“Playing football is very simple but playing simple football is one of the hardest things” is one the most famous quotes from football legend Hendrik Johannes Cruijff, commonly known as Johan Cruyff.
On this day, 4 years ago, Johannes Cruijff succumbed to lung cancer at the age of 68 after only a 6 month battle with the illness. Prior to his death in February, the football legend released a statement via his official website saying that he was 2-0 up in a match against his illness, a match he was sure he would win. But unfortunately passed weeks later.
Johannes Cruijff contributed greatly on how the beautiful game of football was pivoted tactically in the past 100 years. On the pitch, he was a sensational leader, game changer and best of all a very skilled and innovative player.
Cruyff debuted for his hometown Club Ajax Amsterdam in 1963 at the age of 18 and went on to score on his debut. Cruyff became a first-team regular a season later helping the team secure the League title.
In a third season, the then 20-year-old Johannes Cruijff helped Ajax complete a Domestic double. He also went on to win his first individual accolade, the Dutch Footballer of the Year.
Cruyff spent a total of 9 years playing on Ajax’s senior team in which he won 7 League titles, 2 Dutch Cups and the most famous 3 European Cups from 1970/71 to 1972/73, plus numerous individual accolades including the Prestigious Balon D’or.
In 1973, to the disappointment of many Ajax fans, Cruyff joined Barcelona where his former coach Rinus Michels, had transferred two years earlier.
In his first season at Camp Nou, Johannes Cruijff managed to help the Blaguarana to win their first La Liga title in 15 years earning him the nickname “El Salvador” or The Saviour.
Throughout his football career, Johannes Cruijff exhibited a high level football intelligence
However, his time in Barcelona wasn’t as glorious as the past days in Amsterdam since on top of his La Liga title, he only added a Copa Del Rey in his 6 seasons tenure. He later left Barcelona to try his talent elsewhere in MLS at LA Aztecs, Washington Diplomats, Levante, Ajax, and Feyenoord.
At the National Team, Cruyff debuted on 7th September 1966 in a 2-2 draw vs Hungry. He featured 48 times for the Ons Oranje and scored 33 times. The national team never lost a single game in which he played.
From 1970 onwards, he defied the then format of the Starting XI, wearing the numbers 1 to 11, and later donning No. 14 which earned him the nickname, ‘Number 14’. He helped Ons Oranje finish runners ups to West Germany in the 1974 World Cup and a 3rd Place finish at the 1976 European Championships.
He also went to help the national team qualify for the 1978 World Cup only to retire under unclear circumstances in 1977 before the final tournament.
“The Cruyff turn” is one the best dribbling techniques that were named after the legend
Throughout his football career, Cruyff exhibited a high-level of football intelligence. He was great dribbler, passer and scorer of the ball. “The Cruyff turn” is one the best dribbling techniques that was named after him and the pass-penalty which he executed with teammate Jasper Olsen on December 4, 1982. He retired in 1984 after a colorful 20 years football career.
After retiring from playing football he started his managerial career a year later at Ajax where he got he chance to implement his desired football-playing ideology, “Total Football.”
Watch Johan Cruijff Total Footballer tribute
At Ajax, his team played some entertaining high scoring football which enabled him to win two successive Dutch Cups and later again left Ajax for Barcelona in 1988.
As a manager of Barcelona, El Salvador came to the rescue again as he guided the Catalans to their first European Championship in 1992. Cruyff also won 4 successive La Liga titles from 1991 to 1994.
He also further fostered Total Football on the team. He achieved it through La Masia whereby all setups of the club play the same style of football. In 1995, Johan Cryuff had double heart surgery and had to leave his managerial role.
Cryuff’s technical establishment has ripped big for the Catalans producing who many think is the greatest ever to play the game in Lionel Messi and one of the greatest coaches of this era, Pepe Gaurdiola.
Cryuff also recommended both Rijkaard and Gaurdiola to take the top job at the Camp Nou where both helped continue his legacy. Generally, he masterminded Barca’s great walk from the then long shadow of Real Madrid.
He is undoubtedly one of the most influential figures on modern football since his arrival on the rectangular pitch.
Johan Cryuff might be gone but his skills will immortally remain with us in our feet, his tactical prowess with managers and boards.
Author: Katende Basajjabaka
Katende writes about sports and occasionally technology.