Johan Cruyff

Maurizio Sarri
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Johan Cruyff

Current Club/Country: N/A.

Previous Clubs/Countries: Ajax, Barcelona.

Honours: European Cup 1991/92. Spanish La Liga 1990/91, 1991/92, 1992/93, 1993/4. Spanish Cup 1989/90. Spanish Super Cup 1991/92, 1992/3, 1994/95. Dutch Cup 1985/86, 1986/87. European Cup-Winners Cup 1986/87, 1988/89. UEFA Supercup 1992/93.

Cruyff is better known for his greatness as a player, because he is one of the greatest players of all time, but he was also a top class coach in his time, and his legacy has left a mark throughout European football. The famous Barcelona style, and its thorough indoctrination through La Masia's youth academies, are down to Cruyff in his time with the club.

His style of play is where tiki-taka was derived from, he created the Barcelona style that we now associate with the club. However his idea was not the one we often see the Cruyffian disciples employ, those who have not really understood it and have the team keeping possession and passing for the sake of passing. His idea was to move the ball around to create space, not simply to keep it from the opponent, that was a plus point, as the opposition cannot score if they do not have the ball.

However, the key to having the ball, for Cruyff, was to use it to score goals. His whole game was based around attack and trying to find ways to get as many players forward into dangerous areas as possible. Formation wise, he was willing to change it to suit what he had at hand, unlike the way Barca and Ajax tend to see a 4-3-3 as the be-all and end-all, Cruyff would often go with a back three or 2 centre forwards.

Surprisingly for such a great player, Cruyff was a very good coach, not one of those who just could not understand why his players could not do the things he did naturally. Maybe because his genius was in having the intelligence to see things before others on the pitch as a player, so making him look quicker than he actually was.

It might have been that he was thinking it through, rather than just playing on instinct, that made him capable of coaching players by explaining things to improve their game. Cruyff would give players one-on-one coaching tips, taking the time to take them aside and just point out small things that can make them better players, such as standing in a slightly different body position would open up their view to spot a pass.

However, like all of us, he was not perfect. Cruyff was volatile, and had a tendency to fall out with those around him who did not completely agree with his every word. Like so many with a vision, he became enslaved to it, in a similar way Sarri is now, and was unwilling to be flexible or compromise the system itself to suit the players at his disposal. It was always about attacking, passing football, there was never any pragmatism when the players were unable to cope with the demands of his style of play.

Despite that, he was incredibly successful and built a legacy that has stood the test of time. Cruyff created the modern Barcelona, the success which followed is as much down to him as anyone else at the club. Even the changes to youth recruitment which enabled players like Xavi to break through were in large part his doing. Legend is an oft-used, maybe even overused, word, but it applies 100% to Cruyff, both as a player and as a manager.

Requested by scholes_18_18 & Mort