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One of football’s most famous players, the great Johan Cruyff, has died of lung cancer aged 68. Regarded by many as one of the greatest to ever play the game, he passed away at his home in Barcelona surrounded by friends and family.
THREE CONSECUTIVE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE TROPHIES WITH AJAX
Having burst onto the scene as a youngster at Dutch giants Ajax, he led the team to three consecutive Champions League (European Cup) trophies from 1971-73. He also collected eight Dutch league title honours, a UEFA Super Cup and one Intercontinental Cup for the club he joined as a youngster at 10 years old.
In the summer of 1973, Cruyff became the world’s most expensive player when he teamed up once again with his mentor Rinus Michels at Barcelona. In his first season at the club, the Catalan’s won the league title. That, along with a Spanish Cup triumph in 1978 remains the only pieces of silverware he would pick up in his five seasons as a player in Spain. He would save his best for when he returned as a coach.
THE “CRUYFF” TURN
At the 1974 World Cup Finals in West Germany, Holland was strongly fancied by all the betting exchanges to lift the trophy for the first time in their history. Although they reached the final, losing out 2-1 to the hosts, Cruyff will forever be associated with a sublime piece of skill he showcased in a match against Sweden when the “Cruyff” turn was born. Despite being named the player of the tournament, the team’s failure to lift football’s biggest prize left a bitter taste in the mouth for Cruyff, who would not represent his country in major finals again.
THE “DREAM TEAM”
In 1988, having cut his cloth as a coach at Ajax, Cruyff returned to Barcelona to begin one of the finest era’s in the clubs history. He brought in players such as Pep Guardiola, José Mari Bakero, Txiki Begiristain, Ion Andoni Goikoetxea, Ronald Koeman, Michael Laudrup, Romário, Gheorghe Hagi, and Hristo Stoichkov to create what was affectionately known as the “Dream Team”. Four consecutive league titles, a European Cup Winners Cup and finally, the Holy Grail, the Champions League, was delivered in 1992 to elevate the Dutchman to god like status in the city. Without Cruyff’s influence on players such as Guardiola, we would not have seen the likes of Messi, Xavi or Iniesta. Football will be eternally grateful for what this Dutch master gave to the game.
Never afraid to upset the establishment, Cruyff alienated himself from his fellow countrymen before the 2010 World Cup Final in South Africa between Spain and Holland when he declared; “’Who am I supporting? I am Dutch but I support the football that Spain is playing. Spain’s style is the style of Barcelona… Spain, a replica of Barca, is the best publicity for football”. Coaches such as Pep Guardiola and Luis Enrique have bought into the Cruyff philosophy, producing football teams that seem to be from a different planet. Thanks to men like this, his star will continue to shine bright despite the sad news about his passing.
By: Steve Mitchell