Yesterday the world of Football mourned as one of their greatest sons passed away. The footballing icon Johan Cruyff lost his battle with lung cancer yesterday at the age of 68. The Dutchman was diagnosed with cancer in October 2015, and after a long hard fight, he died peacefully yesterday morning in Barcelona surrounded by his family. In February, Cruyff released a statement updating the world on how his treatment was going, he insisted that it was going well and that he believed he would make a full recovery. He said, ‘After several medical treatments I can say that the results have been very positive, thanks to the excellent work of the doctors, the affection of the people and my positive mentality. Right now, I have the feeling that I am 2-0 up in the first half of a match that has not finished yet. But I am sure that I will end up winning.’
The legend that is Cruyff is regarded as one of the greatest footballers of all time, a gentleman whose brain and philosophy changed the game of football. Cruyff was the star man of the Holland side that introduced the world to ‘total football’. It was a strategy of a team that passes the ball frequently to gain advantage, and to switch positions while in possession to adjust the flow of play. Cruyff’s initiative in 1979, led to the creation of FC Barcelona’s esteemed youth academy, ‘La Masia’. Cruyff wanted to recreate the legendary Ajax Academy in Cataluña. La Masia is regarded as the best youth academy in the world producing some of the greatest players in football, such as Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez. All three of which were nominated for the 2010 Ballon d’Or, making La Masia the first academy ever to have trained all three finalists in the same year. The philosophy of ‘total football’ run through Cruyff was merged with Spanish ‘one touch play’ to create ‘tiki-taka’. This is a style of play that Barcelona invented and is seen as the bench mark of football strategy.
The former technical director of Barcelona, Pep Segura, attributes Barcelona’s success to its style of play. He says, “It is about creating one philosophy, one mentality, from the bottom of the club to the top”. Pep Guardiola showcased ‘tiki taka’ in his managerial reign at Barcelona, bringing the club a lot of success. This style of play has been incorporated into the Spanish national team, as well as FC Bayern Munich bringing both sides a lot of silverware.
Cruyff had the same impact on the pitch, leaving his audience with a piece of genius that would change the game. The Cruyff Turn, he created a skill move that lovers of football all around the world have tried to replicate at one point in their life. It was the 1974 World Cup, Holland were playing Sweden, when a moment of brilliance from the star of the show took the world by storm, Cruyff’s masterpiece skill consists of a feint to either pass or shoot, before dragging the ball back with an instep behind the standing foot. No one had ever seen this skill, especially Jan Olsson of Sweden who he performed it on. Ever since then it has been copied by players from all over the world. Johan Cruyff had such a massive impact on the game of football and even to this day, a lot stems from his genius, he was simply an inspiration. He also had an amazing career playing for and managing some great teams.
Ajax (1964-73) 240 apps, 190 goals
Barcelona (1973-78) 143 apps, 48 goals
LA Aztecs (1979-80) 23 apps, 13 goals
Washington Diplomats (1980-81) 30 apps, 12 goals
Levante (1981) 10 apps, 2 goals
Ajax (1981-83) 36 apps, 14 goals
Feyenoord (1983-84) 33 apps, 11 goals
Holland (1966-77) 48 apps, 33 goals
Cruyff won 19 trophies in two spells playing at Ajax where he started his career at the age of 10. This includes 3 European cups in a row, as well as 8 Eredivisie titles. While at Barcelona he won a La Liga title and the Copa Del Rey. After his spell in Spain and the return to Ajax, a year after his second spell in Amsterdam he joined Feyenoord, where he went on to win an Eredivisie title and the KNVB Cup. Unfortunately, Johan Cruyff never won a trophy with Holland, but did come runner up in the 1974 World Cup and was also third place in the European Championships in 1976. As a manager Cruyff was very successful, With Ajax he won the KNVB cup two years in a row, as well as winning the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup. With Barcelona he won 10 trophies including a European Cup and 4 La Liga titles in a row. Johan Cruyff also won many individual awards for his talent, including 3 Ballon d’Or awards as a player, and Manager/Coach of the year several times. Other achievements included being selected as the golden player of the Netherlands in 2003, by the KNVB for being Holland’s most outstanding player in the last 50 years. The number 14 shirt that Cruyff famously wore was retired by Ajax to commemorate his career there. Cruyff was also presented with the FIFA order of merit in 2010, the highest honour awarded by FIFA, he was given this for his significant contribution to football.
Johan Cruyff has certainly put his mark on Football forever, and it is so hard to express how much he’ll be missed as he is one of the greats of the game. The world of football has been paying their respects all of yesterday and still continue to. Cruyff brought so much joy to football lovers all over the world, whether it was watching him play or lead his team to success. We thank you Johan Cruyff, for your input and contribution to the game we all love. Rest in Peace.