Johan Cruyff

Johan Cruyff
Image from:

Hendrik Johannes Cruijff (Cruyff)

Current Club: N/A.

Previous Clubs: Ajax, Barcelona, Los Angeles Aztecs, Washington Diplomats, Levante, Washington Diplomats, Ajax, Feyenoord.

Loan Clubs: N/A.

International: Netherlands 48 caps 33 goals. Also represented Catalonia as a player in 1976.

Trophies Won: Eredivisie 1965-66, 1966-67, 1967-68, 1969-70, 1971-72, 1972-73, 1981-82, 1982-83, 1983-84, KNVB Cup 1966-67, 1969-70, 1970-71, 1971-72, 1982-83, 1983-84, European Cup 1970-71, 1971-72, 1972-73, Intercontinental Cup 1972, La Liga 1973-74, Copa del Rey 1977-78, Ballon d'Or 1971, 1973, 1974, Dutch Footballer of the Year 1968, 1972, 1984, Dutch Sportsman of the Year 1973, 1974, FIFA World Cup Golden Ball 1974, IOC European Footballer of the Season 1970/71, 1972/73, Don Balon Award 1977, 1978, NASL MVP 1979.

Johan Cruyff was an extraordinary man, someone who has gone on to, arguably, even greater heights as a coach/manager than he did as a player, despite being probably Europe's greatest ever player. It was the intelligence he displayed during his playing career that made him so brilliant after his retirement. Emerging from the Ajax youth system at just the right time to become the centre piece of the 'Total Football' revolution, yet he could well have ended up in baseball as he showed talent in that game before quitting to concentrate on football at the age of 15.

What you had with Cruyff was a player who had acceleration, pace, intelligence, skill, technique, vision and composure. Slight of build, leading to one of his nicknames: El Flaco (Skinny One) but possessed with great balance. Cruyff also invented the Cruyff Turn, first using it publicly in the 1974 World Cup to completely bamboozle a Swedish defender. Most of all though, Cruyff's greatness was his playmaking as he was a superlative creative playmaker with a role akin to a modern day 'false 9' as he was nominally a centre forward for most of his career, but would drop deep and drift all over the pitch to find space.

Cruyff did have, almost, an obsession with space, he would spend his entire time looking for space, even going so far as to take throw ins so that he could get the ball back unmarked. He could dribble past players and then pick a perfect pass with excellent timing to break an offside trap and create chances. There is little to dispute that he deserved the title 'The Total Footballer' though he was not perfect, as his arrogance was often seen as his downfall. Despite the arrogance, he was never a show off, nothing he did was done to humiliate opponents, it was always about what was best for the team. Cruyff was a player who improved those around him, lifted them and made them better players.

It was often said that Cruyff played football with his mind rather than his legs, indeed he himself said often said, after his retirement, that coaches talked about movement, running a lot, when he believed a player should run less and be in the right place. Later in his career, after coming back out of retirement to play in the North American Soccer League, he dropped deeper on the pitch and became purely a creator until stung by criticism after his Washington Diplomats side struggled to impress. Cruyff showed he could still score goals and racked them up before returning to Holland and leading both Ajax and bitter rivals Feyenoord to league and cup doubles.

"He was an anomaly. A man who played football like no one else. He didn't physically play football after all, he played it with his mind. An esoteric pursuit that completely changed the game. A visionary, a departure, a flight of fancy - Cruyff is the ultimate because his contribution to the game wasn't simply personal. He didn't break records, he didn't win golden boots, and only occasionally dazzled with his skills. The reason he is a great is because he understood the game like no one else ever did and probably ever will. His vision, his ability to see the game." - Chris McMullan