The best European Footballer of the 20th Century
Nickname: *Pythagoras in boots*
Club: AFC Ajax (1969/1974) | FC Barcelona (1974)
Growth type: Early/Lasting
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- Hendrik Johannes Cruijff (born 25 April 1947), commonly known as Johan Cruyff, is a former Dutch footballer and manager. He was named European Footballer of the Year three times (1971, 1973, 1974) which is a record jointly held with Michel Platini, and Marco van Basten. Cruyff was the most famous exponent of the football philosophy known as Total Football, explored by Rinus Michels and is widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time.
After his retirement from playing in 1984, Cruyff became highly successful as manager of Ajax and later Barcelona; he remains an influential advisor to both clubs. His son, Jordi, also went on to play football professionally.
In 1999, Cruyff was voted European Player of the Century in an election held by the IFFHS, and came second behind Pelé in their World Player of the Century poll. He came third in a vote organised by the French weekly magazine France Football consulting their former Ballon d'Or winners to elect their Football Player of the Century.
On 2 November 2009 Cruyff was named as the head coach of the Catalonia national football team in place of Pere Gratacòs. This is the first coaching job in the last thirteen years.
Style of play
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- Through his career, Cruyff became synonymous with the playing style of "Total Football". It is a system where a player who moves out of his position is replaced by another from his team, thus allowing the team to retain their intended organizational structure. In this fluid system no footballer is fixed in their intended outfield role; anyone can be successively an attacker, a midfielder and a defender. The style was honed by Ajax coach Rinus Michels around the time Cruyff came to prominence.
Strictly speaking, Cruyff played centre forward in this system. But he would drop deep to confuse his markers or suddenly move to the wing with devastating effect. No one had seen a centre forward like that before. Due to the way Cruyff played his game he is still referred to as "the total footballer."
Cruyff was known for his technical ability, speed and acceleration, but his greatest quality was vision, based on an acute sense of his team-mates' positions as an attack unfolded. The 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 angled 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."
Cruyff also perfected a move now known as the "Cruyff Turn." To do this move, Cruyff would look to pass or cross the ball. However, instead of kicking it, he would drag the ball behind his planted foot with the inside of his other foot and turn through 180 degrees and accelerate away outside a defender.
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- Cruyff played for Ajax, Barcelona, Los Angeles Aztecs, Washington Diplomats, Levante, and Feyenoord during his career.
Cruyff joined Ajax youth system on his 10th birthday. He made his first team debut on 15 November 1964 in the Eredivisie, against Groningen, 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, 13th. Cruyff really started to make an impression in the 1965–66 season. Cruyff established himself as a regular first team player after scoring two goals against Door Wilskracht Sterk in the Olympic stadion on 24 October 1965 (in a 2–0 victory). In the seven games that winter he scored eight times and in March 1966 he scored the first three goals in a league game against Telstar (6–2 win). Four days later, in a cup game against BV Veendam (7–0 win), he scored four goals. In total that season, Cruyff scored 25 goals in 23 games, and Ajax won the league championship.
In the 1966-1967 season, Ajax again won the league championship, but also won the KNVB Cup, for Cruyff's first "double." Cruyff ended the season as the leading goalscorer in the Eredivisie with 33.
Cruyff won the league for the third successive year in the 1967–68 season. He was also named Dutch footballer of the year for the second successive time, a feat he would repeat in 1969. On 28 May 1969, Cruyff played in his first European Cup final against AC Milan, but the Italian team ended up winning 4-1.
In the 1969–70 season, Cruyff won his second league and cup "double," but at the beginning of the 1970-1971 season, Cruyff 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. Ajax won the game 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's number was 14, even using the number with the Dutch national team. There has even been a documentary on Cruyff titled Nummer 14 Johan Cruyff and in his native Holland there is a magazine by Voetbal International titled "Nummer 14".
In a league game against AZ '67 on 29 November 1970, Cruyff scored no less than 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. In spite of speculation that Cruyff would move to another club (Feyenoord and Barcelona were interested) on 12 July 1971, he signed a seven-year contract at Ajax. At the end of the season, he became not only the Dutch, but also the European Footballer of the Year for 1971.
1972 was a particular successful year for Ajax and Cruyff. Ajax won a second European Cup, beating Internazionale 2–0 in the final, with Cruyff scoring both goals. This victory prompted Dutch newspapers to announce the demise of the Italian style of defensive football in the face of Total Football. Soccer: The Ultimate Encyclopaedia says: "Single-handed, Cruyff not only pulled Internazionale of Italy apart in the 1972 European Cup Final, but scored both goals in Ajax's 2–0 win." Cruyff also scored in the 3–2 victory over ADO Den Haag in the KNVB Cup final. In the league, Cruyff was the top scorer with 25 goals as Ajax became champions. In the autumn, Ajax won the Intercontinental Cup, beating Argentina's Independiente (1–1 and 3–0) and then in January 1973, they won the European Super Cup by beating Rangers 3–1 away and 3–2 in Amsterdam. Curiously, Cruyff's only own goal came on 20 August 1972 against FC Amsterdam. A week later, against Go Ahead Eagles (6–0), Cruyff scored four times for Ajax. The 1972–73 season was concluded with the another league championship victory and a third successive Europe Cup (Ajax — Juventus 1–0).
In the summer of 1973, Cruyff was sold to Barcelona for 6 million guilder (approx. US$ 2 million, circa 1973). On 19 August 1973, he played his last match for Ajax (Ajax — FC Amsterdam 6–1), the 2nd match of the 1973–74 season.
At Barcelona, Cruyff quickly won over the Barça fans when he told the European press he chose Barça over Real Madrid because he could not play for a club associated with the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco. He further endeared himself when he chose a Catalan name Jordi for his son. He helped the club win La Liga for the first time since 1960, along the way defeating Real Madrid 5–0 at their home of Bernabéu. He was also crowned European Footballer of the Year.
During his time at Barcelona, Cruyff scored one of his most famous goals, The 'Phantom' Goal. In a game against Atlético de 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 Madrid goal with his right heel (the ball was at about neck height and had already traveled 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).
Note that Cruyff played two games with Paris Saint-Germain in 1975 during the Paris tournament. On loan from Barcelona to 10,000,000 francs, it was unfortunately booed by the Parc des Princes in its output when the defeat of the french club against Valencia. The Dutch player had only agreed because he was a fan of designer Daniel Hechter, who was then president of PSG.
At the age of 32, he signed a lucrative deal with the Los Angeles Aztecs of the North American Soccer League (NASL). He had previously been rumored to be joining the New York Cosmos but the deal did not materialize. However, he did play exhibition games for the Cosmos. He stayed at the Aztecs for only one season, but was voted NASL Player of the Year in that time. The following season he moved to play for the Washington Diplomats; he played the whole 1980 campaign for Washington, leaving soon after the start of the 1981 season.
Back in the Netherlands
After his spell in the USA and a short-lived stay at UD Levante in Spain, Cruyff returned to play in his homeland, rejoining Ajax on 30 November 1980 as "technical advisor" of trainer Leo Beenhakker, Ajax being 8th in the ranking of the table of the Dutch League then after 13 games. Ajax would finish 2nd in 1980–81 in June 1981 after 34 games. In January 1981, Cruyff played three friendly matches for DS'79 from Dordrecht. In March 1981, Cruyff started to play for Levante, a Spanish 2nd Division club. The club did not keep the financial agreements, however. In May 1981, Cruyff played as a guest player for AC Milan, in a tournament, but was injured. As a result, he missed almost all of the entire American soccer season thereafter. In December 1981, Cruyff signed a new contract as player for Ajax. His already since November 1980 expected return was on December 6, 1981 against Haarlem (4–1 home win), Cruyff scored the first goal. In the 1981–82 and 1982–83 seasons, Ajax, along with Cruyff, became league champions. In the 1982–83 season, Ajax also won the Dutch Cup (KNVB-Beker). One notable incident from this era was a famous goal he scored against Helmond Sport in 1982 while playing for Ajax. Cruyff scored a penalty the same way Rik Coppens had already done it 25 years earlier. He put the ball down as for a routine penalty kick, but instead of shooting at goal, Cruyff nudged the ball sideways to his Ajax teammate Jesper Olsen who in return passed it back to Cruyff who tapped the ball into the empty net, as Otto Versfeld, the bemused Helmond goalkeeper, looked on. At the end of the 1982–83 season, Ajax decided not to offer Cruyff a new contract. This angered Cruyff, who responded by signing for Ajax's archrivals Feyenoord. Cruyff's season at Feyenoord was a successful one in which the club won the Eredivisie for the first time in a decade, part of a league and cup double.
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- As a Dutch international, Cruyff, played 48 matches, scoring 33 goals. In his second Dutch national team match, a friendly against Czechoslovakia, Cruyff was the first Dutch international to receive a red card. He received a one-year suspension from the Dutch KNVB.
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, however, had a separate sponsorship deal with Puma.
Cruyff led the Netherlands to a runners-up medal in the 1974 FIFA World Cup and was named the player of the tournament. Thanks to his team's mastery of Total Football, they coasted all the way to the final, knocking out Argentina (4–0), East Germany (2–0), and Brazil (2–0) along the way. Cruyff himself scored twice against Argentina in one of his team's most dominating performances, then he scored the second goal against Brazil to knock out the defending champions. The Netherlands faced hosts West Germany in the final. Cruyff kicked off and the ball was passed around the Oranje team 13 times before returning to Cruyff, who then went on a rush that eluded 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 even touched the ball. Only during the latter half of the final was his playmaking influence stifled by the effective marking of Berti Vogts, while Franz Beckenbauer, Uli Hoeneß, and Wolfgang Overath dominated the midfield, enabling West Germany to win 2–1. Cruyff received a yellow card during half time for talking to the referee.
Cruyff retired from international football in October 1977, having helped the national team qualify for the upcoming World Cup. Without him, the Netherlands finished runners-up in the World Cup again. Initially the reason given for missing the 1978 FIFA World Cup were political reasons given a military dictatorship was in power in Argentina at that time. In 2008, however, Cruyff stated to the journalist Antoni Bassas in Catalunya Ràdio, that he and his family were involved in 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%, there are moments when there are other values in life."
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- World Cup: Runners Up (1974) :'(
European Cup: 3 times winner (1971, 1972, 1973)
Intercontinental Cup: Winner (1972)
Eredivisie: 9 times winner (1966, 1967, 1968, 1970. 1972, 1973, 1982, 1983, 1984)
Dutch Cup: 6 times winner (1967, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1983, 1984)
La Liga: Winner (1974)
Copa del Rey: Winner (1978)
European Footballer of the Year: 3 times winner (1971, 1973, 1974)
Eredivisie Topscorer: 2 times (1967, 1972)
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Explanation about stats can be found here: post148131.html#p148131