Football fans around the world were saddened by the news that Johan Cruyff passed away on Thursday following a battle with lung cancer. The term ‘legend’ is often overused in the world of football, but there is no doubting that the Holland international was and always will be remembered as one of the greatest players to ever grace the turf.
Winning the Ballon d’Or on three occasions as a player is an incredible achievement and this showcases the talents that he possessed. He was widely known for his technical ability, speed and vision, ingredients that all combined together to ensure Cruyff was a delight to watch. Dubbed as “Pythagoras in boots” by sports writer David Miller, the footballing phenomenon’s ability to control matches was mesmerising and he will forever be hailed as an artist.
Throughout his playing days, the former Ajax and Barcelona man was infamous for encompassing the playing style of ‘Total Football’ – a system which was endorsed by Ajax coach Rinus Michels, Cruyff playing the role of ‘conductor’ in the centre of the park. The midfielder said himself that “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.”
Whilst playing at Ajax, Cruyff played a pivotal role in the side’s European Cup triumphs in 1971, 1972 and 1973. Former Manchester United and France forward Eric Cantona said; “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.” The attacking midfielder went on to make 240 appearances at the De Meer Stadion and he scored an incredible 190 goals.
In 1973, the great moved to Barcelona for a world record transfer fee and he stayed at The Nou Camp for 5 years. Whilst plying his trade with the Catalan giants, he scored 48 goals in 143 games and he was influential in the La Liga success in 1973/74. In the summer of 1974, Cruyff also led his national side to the FIFA World Cup final and despite losing to West Germany, he was awarded the Golden Ball trophy which is presented to the best player of the tournament. It proved to be during this competition that the ‘Cruyff Turn’ was born too, a piece of skill that has been replicated by a host of players.
After retiring from football, Cruyff returned to Ajax in 1985 as he took the position of manager. During his three-year stay at the club, he implemented his playing style and coaching philosophies that caught the eye of the footballing world. Barcelona then proved to be his next destination and he guided them to a remarkable 11 trophies in 8 years, a record that has only been surpassed by Pep Guardiola.
Undoubtedly, Johan Cruyff will live long in the memory amongst football fans and the news of his death has shocked the world. With tributes coming in from all around the globe, it’s certain that his legacy will forever have a place in our hearts. The impact he has had on football today is unprecedented with various managers utilising his methods to good effect.
Rest In Peace – Johan Cruyff.