Johan Cruijff – En un momento dado ("Johan Cruijff – At Any Given Moment") was made by Ramon Gieling and charts the years Cruyff spent at Barcelona, the club where he had the most profound effect in both a footballing and cultural sense. In 2014, the Catalan-language documentary film L'últim partit: 40 anys de Johan Cruyff a Catalunya was directed by Jordi Marcos, celebrating 40 years since Johan Cruyff signed for Barcelona in August 1973.
British rock band The Hours recorded a song called "Love You More" in 2007. In it lead singer Antony Genn described his partner as "Better than Elvis in his '68 comeback, Better than Cruyff in '74..", In an interview with German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung in 2008, when German Chancellor Angela Merkel was discussing the upcoming Euro 2008, she praised Cruyff's performance at the 1974 World Cup: "Cruyff really impressed me. I think I wasn't the only one in Europe." Cruyff stood out at the 1974 World Cup in West Germany which Merkel watched from her then home country East Germany.
In February 2014, President of Israel Shimon Peres, at his residence in Jerusalem, welcomed Cruyff and praising his foundation's dedication to peace, "People remember very well that not only were you an outstanding football player but that you gave football a social content, you made it an educational process. You are a role model. Football is one of the great ways to make peace among people. When a player like you arrives in our country the eyes of the children light up—Jewish, Arab or Muslim."
In the Netherlands, and to some extent Spain, Cruyff is famous for his one-liners that usually hover between brilliant insight and the blatantly obvious. They are famous for their Amsterdam dialect and incorrect grammar, and often feature tautologies and paradoxes. In Spain, his most famous statement is "En un momento dado" ("In any given moment"). The quote has been used for the title of a 2004 documentary about Cruyff's life: Johan Cruijff – En un momento dado. In the Netherlands, his most famous one-liner is "Ieder nadeel heb z'n voordeel" ("Every disadvantage has its advantage") and his way of expressing himself has been dubbed "Cruijffiaans". Cruyff rarely limited himself to a single line though, and in a comparison with the equally oracular but reserved football manager Rinus Michels, Kees Fens equated Cruyff's monologues to experimental prose, "without a subject, only an attempt to drop words in a sea of uncertainty ... there is no full stop".
He had a small hit (number 21 in the charts) in the Netherlands with "Oei Oei Oei (Dat Was Me Weer Een Loei)". Upon arriving in Barcelona, the Spanish branch of Polydor decided to release the single in Spain as well, where it was rather popular.
Cruyff suffered a heart attack (like his father who died of a heart attack when he was 12) in his early forties. He used to smoke 20 cigarettes a day prior to undergoing double heart bypass surgery in 1991 while he was the coach of Barcelona. Cruyff was forced to immediately give up smoking, and he made an anti-smoking advertisement for the Catalan Department of Health. In the TV spot, Cruyff is dressed like a manager in a long trench coat combined with collared shirt and tie. He juggled a cigarette pack 16 times – using feet, thighs, chest, shoulder, and head like holding up a ball – before volleying it away. Throughout the commercial he speaks in Catalan about the dangers of smoking.
In November 2003, Cruyff invoked legal proceedings against the publisher Tirion Uitgevers, over its photo book Johan Cruyff de Ajacied ("Johan Cruijff the Ajax player"), which used photographs by Guus de Jong. Cruyff was working on another book, also using De Jong's photographs, and claimed unsuccessfully that Tirion's book violated his trademark and portrait rights.
In 2004, a public poll in the Netherlands to determine the greatest Dutchman ("De Grootste Nederlander") named Cruyff the 6th-greatest Dutchman of all time, with Cruyff finishing above Rembrandt (9th) and Vincent van Gogh (10th). In 2010, the asteroid (minor planet) 14282 Cruijff (2097 P-L) was named after him. The International Astronomical Union (IAU) officially ratified the naming of Cruijff on 23 September 2010. After Josef Bican and Ferenc Puskás, Cruyff is the third football player to have an asteroid named after him.
There were many nicknames Cruyff had in the Netherlands and Spain, including "Jopie", "Nummer 14", "Het orakel van Betondorp" (the prophet of Betondorp), "El Salvador" (The Saviour), and "El Flaco" (The Skinny One). One of his best known nicknames was "El Salvador" or "The Saviour", a nickname he received during the 1973–74 season and again in 1988, when he helped terminate crisis eras in Barça's history.
Outside football, Cruyff's favourite sport (and hobby) was golf. In the 1970s, Cruyff loved to collect cars. In the Sandro Ciotti's documentary film Il Profeta del gol (1976), Cruyff said, "I like to drive for the 20 km that separate the training camp from my house, it relaxes me. I love the cars."
In 1979, Cruyff was reaching the twilight of his career in Barcelona. He began to imagine creating a range of footwear himself to challenge the technical and luxury qualities of those on the market beforehand. After a few years of trying and failing to encourage big sportswear brands to take his idea seriously, after all this was quite an unusual ambition of a professional sportsman at the time. Eventually he combined with his close friend, Italian designer Emilio Lazzarini, and using his knowledge he set out to create a technical shoe which managed to balance functionality with elegance. Initially the range was filled with "luxury" indoor football shoes, but they quickly became used as a fashion shoe due to their attractive appearance. And so Cruyff Classics brand was born.
Cruyff is the author/co-author of several books (in Dutch and Spanish) about his football career, in particular his principles and view about the football world. He also wrote his weekly columns for El Periódico (Barcelona-based newspaper) and De Telegraaf (Amsterdam-based newspaper).
Cruyff was multilingual; British football writer Brian Glanville wrote: "his intelligence off the field as well as on it was quite remarkable. How well I remember seeing Cruyff surrounded by journalists from all over the world in 1978 to whose questions he replied almost casually in a multiplicity of languages. Not only Dutch, but English, French, Spanish and German."
The Johan Cruyff Foundation has provided over 200 Cruyff Courts in 22 countries, including Israel, Malaysia, Japan, United States and Mexico, for children of all backgrounds to play street football together. UEFA praised the foundation for its positive effect on young people, and Cruyff received the UEFA Grassroots Award on the opening of the 100th court in late 2009. In 1999, he founded the Johan Cruyff Institute with a program for 35 athletes as part of the Johan Cruyff University of Amsterdam and has since become a global network.
—Johan Cruyff in his My Turn: The Autobiography
Born in the heavily damaged post–World War II Netherlands, Cruyff came from a humble background and lost his father as a child. This had a great influence on his future career and character. He was renowned for his strong personality. His character, both in and beyond the footballing world, was much described as the complicated combination of an idealist, individualist, libertarian, collectivist, romantic, purist, pragmatist, rebel, and even despot. Dutch sportswriter Johan Derksen, a close friend of Cruyff, once said of him, "Johan is absolutely religious, though he never goes to church."
In August 1973, Ajax players voted for Piet Keizer to be the team's captain in a secret ballot, ahead of Cruyff. And Cruyff decided his time in Amsterdam had come to an end. He joined Barcelona just weeks later, two years before the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco died, maintaining to the European press corps en route that he chose Barcelona over rivals Real Madrid because he could never join a club "associated with Franco". As he recalled in a documentary on TV3 channel, "I remember my move to Spain was quite controversial. ... The president of Ajax wanted to sell me to Real Madrid, ... Barcelona weren't at the same level as Madrid football wise, but it was a challenge to play for a Catalan club. Barcelona was more than a club." At the end of the 1982–83 season, Ajax decided not to offer Cruyff a new contract. This angered Cruyff and he responded by signing for Ajax's archrivals Feyenoord. Cruyff's season at Feyenoord was a successful one in which the club won the Eredivisie for the first time in a decade, part of a league and KNVB Cup double.
Cruyff's strong personality played a role in the struggle between Puma and Adidas, the two rival brands that were born from the divisions between the two Dassler brothers. Cruyff was a fan of Puma's King boots and by 1974 had signed a sponsorship deal with the German sportswear and equipment supplier. At the 1974 World Cup, he was under contract with Puma in a deal that prohibited him from promoting other sports brands. As the tournament approached, Cruyff flatly refused to wear Adidas's trademark three black stripes on his No. 14 jersey. The Netherlands national football association had little choice but to honor the wishes of their best player, and Dutch officials eventually persuaded Adidas to design a separate jersey just for Cruyff, with just two stripes running along the sleeves.
Jersey number 14
Until the 1990s, players did not have fixed numbering — except in some short competitions like the World Cup or European Championship where players were given a designated number. The starting players usually wore jerseys from 1 to 11 and the substitutes from 12 to 16. Cruyff's usual number was 9.
On 30 October 1970, Cruyff was coming back from a long-term injury to play Ajax's bitter rivals PSV. However, in the locker room before the match, teammate Gerrie Muhren could not find his number 7 jersey. Cruyff offered his shirt to Muhren and went to the basket to pick another one at random. It happened to be the number 14. Ajax won 1–0 and Cruyff suggested they keep the same numbers to the following game — according to Muhren, in an interview to Voetbal International, it was a form to challenge the Dutch Football Association. From then on, Cruyff kept using the number 14 for Ajax and Netherlands national team when he was allowed to.
In the 1974 FIFA World Cup, Netherlands' head coach Rinus Michels wanted his squad to wear numbers alphabetically. As Cruyff was the first player on the roster, he would be number 1, but he refused and insisted on wearing his lucky number 14. Forward Ruud Geels ended up with the number 1 shirt while goalkeeper Jan Jongbloed played as the number 8.
Although the number 14 had become a trademark for Cruyff, he could be seen wearing his old number 9 on other occasions, like during most of his career for FC Barcelona, because the league demanded starting players were numbered 1 to 11, or for Netherlands in the 1976 European Championship. In 2007, Ajax retired Cruyff's number 14.
Relations with others
Cruyff remained a controversial figure throughout his life. His relationships with Ajax, Barça, and KNVB (Royal Dutch Football Association) were turbulent for some time, especially in his later years. In his native Netherlands, there was always a love–hate relationship between Cruyff and his fellow countrymen. There was a long-standing feud between Cruyff and Louis van Gaal, though never confirmed publicly by both sides. He also often criticised José Mourinho for his defensive-based coaching philosophy, stated, "José Mourinho is a negative coach. He only cares about the result and doesn't care much for good football." As David Winner notes, "Cruyff has had many enemies and critics over the years." He has been accused of being arrogant, greedy, intolerant, despotic, "too idealistic, too stubborn, insufficiently interested in defending and simply too difficult a personality. He loves an argument, and his conflict-model method of working can be bruising." And Winner concludes that, "With his belief in the "conflict model" – the idea that you got the best out of people by provoking fights and thereby raising levels of excitement and adrenaline – Cruyff made enemies almost as easily as he generated delight. Battles with club presidents and teammates led to ruptures, especially at Ajax and Barcelona, the two clubs that defined his career."
Cruyff was also well known for his vocal criticism and uncompromising attitude. A perfectionist, he always had a strong opinion about things and was loyal to his principles even more than anything else in the football world. As an outspoken and critical visionary, he strongly criticized the Netherlands' style of play at the 2010 World Cup. "Who am I supporting? I am Dutch but I support the football that Spain is playing. Spain's style is the style of Barcelona... Spain, a replica of Barça, is the best publicity for football", Cruyff wrote in his weekly column for the Barcelona-based newspaper El Periodico, prior to the final match.
Until the early 2010s, Barcelona had mounting debts, built up over the previous few seasons, a situation that forced the club to push through an emergency bailout loan of €150 million. The Qatar Foundation, run by Sheikha Mozah, became the first shirt sponsor in Barcelona's 111-year history. The club had previously used UNICEF's logo on the front of its shirts. In 2011, incoming Barcelona president Sandro Rosell agreed the deal for a period of five seasons, with the club receiving €30 million each year, starting on 1 July 2011 and running until 30 June 2016, plus bonuses for trophies won that could total €5m. Writing in his El Periodico column, Cruyff slammed the deal, "We are a unique club in the world, no one has kept their jersey intact throughout their history, yet have remained as competitive as they come... We have sold this uniqueness for about six percent of our budget. I understand that we are currently losing more than we are earning. However, by selling the shirt it shows me that we are not being creative, and that we have become vulgar."
In an interview with The Guardian's Donald McRae in 2014, Cruyff spoke about football's lost values and how money had eroded the game's purity, "Football is now all about money. There are problems with the values within the game. This is sad because football is the most beautiful game. We can play it in the street. We can play it everywhere. Everyone can play it whether you're tall or small, fat or thin. But those values are being lost. We have to bring them back."
At the wedding of Ajax teammate Piet Keizer, on 13 June 1967, Cruyff met his future wife, Diana Margaretha "Danny" Coster (b. 1949). They started dating, and on 2 December 1968, at the age of 21, he married Danny. Her father was Dutch businessman Cor Coster who also happened to be Cruyff's agent. He was also credited with engineering Cruyff's move to FC Barcelona in 1973. The marriage is said to have been happy for almost 50 years. Contrary to his well-known strong personality and superstar status, Cruyff led a relatively quiet private life beyond the world of football. A highly principled, strong-minded and devoted family man, Cruyff's football career, both as a player and as a manager, was considerably influenced by his family, in particular his wife Danny. He and Danny had three children together: Chantal (16 November 1970), Susila (27 January 1972), and Jordi (9 February 1974). The family has lived in Barcelona since 1973, with a six-year interruption from December 1981 to January 1988 when they lived in Vinkeveen, the Netherlands.
In 1977, Cruyff announced his decision to retire from international football at the age of 30, despite still being lean and wiry, after helping the country qualify for the 1978 World Cup. This move, shrouded in mystery and met with disbelief back in late 1977, was only finally stripped of its mystique in 2008, when Cruyff explained his decision in an interview with Catalunya Radio. It was while still living in Barcelona as a player in late 1977, Cruyff and his family became the victims of an armed attacker who forced his way into his flat in Barcelona. And the man who was then the ultimate football superstar was confronted with the choice between family values and a highly promising World Cup glory at the end of his international career. But for Cruyff, family comes first. In the interview with Catalunya Radio, he said that the attempted kidnap was the reason he decided not to go to the World Cup in Argentina in 1978. As he recalled, "You should know that I had problems at the end of my career as a player here and I don't know if you know that someone [put] a rifle at my head and tied me up and tied up my wife in front of the children at our flat in Barcelona. The children were going to school accompanied by the police. The police slept in our house for three or four months. I was going to matches with a bodyguard. All these things change your point of view towards many things. There are moments in life in which there are other values. We wanted to stop this and be a little more sensible. It was the moment to leave football and I couldn't play in the World Cup after this."
Cruyff named his third child after the patron saint of Catalonia, St Jordi, commonly known in English as Saint George of Lydda. This was seen as a provocative gesture towards the then Spanish dictator General Franco, who had made all symbols of Catalan nationalism illegal. Cruyff had to fly his son back to the Netherlands to register his birth as the name "Jordi" had been banned by the Spanish authorities. Cruyff's decision to go to such great lengths to support Catalan nationalism is part of the reason he is a hero to Barcelona supporters and Catalan nationalists.
Jordi Cruyff has played for teams such as Barcelona (while father Johan was manager), Manchester United, Alavés and Espanyol. His grandson, Jesjua Angoy, plays at Dayton Dutch Lions. The younger Cruyff wears "Jordi" on his shirt to distinguish himself from his famous father, which also reflects the common Spanish practice of referring to players by given names alone or by nicknames. Pep Guardiola, Ronald Koeman, and Joan Laporta were among Cruyff's closest friends. Estelle Cruijff, a niece of Cruyff, was married to Ruud Gullit for 12 years (2000–2012), and their son Maxim Gullit plays for Jong AZ.
Cruyff once described himself as "not religious" and criticized the practices of devoutly Catholic Spanish players: "In Spain all 22 players make the sign of the cross before a game; if it worked, every game would be a tie." That widely quoted statement earned him a place on lists of the world's top atheist athletes. But in the 1990s, Cruyff told the Dutch Catholic radio station RKK/KRO that as a child he attended Sunday school, where he was taught about the Bible, and that while he didn't go to church as an adult, he believed "there's something there." The Dutch evangelical broadcaster EO posted an interview conducted before Cruyff's death with his friend Johan Derksen, the editor-in-chief of Voetbal International magazine. "People don't know the real Johan Cruyff", Derksen said. "I have on occasion had beautiful conversations with him about faith, because we both went to the same kind of schools and learned about the Bible. And it stays with you." Cruyff also expressed his faith in God in an interview with Hanneke Groenteman on Sterren op het Doek.
Cruyff is also said to have had an attachment to Jewish culture, having grown up in the Amsterdam municipal Betondorp populated by a sizeable Jewish community, and more prevalently because of his lifelong connections with Ajax Amsterdam – a football club with such strong Dutch Jewish influences that some have even dubbed it a "Jewish club".
- "Every trainer talks about movement, about running a lot. I say don't run so much. Football is a game you play with your brain. You have to be in the right place at the right moment, not too early, not too late."
- "In my teams, the goalie is the first attacker, and the striker the first defender."
- "Every disadvantage has its advantage."
- "If you can't win, make sure you don't lose."
- "Quality without results is pointless. Results without quality is boring."
- "Winning is an important thing, but to have your own style, to have people copy you, to admire you, that is the greatest gift."
- "Playing football is very simple but playing simple football is the hardest thing there is"
Illness, death and tributes
Football has lost a man who did more to make the beautiful game beautiful than anyone in history.
Cruyff had always been a heavy smoker from his boyhood until he underwent an emergency bypass operation in 1991. After giving up smoking following the surgery, he took to sucking lollipops when watching games. He featured in a Catalan health department advert, saying, "Football has given me everything in life, tobacco almost took it all away." After more heart trouble in 1997, he vowed never to coach again (until 2009), though he remained a vocal football critic and analyst.
In October 2015 he was diagnosed with lung cancer. After the news broke, tributes poured in for Cruyff, with all Eredivisie games featuring a round of applause on 14 minutes, Cruyff's former shirt number. Ahead of their league game against Eibar at the Camp Nou (25 October 2015), Barcelona players showed their support for Cruyff by wearing orange T-shirts bearing the words 'Ànims Johan' (Catalan for 'Get well soon Johan'). Writing in his weekly De Telegraaf column, Cruyff admitted, "Often the media are an additional tax, but the last week that has been different. The way in which a reply is posted via a variety of media in my situation, was emotional and heartwarming. I am extremely proud of the appreciation shown by all responses." On his condition, Cruyff added, "Meanwhile, we have to wait. It's really annoying that it has been leaked so quickly, because the only thing I know now is that I have lung cancer. No more. Because the investigation is ongoing."
In mid February 2016, he stated that he had been responding well to chemotherapy and was "winning" his cancer battle. On 2 March 2016, he was in attendance on the second day of winter testing at the Circuit de Catalunya just outside Barcelona and visited Dutch Formula One driver Max Verstappen. Cruyff appeared to be in good spirits and it is believed this was the last time he was seen in public. On the morning of 24 March 2016, in a clinic in Barcelona, Cruyff died at the age of 68, surrounded by his wife, children, and grandchildren. His lung cancer had metastasized to his brain and a week before his death he had begun to lose his ability to speak as well as movement on his left side. He was cremated in Barcelona within 24 hours following his death. A private ceremony was held, attended only by his wife (Danny), children (Chantal, Susila, and Jordi), and grandchildren.
Today football has lost one of its best ever players and ambassadors. I am very sad because Johan was my childhood hero, my idol and my friend.
Cruyff's death shocked the football world. Within a week after his death, there were numerous individuals (including players and managers) and organizations (including clubs) paying tribute to him, especially via social media. Thousands of Barcelona fans passed through the memorial to Cruyff, opened inside the Camp Nou stadium, to pay tribute. Cruyff's greatness was even respected by his rivals. Former Barcelona president Sandro Rosell, who did not have a good relationship with Cruyff, was among the early visitors to the memorial. Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez led a Real Madrid delegation to the memorial, including former players Emilio Butragueño and Amancio Amaro. Former Real Madrid president Ramón Calderón said of Cruyff: "He can be seen as a revolutionary, a dreamer, a visionary, and an innovator who changed the idea of a game in which strength was the primary consideration to another one based, and focused, on ability and technique, giving birth to what has been called "tiki-taka." He used to say that football should be played with the brain... I met him a few times after he left football, always playing golf, a sport he loved. He would always talk about football in the same way he did when he was playing and coaching—with plenty of passion and excitement. A legend has gone but he has left an important legacy."
A friendly match between the Netherlands and France was held on the day after Cruyff's death. The play (at the Amsterdam Arena) was stopped in the 14th minute as players, staff, and supporters gave a minute's applause for Cruyff, who wore the number 14 shirt for his country. Mascots from both teams took to the pitch wearing Netherlands national team shirts adorned with Cruyff's number 14 on the front, while there were numerous banners in the spectators' stands bearing the simple message, "Johan Bedankt" ("Thank you Johan").
Ahead of the El Clásico against Real Madrid (2 April 2016), Barcelona announced plans for five special tributes to the late club legend:
- 1.) A mosaic formed by the 90,000 fans inside Camp Nou carrying the words 'Gràcies Johan' (Catalan for 'Thank you, Johan')
- 2.) The words 'Gràcies Johan' would replace the World Club champions badge on the front of the Barcelona players' shirts
- 3.) Children wearing T-shirts with the words 'Gràcies Johan' would accompany Barça's and Madrid's players on to the pitch at the beginning of the game. The logo of the Johan Cruyff Foundation would feature on the back of the T-shirts
- 4.) The presence of all eight living (past and present) Barcelona presidents: Agustí Montal Galobart, Raimon Carrasco, Josep Lluís Núñez, Joan Gaspart, Enric Reyna, Joan Laporta, Sandro Rosell and Josep Maria Bartomeu
- 5.) A commemorative video honouring Cruyff's life would be shown on the big screens at Camp Nou stadium. An open letter signed by Barcelona's eight current and previous presidents read: "With Cruyff we began to play differently, breaking new ground and innovating. With him, both as a player and coach, we established our own style on the field, what is traditionally known as 'total football,' the Barça style everyone admires. The arrival of Cruyff altered the history of Barça. He contributed decisively to a change of mentality. He got us to keep our heads up and to see that no opponent was invincible, that we could attain what we were aiming for. Cruyff was an icon who explained, better than anyone, that Barça is more than a club. ... Without Cruyff's unabashed and non-conformist spirit, we quite possibly wouldn't have become the greatest club in the world."
Former Israeli president and prime minister Shimon Peres paid tribute to Cruyff as a cultural figure and writing on Facebook: "Johan was more than just a great soccer player. He was a role model who promoted world peace. He brought the values of education into the game of football and proved that on the field, everyone is equal – Jews, Muslims, and Christians – that running fast and playing well will lead to victory in spite of discrimination and racism."
|Los Angeles Aztecs||1979||NASL||22||14||—||4||1||26||15|
- 1.^ Includes KNVB Cup and Copa del Rey.
- 2.^ Includes European Cup and Fairs Cup.
- 3.^ Includes Intertoto Cup, UEFA Super Cup, Intercontinental Cup and NASL Play Offs.
|1||7 September 1966||Rotterdam, Netherlands||Hungary||2–0||2–2||UEFA Euro 1968 qualifying|
|2||13 September 1967||Amsterdam, Netherlands||East Germany||1–0||1–0|
|3||26 March 1969||Rotterdam, Netherlands||Luxembourg||1–0||4–0||FIFA World Cup 1970 qualifying|
|4||2 December 1970||Amsterdam, Netherlands||Romania||1–0||2–0||Friendly|
|6||24 February 1971||Rotterdam, Netherlands||Luxembourg||3–0||6–0||UEFA Euro 1972 qualifying|
|8||17 November 1971||Eindhoven, Netherlands||Luxembourg||1–0||8–0|
|11||1 December 1971||Amsterdam, Netherlands||Scotland||1–0||2–1||Friendly|
|12||16 February 1972||Athens, Greece||Greece||3–0||5–0|
|14||30 August 1972||Prague, Czechoslovakia||Czechoslovakia||1–0||2–1|
|15||1 November 1972||Rotterdam, Netherlands||Norway||4–0||9–0||FIFA World Cup 1974 qualifying|
|17||2 May 1973||Amsterdam, Netherlands||Spain||3–2||3–2||Friendly|
|18||22 August 1973||Iceland||2–0||5–0||FIFA World Cup 1974 qualifying|
|20||29 August 1973||Deventer, Netherlands||Iceland||2–0||8–1|
|22||12 September 1973||Oslo, Norway||Norway||1–0||2–1|
|23||26 June 1974||Gelsenkirchen, West Germany||Argentina||1–0||4–0||FIFA World Cup 1974|
|25||3 July 1974||Dortmund, Germany||Brazil||2–0||2–0|
|26||4 September 1974||Stockholm, Sweden||Sweden||1–0||5–1||Friendly|
|27||25 September 1974||Helsinki, Finland||Finland||1–1||3–1||UEFA Euro 1976 qualifying|
|29||20 November 1974||Rotterdam, Netherlands||Italy||2–1||3–1|
|31||22 May 1976||Brussels, Belgium||Belgium||2–1||2–1|
|32||13 October 1976||Rotterdam, Netherlands||Northern Ireland||2–1||2–2||FIFA World Cup 1978 qualifying|
|33||26 March 1977||Antwerp, Belgium||Belgium||2–0||2–0|
|Ajax||6 June 1985||4 January 1988||117||86||10||21||73.50|
|Barcelona||4 May 1988||18 May 1996||430||250||97||83||58.14|
|Catalonia||2 November 2009||2 January 2013||4||2||2||0||50.00|
- Eredivisie: 1965–66, 1966–67, 1967–68, 1969–70, 1971–72, 1972–73, 1981–82, 1982–83
- KNVB Cup: 1966–67, 1969–70, 1970–71, 1971–72, 1982–83
- European Cup: 1970–71, 1971–72, 1972–73
- European Super Cup: 1973
- Intercontinental Cup: 1972
- La Liga: 1990–91, 1991–92, 1992–93, 1993–94
- Copa del Rey: 1989–90
- Supercopa de España: 1991, 1992, 1994
- European Cup/UEFA Champions League: 1991–92
- UEFA Cup Winners' Cup: 1988–89
- UEFA Super Cup: 1992
- Ballon d'Or: 1971, 1973, 1974; Third place: 1975
- Eredivisie top scorer: 1966–67, 1971–72
- KNVB Cup top scorer: 1966–67, 1967–68, 1969–70, 1970–71, 1971–72
- European Cup top scorer: 1971–72
- Dutch Footballer of the Year: 1968, 1972, 1984
- Dutch Sportsman of the Year: 1973, 1974
- FIFA World Cup Golden Ball: 1974
- FIFA World Cup All-Star Team: 1974
- IOC European Footballer of the Season: 1970/71, 1972/73
- Don Balón Award: 1977, 1978
- North American Soccer League MVP: 1979
- FIFA World Cup All-Time Team: 1994
- FIFA World Cup Dream Team: 2002
- World Team of the 20th Century
- FIFA 100
- World Soccer's Greatest XI of All Time: 2013
- World Soccer's The Greatest Players of the 20th Century: #3
- France Football's Player of the Century: #3
- IFFHS European Player of the Century: #1
- IFFHS World Player of the Century: #2
- UEFA Golden Jubilee Poll(2004):#3
- IFFHS#Best European Player 1956-1990:#3
- FourFourTwo100 greatest footballers ever:#4 
- IFFHS Legends
- World Soccer Awards Manager of the Year: 1987
- Don Balón Award for Coach of the Year: 1991, 1992
- Onze d'Or for Coach of the Year: 1991, 1992
- European Coach of the Season: 1991–92
- FourFourTwo 3rd Greatest Manager of All Time: 2020
- France Football 4th Greatest Manager of All Time: 2019
- World Soccer 29th Greatest Manager of All Time: 2013
Orders and further honours
- In 1974, Cruyff was appointed Knight of the Order of Orange-Nassau.
- In 2002, Cruyff was promoted to Officer of the Order of Orange-Nassau.
- In November 2003, to celebrate UEFA's Jubilee, he was selected as the Golden Player of the Netherlands by the KNVB as their most outstanding player of the past 50 years.
- On 22 May 2006, Cruyff was presented a Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to football by Laureus in their annual World Sports Awards.
- In April 2016, Cruyff was posthumously awarded the Laureus Spirit of Sport Award, which was accepted by his son Jordi.
- Cruyff received a lifetime achievement award from the KNVB in August 2006.
- In 2006, Cruyff played in Dennis Bergkamp's Testimonial as a second-half substitute with Ajax.
- On 18 April 2007, Ajax decided to retire the number 14 shirt in honour of Cruyff and in celebration of his birthday.
- In 2010, Cruyff was presented the FIFA Order of Merit (highest honour awarded by FIFA) for his significant contribution to football.
- In 2010, Cruyff entered in the FICTS "Hall of Fame" and was awarded with "Excellence Guirlande D'Honneur".
- In 2013, Cruyff was recognised with the UEFA President's Award
- On 29 March 2016, the Prime Minister of Spain awarded Cruyff with the Gold Medal of the Royal Order of Sporting Merit.
- On 25 October 2017, the Amsterdam Arena was renamed Johan Cruyff Arena.
- Barend, Frits; Van Dorp, Henk: Ajax, Barcelona, Cruijff: Het ABC van een eigenzinnige maestro. (Amsterdam: Uitgeverij Vassallucci, 1997) [in Dutch]
- Barend, Frits; Van Dorp, Henk: Ajax, Barcelona, Cruyff: The ABC of an Obstinate Maestro. Translated from the Dutch by David Winner and Lex Van Dam. (London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 1999)
- Burns, Jimmy: Barça: A People's Passion. (London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2011)
- Burns, Jimmy: La Roja: How Soccer Conquered Spain and How Spanish Soccer Conquered the World. (New York: Nation Books, 2012)
- Butter, Jan-Cees; van der Vlies, Ferenc: Cruijff & Johan: Herinneringen aan nummer 14. (Amsterdam: Uitgeverij Water, 2019) [in Dutch]
- Casanovas, Josep María: Cruyff, una vida por el Barça. (Barcelona: Ediciones B, 1973) [in Spanish]
- Cruijff, Johan; de Boer, Sytze: Johan Cruijff uitspraken. Een biografie in citaten. (Haarlem: Uitgeverij Schuyt & Co., 2013) ISBN 9789081797412 [in Dutch]
- Cruijff, Johan; de Groot, Jaap: Johan Cruijff – Mijn voetbal: Handboek voor winnaars. (Amsterdam: Uitgeverij Nieuw Amsterdam, 2017) [in Dutch]
- Cruijff, Johan; de Groot, Jaap: Johan Cruijff – Mijn verhaal: De autobiografie. (Amsterdam: Uitgeverij Nieuw Amsterdam, 2018) [in Dutch]
- Cruyff, Johan: Mis futbolistas y yo. (Barcelona: Ediciones B, 1993) ISBN 84-406-3999-6 [in Spanish]
- Cruyff, Johan: Me gusta el fútbol. (Barcelona: RBA Libros, 2002) [in Spanish]
- Cruyff, Johan: Fútbol: Mi filosofía. (Barcelona: Ediciones B, 2012) [in Spanish]
- Cruyff, Johan; de Groot, Jaap: My Turn: The Autobiography. (London: Macmillan, October 2016)
- Ghemmour, Chérif: Johan Cruyff, génie pop et despote. Préface par Michel Platini. (Paris: Éditions Hugo Sport, Septembre 2015) ISBN 978-2-7556-1894-5 [in French]
- De Boer, Sytze: Het Amsterdam van Johan Cruijff. (Amsterdam: Uitgeverij Nieuw Amsterdam, 2018) [in Dutch]
- Hiddema, Bert: Cruijff! Van Jopie tot Johan. (Amsterdam: Uitgeverij Luitingh-Sijthoff, 1996) [in Dutch]
- Hiddema, Bert: ¡El Cruijff!. (Amsterdam: Uitgeverij Luitingh-Sijthoff, 1997) [in Dutch]
- Hiddema, Bert: Cruijff! De jonge jaren. (Amsterdam: Xander Uitgevers B.V., 2018) [in Dutch]
- Hiddema, Bert: Cruijff! De magere jaren 1973–1982. (Amsterdam: Xander Uitgevers B.V., 2018) [in Dutch]
- Hiddema, Bert: Cruijff! De gouden jaren 1982–1996. (Amsterdam: Xander Uitgevers B.V., 2019) [in Dutch]
- Hilvoorde, I. van; Stokvis, R. (2013) ‘Pythagoras in boots’: Johan Cruijff and the Construction of Dutch National Identity, Sport in History, 33(4), 427–444
- Hunter, Graham: Barça: The Making of the Greatest Team in the World. (Glasgow: Backpage Press, 2012)
- Jensen, Ric (2014). Looking at the Extraordinary Success of the 'Clockwork Orange': Examining the Brilliance of Total Football Played by the Netherlands. [Special Issue: Heroes, Icons, Legends: Legacies of Great Men in World Soccer] (Soccer & Society, Volume 15, Issue 5, 2014)
- Kuper, Simon: Football Against the Enemy. (London: Orion Publishing Group, 1994)
- Kuper, Simon: Ajax, the Dutch, the War: Football in Europe during the Second World War. (London: Orion Publishing Group, 2003)
- Prieto, Javier Aranda: Hijos de Cruyff. (Sevilla: Editorial Samarcanda, 2019) [in Spanish]
- Richards, Ted: Soccer and Philosophy: Beautiful Thoughts on the Beautiful Game (Popular Culture and Philosophy). (Chicago & La Salle, IL: Open Court Publishing, 2010)
- Riera, Josep; Roca, Miquel: Van Barça: El Futbol Club Barcelona i Holanda, més que una relació. (Valls, Tarragona: Cossetània Edicions, 2007) ISBN 8497912721 [in Catalan]
- Schots, Mik; Luitzen, Jan: Wie is Johan Cruijff. Insiders duiden het Orakel. Maar Cruijff heeft zelf het laatste Woord. (Amsterdam: Uitgeverij De Arbeiderspers, 2007) ISBN 9789029564755 [in Dutch]
- Schulze-Marmeling, Dietrich: Der König und sein Spiel: Johan Cruyff und der Weltfußball. (Göttingen: Verlag Die Werkstatt, 2012) ISBN 978-3-89533-845-8 [in German]
- Tanzilli, Fabrizio: Lo spazio della libertà. Da Michels a Guardiola, il viaggio dell'idea che ha rivoluzionato il calcio. (Roma: Ultra Edizioni, 2015) [in Italian]
- Van den Boogaard, A.: Het laatste seizoen: Het andere gezicht van Johan Cruijff. (Amsterdam: Uitgeverij Thomas Rap, 2018) [in Dutch]
- Verkamman, Matty; Visser, Jaap; Winkels, Edwin; Derksen, Johan: Johan Cruijff: De legende 1947–2016. (Rotterdam: Kick Uitgevers, 2016) [in Dutch]
- Wilson, Jonathan: Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Football Tactics. (London: Orion Books, 2010)
- Wilson, Jonathan: The Barcelona Inheritance: The Evolution of Winning Soccer Tactics from Cruyff to Guardiola. (New York: Nation Books, 2018)
- Winkels, Edwin: Johan Cruijff in Barcelona: De mythe van de verlosser. (Amsterdam: Uitgeverij Brandt, 2016) [in Dutch]
- Winner, David: Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Football. (London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2000)
- Winsemius, Pieter: Je gaat het pas zien als je het doorhebt. Over Cruijff en leiderschap. (Amsterdam: Uitgeverij Balans, 2004) [in Dutch]
- Nummer 14 Johan Cruijff, 1973 Dutch documentary film by Cor Coster on the professional career of Johan Cruyff (90 min)
- Il profeta del gol, 1976 Italian-language documentary film directed by Sandro Ciotti (110 min)
- Johan Cruijff – En un momento dado, 2004 documentary by Ramon Gieling on the life of Johan Cruyff (90 min)
- Recorda, Míster: Johan Cruyff (Remember, Boss: Johan Cruyff in English), 2009 documentary by Barça TV
- Conexión Vintage – Johan Cruyff, 2013 documentary by RTVE
- L'últim partit: 40 anys de Johan Cruyff a Catalunya, 2014 Catalan-language documentary directed by Jordi Marcos (70 min)
- Gràcies, Johan, 2016 documentary by TV3
- Total Football
- Association football tactics and skills
- European Cup and UEFA Champions League history
- List of UEFA club competition winning managers
- List of European Cup and UEFA Champions League winning managers
- History of AFC Ajax
- History of FC Barcelona
- History of the Netherlands national football team
- List of AFC Ajax records and statistics
- List of FC Barcelona records and statistics
- FIFA Player of the Century
- FIFA World Cup Dream Team
- FIFA World Cup All-Time Team
- World Team of the 20th Century
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Dutch flamboyance, German power and English spirit dominated the European Champion Clubs' Cup in the 1970s, with clubs from those three countries winning the trophy every single year in that decade.
The 1970s saw the flowering of some brilliant talent in the Netherlands, a hitherto relatively unheralded football country. Amsterdam-based side Ajax put the Dutch on the map by reaching the final of the European Cup in 1969, but it was their Rotterdam-based rivals Feyenoord that ushered in a new European order the following year by taking home the trophy.
The stage was then set for Ajax to galvanise the game. Masterminded by the dazzling attacking skills of local boy Johan Cruyff, Ajax swept all before them with their swashbuckling 'total football', in which defenders and attackers exchanged positions, leaving opponents bewildered and beaten.
Ajax lifted the Champion Clubs' Cup in 1971, 1972 and 1973, as well as winning the hearts of football enthusiasts. "Dutch football was very much emerging at that time", said Cruyff. "It was a really different development for football itself... and it had an enormous impact on the whole world, which eventually led to a lot of respect for Dutch football."
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As Joan Laporta, the president of Barcelona who appointed Rijkaard and Guardiola, recalled: "It was Johan who recommended Frank as coach and who told me that Pep was ready to manage the first team." Cruyff did not need to be on Barcelona's payroll to shape the fortunes of the club.
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Simon Kuper: "...he loved money with the passion of a man who had grown up without it, ... When Cruyff returned to Ajax in 1981, the Dutch were sceptical. The Calvinist Holland of the time distrusted anyone who thought he was special. Cruyff had never been popular at home, where he was known as 'Nose' or 'The Moneywolf'. By now he was 34, with a broken body. Surely he was coming back for the money?"
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Luciano Spalletti: "Nowadays, we like to play around with the idea of the false nine. You could say he had all the necessary qualities for that position. Cruyff was a false nine because he'd play up front, then he'd pop up on the left wing and he'd also drop beneath the halfway line to pick up the ball and start move."
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FC Barcelona's 40th president Josep Maria Bartomeu told La Repubblica: "We [Barça] have had great players before, from the days of László Kubala and Luis Suárez. [Johan] Cruyff, as a player, made us relevant again and as a manager he put us on the map with the European Cup win in 1992. Ronaldinho made us global and Messi has made us universal. We don't want to win in just any way. This is the Dutch school of [Rinus] Michels, Cruyff, [Louis] Van Gaal and [Frank] Rijkaard. At the centre of every decision is the ball; if you treat it well, you will be rewarded. We are a global club, respected and admired, with the mission to entertain."
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- In Cruyff's words, quoted in David Winner's book Brilliant Orange: "There is no medal better than being acclaimed for your style. As a coach, my teams might have won more games if we'd played in a less adventurous way. Maybe I'd have earned a little more and the bonuses would have been bigger, but if people say that Barcelona were playing the nicest football in the world with me as coach, what more can I ask for? If you're appearing in the World Cup final it may be the biggest occasion of your life, so why be sad and fearful? Be happy, express yourself and play. Make it special for you and for everyone watching. For the good of football, we need a team of invention, attacking ideas and style to emerge. Even if it doesn't win, it will inspire footballers of all ages everywhere. That is the greatest reward."
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...But faith in the virtue of playing creative and exciting football remained the cornerstone of Cruyff's footballing beliefs. It marks him out from the vast majority of other coaches who, to a greater or lesser degree, think winning is more important. Being pragmatic is often a euphemism for winning ugly, and Cruyff has never signed up for that cynicism. In the 1960s, the win-at-all-costs mentality was epitomized by the Italian teams who played catenaccio, the Italian system focused on defending. Cruyff and his fellow Dutchmen became the heroes of those who wanted football to be more uplifting... He sees winning and beauty as inseparable. He was once asked whether he'd be willing to play with a mainly defensive system to win the league. He said no because it would be too boring.
...Cruyff's admirers don't just like the way he and his teams played. They believe the world could be a better place if his vision of football prevailed. Cruyffian football, they feel, is more beautiful, more fun and more spiritual than other approaches... Until relatively recently, English football was synonymous with long balls, bad ball control and big, clumsy centre-forwards charging into lumbering centre-halves. Now, most of the top coaches at the Premier League's biggest clubs are either Dutch or heavily influenced by the Dutch. There's Arsène Wenger at Arsenal, Van Gaal at Manchester United and Guus Hiddink at Chelsea. Roberto Martínez at Everton and Jürgen Klopp at Liverpool are devout Cruyffians. Next season, Pep Guardiola will start converting Manchester City to tiki-taka.
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Christophe Kuchly: "...ce n'est peut-être pas le meilleur de tous les temps. Mais c'est le seul qui a réussi à être à la fois un grand joueur, un grand coach et un grand penseur du ballon. ... Donc pour moi, c'est la personne la plus marquante de l'histoire du foot parce qu'il a brillé dans tous les domaines." [Original in French]
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King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands: "The Dutch love their country and are proud of the legacy left by Erasmus, Grotius, Spinoza, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Cornelis Lely and Johan Cruyff."
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Ruud Gullit told Telesport: "He [Cruyff] is the one who put our football on the map."
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- Since 2009, the original European Cup/UEFA Champions League trophy remains with UEFA at all times, but the winning club now receives a full-sized replica with their name engraved on it. And a club that gets three consecutive or five overall wins will get a special mark of recognition, the multiple-winner badge.
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César Luis Menotti: "Se nos ha ido un inmortal, un prócer del fútbol, uno de los cuatro reyes de la historia junto a Di Stéfano, Pelé y Maradona. Con la muerte de Johan Cruyff, el fútbol pierde a un jugador excepcional, a un referente histórico del buen juego y a un refundador del Barcelona. Como futbolista fue notable, era como un pájaro que volaba dentro de la cancha. Como entrenador, un maestro." [Original in Spanish]
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Eric Cantona: "I loved the Dutch in the '70s, they excited me and Cruyff was the best. He was my childhood hero; I had a poster of him on my bedroom wall. He was a creator. He was at the heart of a revolution with his football. Ajax changed football and he was the leader of it all. If he wanted he could be the best player in any position on the pitch. ... As an eight-year-old, I watched the 1974 World Cup Final between West Germany and Holland and I was supporting the Dutch. I cried my eyes out when they lost. ... I was going to choose Cruyff as a player-manager because I loved his tactical brain. He was always thinking, he always wanted to improve his players. I know what his teams can do as I watched from the stands as his Barcelona side beat United 4–0 in 1994."
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Rafael Benítez: "He has been inspirational to me along my career. When I was giving my first steps as a footballer he was a myth, an icon to follow. Afterwards, when I became a football manager, Cruyff was one of my references."
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Joan Laporta: "You really have to put things in their context and their historic moment. For me, my idol was always Johan Cruyff. For me he has always been the greatest, not just as a player but also as a person... He has been a point of reference for me. It was his era, his moment – and he was the best in the world. For me, the best in history."
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Carlos Alberto Torres: "The only team I've seen that did things differently was Holland at the 1974 World Cup in Germany. Since then everything looks more or less the same to me... Their 'carousel' style of play was amazing to watch and marvellous for the game."
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Arsene Wenger: "I played 4–3–3 at Monaco and I think Barcelona has not created that system. That system is a Dutch system. Johan Cruyff exported it and played in that system. The Dutch used that system in 1974 in the World Cup in Germany."
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Jonathan Wilson: "It was Michels who, in the seventies, took the Dutch ethos to Barcelona in 1971. Johan Cruyff, who had been his captain at Ajax, followed two years later. Together, they established the school of soccer whose philosophy lives on in the modern Barcelona. They pressed high, they prioritized possession, they interchanged position. They were also happy to flip between three and four at the back as required, something that was particularly true of the Barca side Cruyff coached in the early nineties. Until the start of this season, Pep Guardiola had, broadly speaking, stuck to 4–3–3 and its variants. But against Villarreal on the opening weekend of the season, Barcelona lined up in a 3–4–3."
- Rzouki, Mina (18 September 2013). "Cruyff: From Ajax, to Barca". Football Espana. Retrieved 2 July 2016.
- ""Farewell to football's thriller incomparable (24 March 2016)"". FIFA.com; retrieved 10 June 2016
- Wilson, Jonathan (24 March 2016). "Johan Cruyff's legacy? The whole of modern football". Eurosport (eurosport.co.uk). Retrieved 12 July 2016.
Jonathan Wilson: "Cruyff the player was gloriously impudent, a slight and graceful genius who proved that brain could outmanoeuvre brawn. Watching his Netherlands dart and thrust their way around Uruguay or Argentina in 1974, or seeing his Ajax outwit Juventus in the European Cup final in 1973, was to see a devastating puppet-master toying with lumbering opponents. Cruyff the coach, Cruyff the manager, was able to retain that sense of the joy of the game, the importance of beauty and, what's harder, to convey that sense to his players. There has never been such a great player who was also such a great manager. In that he stands utterly unique."
- Sharma, Aabhas (25 March 2016). "The man who changed football". Business Standard (business-standard.com). Retrieved 18 July 2016.
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- Delaney, Miguel (31 May 2011). "The 50 greatest European club sides (full list)". Football Pantheon (footballpantheon.com). Retrieved 31 August 2016.
- "Michael Laudrup: The secrets behind coach Cruyff's success". Fantasista10.co.uk. 20 April 2016. Retrieved 20 August 2016.
- Law, Daniel (19 June 2020). "1997–2000: Louis van Gaal and the 'Dutchification' of Barcelona". Backpagefootball.com. Retrieved 10 October 2020.
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- Browne, Kenneth (24 March 2016). "Legacy of a legend: Johan Cruyff". AS.com. Retrieved 10 July 2016.
When he [Cruyff] walked into the dressing room and drew 3–4–3 on the tactics board for the first time, this is how the players reacted: "We looked at each other and said: 'What the hell is this?!' This was the era of 4–4–2 or 3–5–2", explained Eusebio, who had come to Barcelona to play under Cruyff, "He single-handedly introduced a new way of playing football in Spain. It was a revolution".
"I much prefer to win 5–4 than 1–0" said the erstwhile manager, and set about finding the players that fit his ideology. This was 1988 when players were chosen for their physique, or more accurately, not chosen because of it. Even Barcelona had 'a prueba de la muneca' – the wrist test – that discounted anyone at 15 who didn't look like growing to be at least 5'11.
Cruyff changed that, focussing instead on ability and technique, cultivating players who treated the ball with care, were quick and pressed the opposition. One benefactor of this new policy was a skinny 15 year-old named Pep Guardiola, who would play an integral part in the club's first European Cup success as a player in 1992, then manage the team in their most successful period ever. "Johan Cruyff painted the chapel, and Barcelona coaches since merely restore or improve it", was how Pep put it. The Dutch master was the Godfather of La Masia, Barça's talent factory that has since become a production line of footballing prodigies. They play 3–4–3 from the under-8's all the way to the senior side, a continuity that has served the club well.
- Lowe, Sid (16 June 2017). "Joan Laporta: 'Barcelona has been kidnapped. It's hostage to lies and it's sad' [interview]". The Guardian (theguardian.com). Retrieved 27 July 2019.
Joan Laporta (2017): "I'm very Cruyffista (...) but what Leo does – and I talked about this a lot with Johan – makes him the best in history. Johan said so too. Messi's football is beautiful and effective. For me the best ever are Cruyff, Maradona and Messi. Leo's a mix of Cruyff and Maradona but he is Leo Messi."
- Hunter, Graham (September 2012). Barça: The Making of the Greatest Team in the World, 2nd revised edition. (BackPage Press, ISBN 9780956497154)
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- Wilson, Jonathan (12 May 2016). "Back to the future: how football's tactical evolution has begun to invoke the past". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 August 2016.
- Farrell, Dom (28 March 2016). "'Cruyff is the ideological father of football' – Juan Mata". Goal.com. Retrieved 28 July 2016.
- Writing on Twitter, Manchester City and Belgium captain Vincent Kompany called Cruyff "true football royalty", adding: "I don't think anyone has ever influenced the game as much as he has done."
- Hunter, Graham (24 March 2016). "What Johan Cruyff meant to Barcelona goes beyond football". ESPN FC. Retrieved 24 July 2016.
When we enjoy the symphony of scintillating football which Lionel Messi and Xavi and Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets and Neymar and Gerard Piqué and Ronaldinho and Deco and Samuel Eto'o and Carles Puyol have played for us for more than a decade, we need to understand that, without Cruyff's brain, his stubbornness, his vision, his daring and his intelligence it would never have happened. All of those players were either recruited to Barcelona as stripling kids or bought as professional talents based on the football bible that Cruyff wrote. Talent over height. Brains over brawn. Bravery, meaning making the right pass, the right darting run, the right "show" for the ball no matter the pressure, no matter the risk. Intelligence, above all.
- "Juan Mata blogs about life on duty with Spain and pens a tribute to Cruyff". ManUtd.com. 28 March 2016. Retrieved 28 July 2016.
- Adams, Tom (7 June 2015). "The power of an idea: Why Barcelona will keep winning, with or without Luis Enrique". Eurosport. Retrieved 10 July 2016.
...Added to their vast commercial income it is obvious why Barca were able to earn £405.2m in the 2013–14 season – but that only put them fourth in football's rich list with Real Madrid on top with £459.5m. Such financial muscle explains Barca's place among the super clubs, but not their dominance of them.
This is not about the power of money. It is about the power of ideas – and one grand idea in particular. It has almost become modern Barcelona's creation myth: how Johan Cruyff descended from the heavens to create a club in his own image and instill a belief system which even to this day creates religious fervour. Enrique may have tinkered with aspects of Barcelona's approach but the fundamentals remain in place.
It is the idea of La Masia and the idea of football played in line with Cruyffian ethics – an ideological position on the mode of production and the style of play. First aroused by the Dream Team in 1992 it was reignited by a new generation: Lionel Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta, who have won the Champions League in 2006, 2009, 2011 and 2015.
- Marcotti, Gabriele (24 March 2016). "Johan Cruyff was one of football's greatest trailblazers on and off pitch". ESPN FC. Retrieved 2 July 2016.
You can separate Barça's history into BCE (Before Cruyff Era) and CE (Cruyff Era). And, yes, Barça are still, nearly 20 years after he coached his final game for the club, still very much in the Cruyff Era.
It is difficult to overstate the impact he had. His own natural vision for the game, the concepts of Rinus Michels' Total Football, and the experiences gleaned in a 20-year playing career formed the blueprint, but his great merit was to synthesize and tweak it to suit Catalan football. The building blocks were possession, pressing and proactivity, the idea that the opposition would adjust to you, not the other way around.
The concept was that football was something to be done right, or not done at all. A quote often attributed to him – possibly apocryphal, but nevertheless truer than so much of what managers say – was that he'd rather play well and lose than play poorly and win.
For Cruyff, playing well suggested adhering to certain fundamental canons of style and execution. That Cruyff "idea of football" has come to mean many things to many people. It's almost easier to define it by what it is not: It's not a philosophy based on waiting for your opponent to make a mistake, unless it's a mistake that you cause them to make through your own excellence.
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Xavi: "Our model was imposed by [Johan] Cruyff; it's an Ajax model. It's all about rondos [piggy in the middle]. Rondo, rondo, rondo."
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Ronald Koeman: "Cruyff was undoubtedly the biggest influence on me... I had some great years with Rinus Michels: one at Ajax, the rest with the national team. But Cruyff was the coach in my career. He was someone I spent a lot of great years with – my best years. Being part of that Dream Team at Barcelona was without doubt the highest point of my career and all the successes we had, the football we played, was down to him. It's the most difficult way to be successful – by playing that kind of beautiful, attacking football – but Cruyff was able to make it possible."
- As Phil Ball writes in Morbo: The Story of Spanish Football (2003),
In his first week at the club, Johan Cruyff turned up unannounced at the 'Mini' stadium, a venue just down the road from Camp Nou used by the youth and B teams. Just before half-time he wandered into the dug-out and asked Charly Rexach, the youth team manager at the time, the name of the young lad playing on the right side of midfield. 'Guardiola – good lad' came the reply. Cruyff ignored the comment and told Rexach to move him into the middle for the second half, to play as pivot. It was a difficult position to adapt to and one not used by many teams in Spain at the time. Guardiola adjusted immediately, as Cruyff had suspected he would, and when he moved up into the first-team in 1990 he became the true fulcrum of the Dream Team.
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Johan Cruyff: "Barça wanted to get rid of him [Guardiola]. They considered him scrawny, bad defensively and ineffective in the air. What nobody saw was that he had the basic qualities to go far: he had game intelligence, speed in his execution, technique. If I hadn't been at Barcelona, for sure he would have been sold to a Segunda División club."
- In his autobiography The Artist: Being Iniesta (London: Headline Publishing Group, 2016), Andrés Iniesta called Cruyff 'the great ideologue of the Catalan club, its philosopher king'.
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José Mari Bakero: "Seit Cruyffs Ankunft in Barcelona in den siebziger Jahren orientiert sich der Klub an der holländischen Schule. Das wird über Generationen weitergegeben. Einige der damaligen Mannschaft sind wie ich Trainer geworden. Wir sind alle Cruyffistas." [Original in German]
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Luis Enrique: "The idea of 4–3–3 or 3–4–3 has been at Barça for a long time. It's something that has become a part of the club and I hope it stays that way for a long time. Our idea of football is all about putting on a show. Not just winning, but winning with style... We look for individual flair through command of the ball and a clear idea of how to play. There have been different managers over the years, all with different approaches to the same method. It's not easy to do. Other teams have tried it, but you need to stay faithful to the idea, even when the results aren't going so well."
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Arsène Wenger: "He [Cruyff] was one of my idols when I was a kid because he was not much older than I was and did a lot of things on the pitch that I couldn't do... He was the kind of exceptional personality that marked me and all my generation. The other day Michel Platini was speaking about him and he had exactly the same impression... What Dutch football and Cruyff's generation has created is 'let's be bold enough to play offensive football and let's defend it,' no matter what happens. I think that is a very generous idea because it starts from the fact that you want to express yourselves and give pleasure to the people sitting in the stands. The only respect you can give to the people in the stands is, at least at the start, to give them some pleasure and transform our game into art."
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Simon Kuper: "In 1973, 1988 and 2003 he [Cruyff] came to save a struggling club seeking direction."
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Cruyff is a family man ..., one of the few professional players who married young and kept his marriage alive over all these years. He also managed to keep himself, his wife and children away from the wrong kind of tabloid headlines. His son Jordi has praised Johan as a very considerate and playful father and that his childhood was a very happy one, although his father was away quite often. So, for Johan Cruyff his family may have been even more important than his football career...
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Then Carles Rexach published his book and also claimed that she [Danny] always had a big influence over his career. ... She can also be blamed for Holland missing out on the World Cup in 1970, and then probably winning it, why not, when Johan had to go on a trip to Milan with Danny to buy shoes for her shop in Amsterdam. He returned too late for the Dutch training camp before their decisive qualifier against Bulgaria and was subsequently dropped. A draw ended all hopes of a trip to Mexico.
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Following his heart operation in 1991, Danny became stricter in controlling her man. He withdrew as [Netherlands] national coach for the 1994 World Cup in a cloud of arguments after an initial agreement. She probably forbade him to go as it was too dangerous for his health. Several times since, Cruyff has promised to commit to some responsibility, only to resign later with some half-hearted excuse. It's as if she told him to stop being foolish, but he did not dare to say so in public. Danny appears to be very well capable of handling Cruyff.
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According to newspaper AD, the man, a labourer from Rotterdam, drove to Barcelona buying a sawn-off shot gun on the way. He forced Cruijff and his wife Danny to lie on the floor, bound Cruijff– who asked with admirable and typical sang-froid for the rope not to be tied too tightly because he'd just had an operation (which wasn't true) – and held a gun to the footballer's head. Danny made a dash for the door and when her screams alerted neighbours the attacker fled, dropping his gun. After some fisticuffs with other residents he was handed over to the police and spent a couple of years in prison. Later Cruijff said the attempted kidnap was the reason he decided not to go to the World Cup in Argentina in 1978.
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I'm not religious, in Spain all 22 players cross themselves, if it works the game is always going to be a tie.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Johan Cruijff.|
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Johan Cruyff|
- The World of Johan Cruyff – Explore the World of Johan Cruyff.
- Johan Cruyff Foundation – Johan Cruyff Foundation
- Biography of Johan Cruyff – UEFA.com
- Johan Cruyff – FIFA competition record
- Johan Cruyff at BDFutbol
- Johan Cruyff manager profile at BDFutbol
- Johan Cruyff at Wereld van Oranje (in Dutch)
- International Football Hall of Fame: Johan Cruyff – ifhof.com
|Awards and achievements|
| European Cup Winning Coach
| Dutch Sportsman of the Year