Growth type: Standard/Lasting
Jürgen Croy is something of an unsung hero in the world of goalkeepers. Chances are that you've probably never heard of him, but had he born on the other side of the Wall he could have very well been playing in the 1974 World Cup Final instead of Sepp Maier - he was that good.
Born in the city of Zwickau, Croy spent his entire career with his hometown club, BSG Sachsenring Zwickau (now known as FSV Zwickau), playing nearly 400 top flight matches. He earned his first international cap at the tender age of twenty and kept a clean sheet as East Germany beat Sweden 1-0 and would go on to play 94 times for his country in an international career spanning fourteen years, keeping another clean sheet in his last appearance at the age of 34 against Cuba. But it was during the 1974 World Cup Finals that Croy came to the attention of the football world.
Drawn in the same group as their neighbours, the East Germans - with their outdated blue shirts with GDR emblazoned on the front - upset the form book by beating their counterparts from the West 1-0 in the final game to top the group. And although they were eventually undone by Brazil and Holland in the next round, they went home with their heads held high. None more so than Croy, who, with his excellent saves and reflex reactions, had captured the admiring glances of many.
It was during this period that Croy was at his best and experienced the most success. The 1974 team had built upon the foundations laid by the Olympic squad of 1972, who had walked away with the Bronze medal in Munich, and in 1976 they went all the way and won Gold at Montreal. On the domestic front, Croy won his second East German Cup Final with BSG in 1975, enjoying a run to the Semi-Final of the Cup Winners' Cup the following season. And it was during this period that the outstanding shot stopper was elected East German Football of the Year three times, in 1972, '76 and '78, not to mention being awarded the title of Honorary Citizen of the city of Zwickau in 1976.
Despite winning the East German Cup in 1967 and 1975, the dominance of teams like Dynamo Dresden and FC Carl Zeiss Jena restricted Croy's opportunities to shine in European competitions, which partly goes someway to explaining his partial anonymity in the West. However, his ability to stay at the top of his game earned him rave reviews in both the East and West German media and he deservedly made the Top Fifty of the International Federation of Football History and Statistics' Goalkeepers of the Century.
Croy was an outstanding shot-stopper capable of amazing reflexes on his line. Combined with an excellent command of his penalty area, first-rate ball-handling skills, and above-average consistency, this quality made Croy one of the best goalkeepers of his time and arguably one of the best ever. East and West German media alike often placed him on an equal footing with his contemporaries Sepp Maier and Dino Zoff, two of the game's all-time legends. Croy is generally regarded as the greatest footballer ever to play for East Germany.