Johan Cruyff Profile

Name Johan Cruyff
Born Apr 25, 1947
Died Mar 24, 2016
Age 73 years
Birthplace Amsterdam, Netherlands
Height 5ft 11ins

Johan Cruyff enjoyed continued success throughout a lengthy career both on and off the pitch. He enjoys legendary status at Ajax, Barcelona and in the Netherlands, his influence will be felt forever.

Johan Cruyff was a former Dutch footballer and football coach who revolutionised the game in both parts of his career. During his time as a player, he is most famous for his stints at Ajax and Barcelona and the Netherlands national team. He also managed Ajax and Barcelona.

Cruyff was voted as the European Player of the Century in 1999 in an election held by the International Federation of Football History & Statistics, finishing second behind Brazil legend Pele in the World Player of the Century poll.

Such is Cruyff's influence on the game that one will often hear references to the "Cruyff turn" - a dribbling move which sees attackers outfox their opponents, wrong-footing them on the turn.

Apart from his spells at Ajax and Barcelona, Cruyff also played for the Los Angeles Aztecs and Washington Diplomats, as well as Feyenoord - Ajax's fierce rivals.

Playing and coaching at Ajax

It was during his two spells at Ajax in which Cruyff truly made his mark on the world of soccer. He came through the youth system at the club and was spurred on by the death of his father when he was only 12 years old. His mother even began working as a cleaner at the club as he worked his way up the ranks.

Cruyff made his senior debut for Ajax on 15 November 1964, scoring Ajax's only goal in a 3-1 Eredivisie defeat to GVAV. The team finished 13th on the table that season - their lowest league finish in the professional era.

The following season, in 1965/66, Cruyff truly announced himself to the Eredivisie and the world. He netted 25 times in 23 games as Ajax became Dutch champions for the first time in six years.

In 1966/67, Ajax and Cruyff fared even better. They won not only the Eredivisie, but also the Dutch Cup, meaning that Cruyff had his first "double". Cruyff netted an incredible 33 goals. In '67/68, Cruyff and Ajax were victorious again in the Eredivisie.

In 1971, Cruyff won his first European Cup as Ajax beat Panathinaikos 2-0 in the final in London. They followed that up with another European Cup the following season, this time beating Inter Milan 2-0 in the final, with both goals scored by Cruyff. Italian football has traditionally been associated with rock-solid defence, but the media dubbed the 1972 final as the dawn of a new dominant football philosophy - "Total Football" reigned supreme and Cruyff was king.

The 1971/72 season also saw Ajax win the Eredivisie and the Dutch Cup. After one more season and one more league title afterwards, Cruyff left for Barcelona.

Cruyff rejoined Ajax on 30 November 1980, not only playing for the club, but also serving as a "technical advisor" to Leo Beenhakker. However, at the end of the 1982/83 season, after Ajax decided not to renew Cruyff's contract, he moved to Feyenoord, where he won the league title.

Cruyff later returned to Ajax as manager and won the 1985/86 and 1986/87 KNVB Cup, as well as the 1986/87 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup. Most importantly, he laid the philosophical foundation for the team which would go on to win the UEFA Champions League in 1995 under Louis van Gaal.

Such was Cruyff's impact at Ajax, the club have now named their stadium after him in honour of his legendary status in Amsterdam.

Emulating Ajax success playing and coaching at Barcelona

Cruyff was hugely successful at Barcelona, winning the 1973/74 La Liga title as a player, but enjoying even more glory as a coach.

The '73/74 success was Barca's first in 14 years and Cruyff was crowned European Footballer of the Year in his first season at the club, following his then-world-record move to Camp Nou - thought to be for a fee of around $2million.

Despite being a crucial cog in Barca's revival on the pitch in the 1970s, similar to what he achieved at Ajax, it was in the dugout where Cruyff arguably made an even bigger impact. He is widely credited for establishing the blueprint that has defined Barcelona's style of play ever since.

After three years in charge of Ajax, the Dutchman would return to Camp Nou in 1988 as first team coach. He put together what has since been known in Catalonia as the 'Dream Team,' as he brought in players such as Ronald Koeman and Pep Guardiola, who proved instrumental in the club's development further down the line. Both would go on to manage the first team.

Cruyff also signed others who would go down in Barcelona folklore for their quality, including Georghe Hagi, Michael Laudrup, Hristo Stoichkov and Romario.

With his 'Dream Team' assembled, Cruyff led Barcelona to four successive La Liga titles from 1990/91 through to 1993/94. The philosophical foundation he laid would live on long into the future, as it did at Ajax.

Cruyff would go on to lead the club to four European finals and their first ever UEFA Champions League title in 1991/92, while ending the perennial dominance enjoyed by Real Madrid in La Liga for decades beforehand.

Barcelona and Cruyff would supplement their domestic and European success with three Supercopa de Espana titles, a Copa del Rey, a UEFA Cup Winners' Cup and a UEFA Super Cup - with Cruyff becoming the club's most successful manager in their history up to that point.

The Dutchman left Barca in 1996 after eight successful years in charge, and continued to be held in legendary regard after his departure.

Despite having held no position at the club at the time, Cruyff was reportedly responsible for picking Guardiola over Jose Mourinho to become Barcelona manager in 2008.

Johan Cruyff and the Netherlands

Cruyff played 48 matches for the Netherlands, scoring 33 goals. He made his debut in 1966 in a Euro 1968 qualifier against Hungary, netting in a 2-2 draw. His next match, a friendly against Czechoslovakia, saw him become the first Dutch international to receive a red card. The KNVB, Holland's football authority, banned him from Ajax matches, but not internationals.

Although the Netherlands were sponsored by Adidas and wore three stripes on their sleeves, Cruyff had a separate sponsorship deal with Puma and therefore only wore two.

In 1974, Cruyff inspired the Netherlands to second place at the FIFA World Cup in Germany. They lost 2-1 to West Germany in the final, with Cruyff being named Player of the Tournament for his efforts throughout the tournament. Cruyff retired from international football in 1977, meaning he missed the World Cup a year later.

At the time, it was said to be due to an objection to a military dictatorship in host nation Argentina. However, he told Catalunya Radio three decades after the tournament that his family had suffered a kidnap attempt in Barcelona, prompting his absence.

Johan Cruyff's 14 rules

According to the Cruyff Foundation's website, there are 14 rules of Johan Cruyff. The fundamental principles of the philosophy are:

  • Being a team player
  • Responsibility
  • Respect
  • Integration
  • Initiative
  • Coaching (helping each other within a team)
  • Personality
  • Social involvement
  • Technique
  • Tactics
  • Development
  • Constant learning
  • Playing together
  • Creativity

Cruyff famously wore the #14 jersey for the Netherlands, breaking with the tradition of using numbers 1-11 for the starting line-up.

He also wore #14 for Ajax and the club have since retired his shirt number - the only Ajax player to have earned that distinction.

Cruyff's best quotes

'Cruijffiaans' refers to a particular manner of speaking attributed to Johan Cruyff. In particular, it is synonymous with his famous one-liners.

Cruyff famously said: "Every disadvantage has its advantage. You have got to shoot, otherwise you can't score. Soccer is simple, but it is difficult to play simple."

Other famous 'Cruijffiaan' one-liners were: "Quality without results is pointless. Results without quality are boring."

"Why couldn't you beat a richer club? I've never seen a bag of money score a goal."

"In my teams, the goalie is the first attacker, and the striker the first defender."

"I always threw the ball in, because then if I got the ball back, I was the only player unmarked."

"We showed the world you could enjoy being a footballer; you could laugh and have a fantastic time. I represent the era which proved that attractive football was enjoyable and successful, and good fun to play too."

Personal life

Cruyff was known for being a heavy smoker prior to double heart bypass surgery in 1991. He was married to Danny Coster from 1968 until his death in 2016.

He was known to be sceptical of religion and famously said: "In Spain all 22 players make the sign of the cross before a game; if it worked, every game would be a tie."

Philanthropy and finances

It is unlikely that Cruyff had a net worth that would compare to modern superstars such as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

However, financial stability was always reportedly important to him after he witnessed how his mother suffered, particularly following the death of his father.

Cruyff was also involved in projects outside of the game, founding the Johan Cruyff Foundation to encourage participation in sports among children and the Johan Cruyff Institute, providing educational opportunities for sports management, football business, coaching and sports marketing and sponsorship.

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