An innovator, a trailblazer, a maverick and a legend. As both player and coach Johan Cruyff was all these things throughout a career synonymous with what is now the UEFA Champion League.
A three-time European Cup winner as a forward with AFC Ajax – in successive seasons between 1971 and 1973 – Cruyff also led FC Barcelona to the trophy from the dugout in 1992.
No less significantly, the 48-cap Dutch international was a catalyst for what would become known as Total Football. "It had an enormous impact on the whole world," the 66-year-old said of Ajax's triumphant three-year run. "Even though there was not much television yet, it had a lot of impact, which eventually led to a lot of respect for Dutch football."
After helping revolutionise the way the game was played, Cruyff turned to coaching and his spell in charge of Barcelona brought them an elusive first European title – as well as setting the foundations for the club's style of play and, in turn, future glories.
"I came back to Spain in 1988. A whole transition needed to take place, in terms of the mentality, the style of playing, everything really. At the time we had a lot of good players. The biggest problem at Barcelona at the time was the board of directors. They were afraid to lose a European Cup once again. And we, we were convinced 100% that we would win."
Cruyff may no longer be coaching but his legacy is still obvious today as his acolytes go forth and succeed. "I am most proud when I look at how many players I coached became coaches themselves. The biggest example is Guardiola, of course."
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