Amsterdam (dpa) – Pele, Maradona and Beckenbauer – they have all shaped football during their playing days and afterwards. But it can be said that no one has had as much influence on the match as Johan Cruyff.
“His legacy knows no bounds,” said Pep Guardiola, the coach of the Dutch soccer legend, who would have turned 75 today. Cruyff was the current coach of Manchester City at FC Barcelona for a number of years and made an impression on the Spaniard like no other before or after him. Guardiola once said, “I didn’t know anything about football, until I met Cruyff. And through him we understood football.”
Cruyff, who died of lung cancer six years ago, is still revered at the milestones of his career today. FC Barcelona appointed him as honorary president, in Amsterdam the arena was named after the legendary number 14. “James Dean Football”, as Arsene Wenger once called him the talented playmaker, is still loved almost everywhere in the world of football. “Cruyff has been an inspiration to our entire generation. Also because of his charisma. His whole look radiates freedom,” Wenger said.
The beauty of the game is more important than the results
Freedom – was also the core of Cruyff’s footballing philosophy. History recorded the unconditional offensive football of Cruyff’s teams with the name “Voetbal totaal”. Despite all his ambitions, the beauty of the game has always been more important to him than the outcome. The defeat in the 1974 World Cup final in Munich against Germany still troubled him many years later. But Cruyff was proud of the World Cup itself and the exciting match for Orange.
“Of course I would have liked to win the final in Munich, but the fact that we are still talked about all over the world as the team that played the most beautiful football is a bigger victory for me than winning the World Cup,” Cruyff once said later about the 2-1 draw. Against Beckenbauer & Co. at the Olympic Stadium in Munich.
So Cruyff was denied the big title with the Orange team led by his mentor Rinus Michaels. On the other hand, at club level, the genius in the ball won all the important titles. Between 1971 and 1973 he led Ajax to the European Cup title three times in a row, and achieved this feat with FC Barcelona in 1992 as coach. Guardiola in midfield, Ronald Koeman in defense and eccentric Hristo Stoichkov in attack perfected Cruyff’s offensive magic with stunning ball substitutions.
Khaf Cruyff as an expert and columnist
The Catalan capital became the second home of “King Johan”. His former club admired the ‘Dutch magician’ in his obituary in 2016. Cruyff’s philosophy was ‘You can’t win without the ball’. And that is how Barcelona played for years under the star Dutch coach, who repeatedly offended the pitch with his penchant for perfectionism, stubbornness and his penchant for knowing everything. “He often let his opponents on the field run anywhere and the crowd as well when he thought it fit,” famous Dutch author Auke Kok wrote in his recently published book Johan Cruyff – Total Football. The Biography.
Cruyff has spoken his mind frankly all his life. His appearance as a TV pundit or as a columnist for De Telegraaf was feared by coaches and players. But Cruyff’s unparalleled skill as a professional and coach allowed him to take on the role of the main critic.
“Rembrandt football,” as the trade magazine Voetbal International writes these days, was respected until his death and beyond. Six years ago, Der Spiegel wrote on the day of his death: “March 24, 2016 is the day football died. Just as Buddy Holly invented rock and roll, Johan Cruyff invented football, like we know him today.”
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