Johan Cruyff

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Johan Cruyff
Ajax-selectie presenteert zich aan de pers, nummer 15 Heinz Stuy, nummer 16 Ruud Krol, nummer 13 Johan Cruyff, nummer 14 Wim Suurbier (allen koppen).jpg
Cruyff with AFC Ajax in 1972
Personal information
Full name Hendrik Johannes Cruijff
Date of birth (1947-04-25)25 April 1947
Place of birth Amsterdam, Netherlands
Date of death 24 March 2016(2016-03-24) (aged 68)
Place of death Barcelona, Spain
Height 1.80 m (5 ft 11 in)
Playing position
Youth career
1957–1963 Ajax
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1964–1973 Ajax 240 (190)
1973–1978 Barcelona 143 (48)
1979 Los Angeles Aztecs 23 (13)
1980–1981 Washington Diplomats 30 (12)
1981 Levante 10 (2)
1981–1983 Ajax 36 (14)
1983–1984 Feyenoord 33 (11)
Total 514 (290)
National team
1966–1977 Netherlands 48 (33)
Teams managed
1985–1988 Ajax
1988–1996 Barcelona
2009–2013 Catalonia

* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.

Hendrik Johannes "Johan" Cruijff OON (Dutch: [ˈjoːɦɑn ˈkrœyf], anglicised to 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.[1] Cruyff was one of the most famous exponents 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.[2][3][4][5] In the 1970s, Dutch football rose from near obscurity to become a powerhouse in the sport.[6][7][8] Cruyff led the Netherlands to the final of the 1974 FIFA World Cup and received the Golden Ball as player of the tournament.[9] 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.[10]

At club level, Cruyff started his career at Ajax, where he won eight Eredivisie titles, three European Cups and one Intercontinental Cup.[11] In 1973, he moved to Barcelona for a world record transfer fee, winning 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. 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.[12] 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.[13] He was 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.[14]

Considered to be one of the most influential figures in football history,[15][16][17] Cruyff's style of play and his football philosophy has influenced managers and players, including Frank Rijkaard, Pep Guardiola, Michael Laudrup, Arsène Wenger, Eric Cantona and Xavi.[18] Ajax and Barcelona are among the clubs that have developed youth academies based on Cruyff's coaching methods.[19] His coaching philosophy helped lay the foundations for the revival of Ajax's international successes in the 1990s.[20] Spanish football's successes at both club and international level during the years 2008 to 2012 have been cited by many as evidence of Cruyff's impact on contemporary football.[21]

Early life[edit]

"I was born shortly after the war, though, and was taught not to just accept anything."

—Cruyff said in a documentary on TV3 channel (2015).[22]

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. 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.[23] 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.[24]

Playing career[edit]

Club career[edit]

Gloria Ajax and European dominance[edit]

Cruyff played for Ajax from 1957 to 1973 and 1981 to 1983 (seen here in 1967 against Feyenoord)

Cruyff joined the Ajax youth system on his tenth birthday. Cruyff and his friends would frequent a "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.[23] He played football and baseball, showing talent both on the mound pitching and behind the plate as a catcher, before having to leave the club's baseball section at age 15 to focus on football.[25][26] 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.[27] 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 Door Wilskracht Sterk 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.[9]

In the 1966–67 season, Ajax again won the league championship, and also won the KNVB Cup, for Cruyff's first "double".[9] 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.[9] On 28 May 1969, Cruyff played in his first European Cup final against Milan, but the Italians won 4–1.

Cruyff playing with Ajax in 1971

In the 1969–70 season, Cruyff won his second league and cup "double"; at the beginning of the 1970–71 season, he suffered a long-term groin injury. He made his comeback on 30 October 1970 against PSV. In this game, he did not wear his usual number 9, which was in use by Gerrie Mühren, but instead used number 14.[9] 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[28] and in the Netherlands there is a magazine by Voetbal International, Nummer 14.[29]

"Johan Cruyff's miracles in Amsterdam were many. He and his coach Rinus Michels (a sort of John the Baptist figure) raised Ajax from obscurity. More important, they invented a new way of playing. Cruyff became the greatest exponent and teacher of 'totaalvoetbal' [Total Football]. His vision of perfect movement and harmony on the field was rooted in the same sublime ordering of space that one sees in the pictures of Vermeer or church painter Pieter Jansz Saenredam. It was the music of the spheres on grass."

David Winner, the author of Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Football[30]

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.[9] 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.[9]

In 1972, Ajax won a second European Cup, beating Inter Milan 2–0 in the final, with Cruyff scoring both goals.[9] 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."[31] 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".[31]

Barcelona and the first La Liga title in 14 years[edit]

Cruyff played for Barcelona from 1973–1978

In mid-1973, Cruyff was sold to Barcelona for 6 million guilders (approx. US$2 million, c. 1973) in a world record transfer fee.[32] 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 deadliest 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.[33] 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.[33] Football historian Jimmy Burns stated, "with Cruyff, the team felt they couldn’t lose".[33] He gave them speed, flexibility and a sense of themselves.[33] In 1974 Cruyff was crowned European Footballer of the Year.[9]

"There have been four kings of football—Di Stéfano, Pelé, Cruyff, and Maradona."

Argentina's 1978 World Cup winning coach César Luis Menotti, 2011[34]

During his time at Barcelona, Cruyff scored one of his most famous goals, "The 'Phantom' Goal".[35] In a game against Atlético Madrid, Cruyff 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).[36] In 1978, Barcelona defeated Las Palmas 3–1, to win the Copa del Rey.[9] 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.[37][38]

United States[edit]

At the age of 32, Cruyff signed a lucrative deal with the Los Angeles Aztecs of the North American Soccer League (NASL).[9] 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.


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.[39]

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.[40]

Back at Ajax[edit]

Johan Cruyff with Japanese fans in 1982

After his spell in the U.S. and a 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 after 34 games. In December 1981, Cruyff signed a contract extension with Ajax.[40]

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.[41][42] 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.[9]

Cruyff's farewell at Feyenoord


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.[43] 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.[44]

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.[45]

International career[edit]

Johan Cruyff in 1974, the year the Netherlands lost the World Cup final to West Germany

As a Dutch international, Cruyff played 48 matches, scoring 33 goals.[9][46] 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.[47]

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.[48] 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.[9]

1974 FIFA World Cup[edit]

Cruyff led the Netherlands to a runners-up medal in the 1974 World Cup and was named player of the tournament.[9] 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.[9] 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.[9]

The Netherlands faced hosts West Germany in the final. Cruyff kicked off and the ball was passed around the Oranje team 13 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.[9] 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.[49]

Cruyff in the box during the 1974 World Cup Final, just before he was fouled for a penalty

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."[50]

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."[51]

After 1974[edit]

Cruyff retired from international football in October 1977, having helped the national team qualify for the upcoming World Cup.[9] 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."[52]

Coaching career[edit]


Cruyff as manager of Ajax in 1987

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 Guus Hiddink'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.

"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."

— Former Dutch international Johan Neeskens[53]

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.[20]

Barcelona and Dream Team[edit]

In 1988, Cruyff returned to Barcelona as manager. 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. Cruyff's "Dream Team" won La Liga four times between 1991 and 1994, and beat Sampdoria in both the 1989 European Cup Winners' Cup Final and the 1992 European Cup Final at Wembley Stadium.[54] 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 UEFA Champions League.[55][56] 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.[54]

La Masia, Barcelona's youth academy, was the brainchild of Cruyff. In 1979 Cruyff wanted to establish a copy of the Ajax Academy in Barcelona. His proposal was accepted by president Josep Núñez.

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.[57]

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.[58]

While still at Barcelona, Cruyff was in negotiations with the KNVB to manage the national team for the 1994 World Cup finals, but talks broke off at the last minute.[59]

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. 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.[60] In July 2010, however, he was stripped of this title by new president Sandro Rosell.[61][62]


Cruyff with the Catalonia national team in January 2013

On 2 November 2009, Cruyff was named as manager of the Catalonia national team in place of Pere Gratacós. It was his first managing job for 13 years.[63]

Managerial career[edit]

Return to Ajax[edit]

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.[64] 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".[65]

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".[66] 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.[67] On 6 June 2011, he was appointed to the new Ajax board of advisors to implent his reform plans.[68][69]

The Ajax advisory board made a verbal agreement with Louis van Gaal to appoint him as the new CEO, without consulting Cruyff.[70][71] Cruyff, a fellow board member, took Ajax to court in an attempt to block the appointment.[72] The court overturned the appointment on the grounds that Cruyff had been "deliberately not consulted".[73] Cruyff was supported by many Ajax supporters and ex-Ajax players and current staff members, including Dennis Bergkamp, Wim Jonk, Marc Overmars, Frank de Boer and Edwin van der Sar.[73] 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".[74]


Cruyff became an 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.[75] 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.[76]

Style of play and footballing philosophy[edit]

The total footballer[edit]

Throughout his career, Cruyff became synonymous with the playing style of "Total Football".[77][78][79] 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".[80][81] 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."[82] As Cruyff 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."[82]

"We showed the world you could enjoy being a footballer; you could laugh and have a fantastic time. I represent the era which proved that attractive football was enjoyable and successful, and good fun to play too."

—Johan Cruyff[83]

The team orchestrator, Cruyff was a creative playmaker with a gift for timing passes.[84] 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.[85] Due to the way Cruyff played the game, he is still referred to as "the total footballer".[86] Former French player Eric Cantona states, "I loved the Dutch in the '70s, they excited me and Cruyff was the best. 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."[87]

Cruyff was known for his technical ability, speed, acceleration, dribbling and vision, possessing an awareness of his teammates' positions as an attack unfolded. “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." 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."[79][88] Sports writer David Miller believed Cruyff 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."[89]

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."[90]

Importance of style and identity in football[edit]

The 3–4–3 (and sometimes the 4–3–3)[91][92][93] was always the favourite team formation of Cruyff in his coaching career.

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[94]

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. In thinking of Cruyff, the victory is truly meaningful when it can fully conquered the minds and hearts of competitors and spectators. As he once noted, "Quality without results is pointless. Results without quality is boring." To choose a "right" style of play to win is even more important than winning itself, per Cruyff and his "Cruyffistas" (Cruyff's devout followers).[95][96] 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".[85] 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.[97] As Sweden 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."[98]

Influence and legacy[edit]

"As a player he turned football into an art form. Johan came along and revolutionised everything. The modern-day Barça started with him, he is the expression of our identity, he brought us a style of football we love."

—Barcelona's ex-president Joan Laporta, 2010[99]

"Barcelona was not born in the last couple of years. It was born, the style of play now, in the early 90s through Johan Cruyff. It took 20 years for that moment today that we see and all admire."

Head coach of the United States national team Jürgen Klinsmann, 2011.[100]

Cruyff is widely regarded as an icon 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 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."[101]

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."[102] In his 2011 book, Barça: The Making of the Greatest Team in the World, Hunter writes, "If the 175,000 FC Barcelona members (or socios) 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 per cent 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," adding, "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."[102] Dietrich Schulze-Marmeling, the author of the first full-length biography of Cruyff in German ("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, as no one made a bigger overall impact both as a player and as a manager.[103]

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.[104][105][106][107][108][109][110][111]

As a player[edit]

As a player, Cruyff greatly helped turn the previously backward and obscure Dutch football (at both club and international level) into a world-class powerhouse in the 1970s. Cruyff is always considered to be an undisputed icon in Ajax's history, especially in the club's golden era (1966–1973). 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 football philosophy known as Total Football (Totaalvoetbal in Dutch) explored by Rinus Michels. He was the first player to win the Ballon d'Or three times, in 1971, 1973 and 1974. Cruyff's world record moved from Ajax to Barcelona in 1973 made him the first player to cost more than two million US dollars. Cruyff also perfected a feint now known as the Cruyff Turn (or Cruijff Turn).

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 was 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 Diego Maradona: "There have been four kings of football – Di Stefano, 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."[112][113][114] Some notable figures in the football world such as Arsene Wenger, Michel Platini, Eric Cantona,[115] Van Basten,[116] and Emilio Butragueño[117] once revealed that they considered Cruyff as their "childhood hero" or "idol".

As a coach[edit]

Considered by many as one of the few great players who went on to become a great coach/manager as well,[118][119][120][121] Cruyff's 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.”[122]

As an Ajax manager, 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.

As a Barcelona manager, he helped lay the foundations for the most successful era in the club's history.[123] As Jonathan Wilson writes, “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.”[94] La Masia, Barça's youth academy, was the brainchild of Cruyff. In 1979 he wanted to establish a copy of the Ajax Academy in Barcelona. His proposal was accepted by president Josep Núñez. In 1988, Cruyff returned to Barcelona as manager and he assembled the so-called Dream Team. 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. 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. 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. On the legacy of Cruyff's football philosophy and the passing style of play he introduced to the club, future coach of Barcelona Pep Guardiola would state, "Cruyff built the cathedral, our job is to maintain and renovate it."

As a football theorist[edit]

Cruyff is widely regarded as one of the most brilliant tactical innovators in history of the game. Ajax and Barcelona, where Cruyff spent the majority of his career, maintain his football philosophy.[124][20][125] La Masia, Barça's youth academy, was the brainchild of Cruyff. 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. The style of play Cruyff introduced at Barcelona came to be known as tiki-taka[126] — 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.[127] 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."[128][129][130]

Cruyff's style of play and his coaching philosophy have significantly influenced the football career of many players and managers,[131] including Pep Guardiola.[132] Guardiola, 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".[133] Guardiola added, "Johan Cruyff built the cathedral, our job is to maintain and renovate it."[134] 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."[135] Jürgen Klinsmann, the 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."[136]

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.[137][138] It had always bothered Cruyff that goalkeepers just stopped shots. It was a waste of a player, Cruyff thought. 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.[139]

Named after Cruyff[edit]

  • Cruyff 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.[98]
  • Johan Cruijff Shield, a football trophy in the Netherlands, also referred to as the Dutch Super Cup.
  • Johan Cruijff Award (Dutch Footballer of the Year), awarded in the Netherlands since 1984. The award is determined by a poll of Dutch professional footballers playing in the First (Eredivisie) and Second (Eerste Divisie) leagues.
  • 14282 Cruijff (2097 P-L), 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, a private academic center that provides education in sports management, sports marketing, football business, sponsorship and coaching through a network that currently has five Cruyff Institutes (Postgraduates and Masters) around the world.
  • Johan Cruyff Foundation, founded in 1997 from the wish of Cruyff to give children the opportunity to play and be active.
  • 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.[102]
  • Johan Cruyff University offers elite athletes an opportunity to balance sports with a four-year Bachelor of Business Administration program in Sports Marketing, a learning track of Commercial Economics. There are Cruyff Universities in Amsterdam, Groningen and Tilburg. These Cruyff Universities 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 Cruyff College are designed for students who practice sports at the highest levels in the Netherlands, and are delivered in Dutch. There are five Cruyff Colleges in the Netherlands: Amsterdam, Enschede, Groningen, Nijmegen and Roosendaal. Each Cruyff College is part of a Regional Education Centre or ROC, academic centers that are administered by the Dutch government.
  • Cruyff Classics, a sportswear brand conceived by Johan Cruyff.
  • 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.[96] Some notable Cruyffistas include Joan Laporta,[140] Pep Guardiola, Xavi,[141] Luis Enrique,[142] Ronald Koeman, Dennis Bergkamp, Roberto Martínez, Arsène Wenger,[143] and Jürgen Klinsmann.

In popular culture[edit]

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."[144] Cruyff stood out at the 1974 World Cup in West Germany which Merkel watched from her then home country East Germany.[145]

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."[146]

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.[147] 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".[147]

Cruyff 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.[148]

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 the football legend finishing above Rembrandt (9th) and Vincent van Gogh (10th).[149]

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.[150][151]

British sportswriter David Winner's 2000 book Brilliant Orange is about more than the Dutch football. The book 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.


There were many nicknames Cruyff had in the Netherlands and Spain, including “Jopie”, “Nummer 14”,[152] “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 got in 1973/1974 and again in 1988, when he helped terminate crisis eras in Barça's history. It's also a coincidence that Johan Cruyff shares the same initials as Jesus Christ.

Outside football[edit]


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."[153]

Business ventures[edit]

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.[154][155]


Cruyff was the author and 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).

Philanthropic work[edit]

"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."

—President of Israel, Shimon Peres, greets Cruyff in Jerusalem in February 2014, praising his foundation's dedication to peace.[156]

The Johan Cruyff Foundation[157] 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.[156] 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.[158] 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.[159]


Born shortly after World War II, Cruyff came from a working-class background and lost his beloved father as a child. This had a great influence on his future career and character. He was renowned for his strong personality. 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".[160] 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."[161] 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.[44]

Cruyff's strong personality played a historical role in the eternal struggle between Puma and Adidas, the two rival brands par excellence, born from the political divisions between the two Dassler brothers. Cruyff was a big fan of Puma's King boots and by 1974 had signed a sponsorship deal with German sportswear and equipment supplier. At the 1974 World Cup, Johan Cruyff 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.[162][163]

Cruyff was also well known for his vocal criticism and uncompromising attitude. A perfectionist, he always had a strong opinion about things and was even loyal to his principles more than any thing else in the football world.[164] 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.[165] 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.”

Personal life[edit]

Cruyff and Coster getting married on 2 December 1968

At the wedding of Ajax teammate Piet Keizer, on June 13, 1967, Cruyff met his future wife, Diana Margaretha "Danny" Coster (b. 1949). They started dating, and on December 2, 1968 they married. Danny Coster’s 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.[166] A strongly family-oriented man, Cruyff's football career, both as a player and as a manager, was considerably influenced by his family, in particular his wife Danny.[167][168] 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, Netherlands.[169] In 1977, Cruyff and his family became the victims of an armed attacker who forced his way into his flat in Barcelona.[170] In an interview with Catalunya Radio in 2008, Cruyff said that the attempted kidnap was the reason he decided not to go to the World Cup in Argentina in 1978.

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.[171]

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. It is also related to the commercial claim of "name and fame" of his father to the name Cruyff/Cruijff.

Political and religious views[edit]

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."[172] That widely quoted statement earned him a place on lists of the world’s top atheist athletes. But in the '90s, 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."[173] 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."[174][175]

Cruyff was known for his pro-Jewishness or pro-Israel. He was not a Jew but his connections to Judaism are so diverse that many contemporaries thought he for a Jew.[176] Cruyff grew up in the Amsterdam municipal Betondorp, where many Jews lived. The Betondorp ("concrete village") is located in the east of the city, a stone's throw from the stadium "De Meer", the former stadium of so-called 'Jewish club' Ajax Amsterdam, in which Cruyff established its global reputation. As a club that was located in Amsterdam East, Ajax was also affected by the Dutch Jewish community.[177][178][179] Even non-Jewish Cruyff was said from time to time a "Jewish identity".[180][181]

He also was an advocate of the right of the Catalan people to vote on their own independence in a referendum.[182]


  • "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."[82]
  • "In my teams, the goalie is the first attacker, and the striker the first defender."[183]
  • "Every disadvantage has its advantage."[101]
  • "If you can't win, make sure you don't lose."[101]
  • "Quality without results is pointless. Results without quality is boring."[184]
  • "Winning is an important thing, but to have your own style, to have people copy you, to admire you, that is the greatest gift."[94]

Illness, death and tributes[edit]

"He has enriched and personified our football. He was an icon of the Netherlands. Johan Cruijff belonged to all of us."

—King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands pays tribute following Cruyff's death.[185]

Football has lost a man who did more to make the beautiful game beautiful than anyone in history.

— Former English international Gary Lineker[186]

In October 2015, Cruyff, a heavy smoker until he underwent open heart surgery in 1991, was diagnosed with lung cancer.[187] After giving up smoking in 1991 following surgery, he had taken to sucking lollipops when watching games.[188] He featured in a Catalan health department advert, saying, "Football has given me everything in life, tobacco almost took it all away."[188][189] In February 2016, he stated that he had been responding well to chemotherapy and was winning the battle against his cancer.[190]

On the morning of 24 March 2016, in a clinic in Barcelona, Cruyff succumbed to his cancer at the age of 68, surrounded by his wife, children and grandchildren. His lung cancer had metastasized to his brain and about one week before his death he had begun to lose movement on his left side and his ability to speak. He was cremated in Barcelona the day after his death at a private ceremony that was attended only by his wife Danny, children (Chantal, Susila, and Jordi) and grandchildren.[191][192][193]

The friendly football match between the Netherlands and France held on the day after Cruyff's death 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").[194]

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.

— Former UEFA president Michel Platini pays tribute to Cruyff.[195]

Cruyff's sudden death shocked the football world.[196][197][198] 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.[199][200][201][202] Thousands of Barcelona fans passed through the memorial to Cruyff, opened inside the Camp Nou stadium, to pay tribute to the former player and manager who has had an immeasurable impact on the last 40 years at Barça. At the Camp Nou memorial, former president Joan Laporta could not stop his tears in front of the immense photograph of Cruyff. Cruyff's greatness was even respected by his rivals.[203][204][205][206] President Florentino Pérez led a Real Madrid delegation to the memorial, including former players Emilio Butragueno and Amancio Amaro.[207] Writing in his Newsweek column, the former Real Madrid president Ramón Calderón, who also works as a lawyer in Madrid, pays tribute to 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.”[183][208]

Ahead of the El Clásico against Real Madrid (2 April 2016), Barcelona announced plans for five special tributes to the late club legend, including: 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' will replace the World Club champions badge on the front fof the Barcelona players' shirts; 3.) Children wearing t-shirts with the words 'Gràcies Johan' will accompany Barça's and Madrid's players on to the pitch at the beginning of the game. The logo of the Johan Cruyff Foundation will 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 will be shown on the big screens at Camp Nou stadium.[209][210]

Former Israeli president and prime minister Shimon Peres paid tribute to Cruyff as a cultural figure and wrote: “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. Your work promoting sport and peace gave hope to children and youth around the world.”[211]

Career statistics[edit]




League Cup Continental Total
Club Season Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Netherlands Ajax 1964–65 9 4 0 0 0 0 9 4
Netherlands Ajax 1965–66 19 16 4 9 0 0 23 25
Netherlands Ajax 1966–67 30 33 5 5 6 3 41 41
Netherlands Ajax 1967–68 33 25 5 6 3 2 41 33
Netherlands Ajax 1968–69 29 24 3 3 10 6 42 33
Netherlands Ajax 1969–70 33 22 5 6 8 4 46 32
Netherlands Ajax 1970–71 25 21 6 5 6 1 37 27
Netherlands Ajax 1971–72 32 25 4 3 9 5 45 33
Netherlands Ajax 1972–73 26 16 6 3 32 19
Netherlands Ajax 1973–74 2 3 2 3
Spain Barcelona 1973–74 26 16 26 16
Spain Barcelona 1974–75 30 7 8 0 38 7
Spain Barcelona 1975–76 29 6 9 2 38 8
Spain Barcelona 1976–77 30 14 7 5 37 19
Spain Barcelona 1977–78 28 5 7 1 10 5 45 11
United States Los Angeles Aztecs 1979 27 14 27 14
United States Washington Diplomats 1980 27 10 27 10
United States Washington Diplomats 1981 5 2 5 2
Spain Levante 1980–81 10 2 10 2
Netherlands Ajax 1981–82 15 7 1 0 6 3 23 10
Netherlands Ajax 1982–83 21 7 7 3 2 0 30 10
Netherlands Feyenoord 1983–84 33 11 7 1 4 1 44 13
Career total 1964–1984 519 290 54 42 88 37 661 369


Year Apps Goals
1967 9 2
1968 4 1
1969 1 1
1970 3 0
1971 2 4
1972 5 6
1973 4 4
1974 14 8
1975 3 5
1976 3 2
1977 2 0

International goals[edit]

Scores and results table. Netherlands's goal tally first:[213]

Summary statistics[edit]

Apps Goals Average
League 519 290 0.56
Domestic cups 54 39 0.72
International cups 89 38 0.43
Netherlands national team 48 33 0.69
TOTAL 711 405 0.56


Club Season Games managed Games won Games drawn Games lost
Netherlands Ajax 1985–86 34 25 2 7
Netherlands Ajax 1986–87 34 25 3 6
Netherlands Ajax 1987–88 18 12 2 4
Spain Barcelona 1988–89 38 23 11 4
Spain Barcelona 1989–90 38 23 5 10
Spain Barcelona 1990–91 33 22 6 5
Spain Barcelona 1991–92 38 23 9 6
Spain Barcelona 1992–93 38 25 8 5
Spain Barcelona 1993–94 38 23 5 10
Spain Barcelona 1994–95 38 18 10 10
Spain Barcelona 1995–96 40 21 13 6







Cruyff receiving the 1971 Ballon d'Or

Further honours[edit]

  • In 1999, he was voted European Player of the Century in an election held by the International Federation of Football History & Statistics (IFFHS).[12]
  • 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.[223]
  • On 22 May 2006, Cruyff was presented a Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to football by Laureus in their annual World Sports Awards.[224]
  • Cruyff received a lifetime achievement award from the KNVB in August 2006.[225][226]
  • In 2006, Cruyff played in Dennis Bergkamp's Testimonial as a second-half substitute with Ajax.[227]
  • On 18 April 2007, Ajax decided to retire the number 14 shirt in honour of Cruyff and in celebration of his birthday.[228]
  • In 2010, Cruyff was presented the FIFA Order of Merit (highest honour awarded by FIFA) for his significant contribution to football.[9]


  • 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. (Bloomsbury Publishing, London, 1999)
  • Burns, Jimmy: Barça: A People's Passion. (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2011)
  • Burns, Jimmy: La Roja: How Soccer Conquered Spain and How Spanish Soccer Conquered the World. (Nation Books, 2012)
  • Casanovas, Josep María: Cruyff, una vida por el Barça. (Ediciones B, 1973, ISCOND-400-6710-0)
  • Conde Esteve, Justo: La cruyffcifixión del «mini-dios» Núñez. (Edimestre Serveis Editorials, 1996, ISBN 84-87888-20-8)
  • Cruijff, Johan; de Boer, Sytze: Johan Cruijff uitspraken. Een biografie in citaten. (Uitgeverij Schuyt Nederland, 2013, ISBN 9789081797412)
  • Cruyff, Johan: Mis futbolistas y yo. (Ediciones B, 1993, ISBN 84-406-3999-6)
  • Cruyff, Johan: Me gusta el fútbol. (RBA Libros, 2002)
  • Cruyff, Johan: Fútbol. Mi filosofía. (Ediciones B, 2012)
  • Ghemmour, Chérif: Johan Cruyff, génie pop et despote. Préface par Michel Platini. (Paris: Editions Hugo Sport, 2015, ISBN 978-2-7556-1894-5)
  • Hiddema, Bert: El Cruijff. (Amsterdam: Uitgeverij Pandora Pockets, 2002)
  • Hiddema, Bert: Cruijff! Van Jopie tot Johan. (Amsterdam: Uitgeverij L.J. Veen, 2006)
  • 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. (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. (Orion Publishing Group, 1994)
  • Kuper, Simon: Ajax, the Dutch, the War: Football in Europe during the Second World War. (Orion Publishing Group, 2003)
  • Richards, Ted: Soccer and Philosophy: Beautiful Thoughts on the Beautiful Game (Popular Culture and Philosophy). (Open Court Publishing, 2010)
  • Riera, Josep; Roca, Miquel: Van Barça: el Futbol Club Barcelona i Holanda, més que una relació. (Tarragona, Valls: Cossetània Edicions, 2007, ISBN 8497912721)
  • Schots, Mik; Luitzen, Jan: Wie is Johan Cruijff. Insiders duiden het Orakel. Maar Cruijff heeft zelf het laatste Woord. (Uitgeverij Arbeiderspers, 2007, ISBN 9789029564755)
  • Schulze-Marmeling, Dietrich: Der König und sein Spiel: Johan Cruyff und der Weltfußball. (Göttingen: Verlag Die Werkstatt GmbH, 2012, ISBN 978-3-89533-845-8)
  • Wilson, Jonathan: Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Football Tactics. (Orion Books Limited, 2010)
  • Winner, David: Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Football. (Bloomsbury Publishing, London, 2000)
  • Winsemius, Pieter: Je gaat het pas zien als je het doorhebt. Over Cruijff en leiderschap. (Amsterdam: Uitgeverij Balans, 2004)


See also[edit]


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    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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  104. ^ Johnson, William. "Lessons and inspiration for your business from the life of Johan Cruyff". Psychological Skills for Professional Services Ltd ( Retrieved 10 Jul 2016. 
  105. ^ Tredgold, Gordon (24 Mar 2016). "3 Important Lessons from Football Legend Johan Cruyff". Retrieved 10 Jul 2016. 
  106. ^ Bermudez, Juanjo (26 Mar 2016). "What Silicon Valley Could Learn From Johan Cruyff". Retrieved 10 Jul 2016. 
  107. ^ Deerin, Chris (27 Mar 2016). "Politicians should learn from Cruyff, who knew an ugly win means nothing". Daily Mail Online ( Retrieved 10 Jul 2016. 
  108. ^ Kallis, Rickard (4 Apr 2016). "Johan Cruyff's legacy to Bilot". Retrieved 10 Jul 2016. 
  109. ^ Willems, Sandor (14 Apr 2016). "A tribute to an inspirational leader: Johan Cruyff. And the lessons we can learn.". Retrieved 10 Jul 2016. 
  110. ^ Johnson, William (20 May 2016). "Lessons and inspiration for consulting firms from the life of Johan Cruyff". Management Consultancies Association ( Retrieved 10 Jul 2016. 
  111. ^ Vilasís, Marc Casals (8 Jun 2016). "6 Outstanding Business Lessons I Learnt From Johan Cruyff". Retrieved 10 Jul 2016. 
  112. ^ "Menotti hails Guardiola". ESPN FC. 13 Jul 2011. Retrieved 2 Jul 2016. 
  113. ^ Martín, Luis (11 Jul 2011). ""El fútbol se lo robaron a la gente"". El País. Retrieved 2 Jul 2016. César Luis Menotti: “Yo creo que hubo cuatro reyes y el quinto no ha aparecido. Di Stéfano, Pelé, Cruyff y Maradona. Ahora estamos esperando al quinto, que será Messi o, de momento, no será nadie. Es el que está más cerca, pero no le vas a dar la corona a los cinco años.” [Original in Spanish] 
  114. ^ Menotti, César Luis (26 Mar 2016). "'Cruyff, el inmortal', por César Menotti". La Nación ( Retrieved 2 Jul 2016. 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] 
  115. ^ "Eric Cantona: Perfect XI". 1 April 2006. Retrieved 1 July 2016. 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." 
  116. ^ Coerts, Stefan (25 Mar 2016). "Cruyff was my idol - Van Basten". Retrieved 12 Jul 2016. 
  117. ^ Hunter, Graham (27 Mar 2016). "Johan Cruyff believed it was more important to improve lives than to win trophies... that's why he was great and good". Daily Mail Online ( Retrieved 17 Jul 2016. Emilio Butragueño: "I always told everyone that Cruyff was my idol. I’m not being disloyal to Madrid by saying that.‘I believe in honesty and when you look at what Johan’s like, who he is and how he played, then if you can’t say he’s your idol, you are not a person worthy of being a Real Madrid supporter." 
  118. ^ Kuper, Simon (24 Mar 2016). "Johan Cruyff: The player, the coach, the legacy. [Originally appeared in the July 2009 issue]". Retrieved 18 Jul 2016. 
  119. ^ Wilson, Jonathan (24 Mar 2016). "Johan Cruyff's legacy? The whole of modern football". Eurosport ( Retrieved 12 Jul 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.” 
  120. ^ Sharma, Aabhas (25 Mar 2016). "The man who changed football". Business Standard ( Retrieved 18 Jul 2016. 
  121. ^ Prabhu, Jaideep (3 Apr 2016). "Great player, greater manager: Johan Cruyff's immeasurable legacy makes him the greatest footballer of all time". Retrieved 18 Jul 2016. 
  122. ^ "Farewell to football's thriller incomparable". 24 Mar 2016. Retrieved 12 Jul 2016. 
  123. ^ Lowe, Sid (24 Mar 2016). "Barcelona were transformed by Johan Cruyff not once but twice, and for ever". The Guardian ( Retrieved 24 Jul 2016. Sid Lowe: “As a player he led them to their first league title in 14 years; as a manager he led them to their first European Cup. The legacy is clear, profound and present. Before 1990 Barcelona had won 10 league titles in their entire history and no European Cups; since then they have won 13 leagues and five European Cups. But it is not about the trophies, or not only; it goes beyond that, to philosophy and identity. Winning, sure; a way of winning too.” 
  124. ^ Adams, Tom (7 Jun 2015). "The power of an idea: Why Barcelona will keep winning, with or without Luis Enrique". Eurosport. Retrieved 10 Jul 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.
  125. ^ Marcotti, Gabriele (24 Mar 2016). "Johan Cruyff was one of football's greatest trailblazers on and off pitch". ESPN FC. Retrieved 2 Jul 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.
  126. ^ Browne, Kenneth (24 Mar 2016). "Legacy of a legend: Johan Cruyff". Retrieved 10 Jul 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.
  127. ^ Martínez, Roberto (11 July 2010). "World Cup final: Johan Cruyff sowed seeds for revolution in Spain's fortunes". The Daily Telegraph (London, UK). Archived from the original on 13 July 2010. Retrieved 13 July 2010. 
  128. ^ Lowe, Sid (11 February 2011). "I'm a romantic, says Xavi, heartbeat of Barcelona and Spain". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 12 June 2014. Xavi Hernández: "Our model was imposed by [Johan] Cruyff; it's an Ajax model. It's all about rondos [piggy in the middle]. Rondo, rondo, rondo." 
  129. ^ Draper, Rob (22 May 2011). "Ronald Koeman: How Pep Guardiola created the greatest football team in the world". Daily Mail Online ( Retrieved 10 Jul 2016. Ronald Koeman: “It was Cruyff who introduced the Dutch style of attacking football into the first team and the academy... Barcelona said goodbye to the 4-4-2 system. Cruyff would never use that again. He introduced the 4-3-3 and later even the 3-4-3 system, with only three defenders. The way we played under Cruyff was revolutionary. In my eyes it was sometimes too attacking but that was Johan Cruyff for you... Our game was full of risk. I was not even a real defender and had to move into midfield with the ball whenever possible. We also pushed right up in every game. It created fantastic games to watch but we were also punished. We left big spaces behind our defence, but Cruyff said we would win the majority of our games and he was right... Cruyff was deliberately looking for players who could play in the attacking style he had been used to in the total Dutch football of the seventies. He brought in Michael Laudrup, he bought me and Hristo Stoichkov... When Cruyff brought Pep [Guardiola] into the squad, he said to me, ‘You are going to look after this boy. You are going to be his tutor, help him develop and make sure he learns the Dutch style of play.’ From the very beginning he [Guardiola] was asking me everything about the Ajax youth academy. He wanted to know about the Dutch school of football. More than any other player he wanted to know about one-touch football, about positional play.” 
  130. ^ Wilson, Jonathan (22 Dec 2015). "The devil and José Mourinho". The Guardian ( Retrieved 12 Jul 2016. Jonathan Wilson: “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.” 
  131. ^ "Koeman: Cruyff my biggest influence". 6 May 2015. Retrieved 20 August 2015. 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." 
  132. ^ 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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External links[edit]

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Ljupko Petrović
European Cup Winning Coach
Succeeded by
Raymond Goethals