In profile: Johan Cruyff
Sunday, September 11, 2016
"There is only one ball, so you need to have it," said Johan Cruyff, with the Dutch great's philosophy fundamentally changing Barcelona's footballing DNA.
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• Followed up a glittering playing career by capturing two Dutch Cups and the 1986/87 European Cup Winners' Cup with Ajax in his first coaching post.
• Remains the only Liga manager to win four successive titles, as Barcelona utterly dominated the Liga from 1990/91 to 1993/94.
• Led Barcelona to their first European Cup success in 1991/92, setting the template for future triumphs under Frank Rijkaard, Josep Guardiola and Luis Enrique
- Brian Clough: football's ultimate iconoclast
- Vicente del Bosque: Madrid and Spain's soft power
- Sir Alex Ferguson: United's master tactician
- Helenio Herrera: the king of catenaccio
- Udo Lattek: Bayern's 1970s kingpin
- Valeri Lobanovskiy: the soccer scientist
- Rinus Michels: the architecht of 'total football'
- José Mourinho: the 'Special One'
- Arrigo Sacchi: master of the Italian renaissance
The expert testimony
"Johan Cruyff painted the chapel; Barcelona coaches since merely restore or improve it. He has had the biggest influence on football out of anyone in the world, first as a player and then as a coach."
Josep Guardiola, former Barcelona boss, current Bayern coach
"The ball was converted into the only protagonist and even fitness work was done with a football. There were more opportunities for the little players like me. When I was at La Masia, Guardiola was very thin and it was Cruyff who said he had to keep playing because eventually he would grow. Without him, the Xavis, Iniestas and Thiagos of this world wouldn't exist."
Oriol Domènech, former Barcelona youth player and journalist
"It is about creating one approach, one mentality, from the bottom of the club to the top. Cruyff is the one who started it all. He has been the club's most influential figure. I cannot imagine the current Barcelona without Cruyff's work."
Josep Segura, former technical director of Barcelona's La Masia academy
"I played under great coaches like Guus Hiddink and Rinus Michels, but Cruyff edges it for me. An inspirational figure, he always wanted something more from his teams. For him, it wasn't enough just to win; success had to be achieved in a manner that would be remembered and discussed for years."
Ronald Koeman, former Barcelona midfielder
The back story
One of the most elegant and stylish footballers of his age, he helped Ajax lift six Dutch titles and three consecutive European Cups from 1970/71 to 1972/73, scoring 190 goals in 240 matches. He then lit up Spanish football with Barcelona, shifting the club's philosophy irreversibly. After ill-fated spells in the United States and at Levante he landed two more championships at Ajax, before punishing his beloved club for failing to renew his contract by moving to arch-rivals Feyenoord and inspiring them to a league and cup double. However, he was welcomed back as coach in 1985.
At Barcelona, Cruyff wrote his own rules, shunning the dominant 4-4-2 formation and employing an almost unheard of 3-4-3 to give numerical balance in midfield, with Guardiola deployed to prowl in front of the back three. The Dutchman put the accent on possession, the ball kept by frequent, short passes, for attacking and defensive purposes. He also had huge faith in young players, recruiting the best prospects from around Spain and Europe as well as promoting the likes of Guardiola from La Masia, the academy he helped set up as a Barcelona player.
The take-home quotes
"If you have the ball, you have to make the pitch as big as possible, and if you don't have the ball you have to make it as small as possible."
"There is only one ball, so you need to have it."
"In my teams, the goalkeeper is the first attacker and the striker is the first defender."
"I've never seen a bag of money score a goal."
"It's a basic concept: when you dominate the ball, you move well. You have what the opposition don't, and therefore they can't score."