Earlier today news emerged that a football legend had passed away.
Johan Cruyff was one of the greatest players ever to grace the game, but also an innovator whose direct legacy will be felt for years to come.
A prodigy who emerged from the back streets of postwar Amsterdam, he led his hometown team Ajax to several domestic trophies and a hat-trick of European cups in the early 1970s.
Blessed with a razor-sharp mind, silky skills, a tremendous burst of pace and a powerful shot, he was the complete footballer in an era of ‘total football‘.
Moving on to Barcelona, in his first season (1973-74) he led the Catalan side to the title in an era of Real Madrid dominance, even destroying their bitter rivals 5-0 in Madrid.
Then in the summer of that year, he captained the famous Dutch side which lit up the World Cup in Germany. Although they ultimately lost 2-1 in the final to the formidable host nation, it is still the brilliant ‘Oranje’ who we still talk about.
Although he missed out on the 1978 World Cup (reportedly due to a kidnap threat his family received), he later moved to the North American Soccer League (LA Aztecs and Washington Diplomats), before coming back home to Ajax and then Feyenoord.
Of the all-time greats (Pele, Maradona, Di Stefano) he was the only one who truly excelled as both a player and manager. In the 1980s he managed Ajax to domestic and European success but it was at Barca where he made an indelible mark.
Establishing the ‘dream team’ they won four successive titles and the long cherished European Cup in 1992. But he left a vital legacy of open, attacking football, fuelling an era of dominance under proteges like Frank Rijkaard, Pep Guardiola and now Luis Enrique.
His recent death, due to lung cancer, is a tragedy but his legacy of footballing excellence is will live on for a long time to come.
- That Was Cruyff by Jon Townsend, These Football Times
- Rinus Michels and the Total Football Revolution by Jon Townsend, These Football Times
- Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Football by David Winner (Bloomsbury, 2001)