There is an element of mysticism about Johan Cruyff that now is folklore. He lit up a World Cup final, won 3 Ballon d’Ors (1971,1973,1974) in a career that saw him play over 500 league games for six clubs (Ajax, Barcelona, Los Angeles Aztecs, Washington Diplomats, Levante, Feyenoord). He won just about every accolade as a player.
10 league titles as a player, 4 as manager, 4 European Cups. It is not for nothing, that he was adjudged the best European player of the 20th century in 1999. These trophies and honours that pepper his career actually don't fully justify his legacy.
For Ajax and Barcelona, especially, their style of football based on possession, positional flexibility, and free-flowing attacking football is down to one man - Johan Cruyff. To him, nothing was more sacred than the pursuit of this philosophy.
In terms of having an impact on a game of football, his influence is uncontested, unrivalled, nonpareil. While he was playing, he was simultaneously conducting the whole team, and while managing, orchestrating from the sidelines; and each time he made the game beautiful. When he spoke, people listened; and it helped that his every quip was a gem.
"In my teams, the goalie is the first attacker, and the striker the first defender."
"What is speed? The sports press often confuses speed with insight. See, if I start running slightly earlier than someone else, I seem faster."
"Players today can only shoot with their laces. I could shoot with the inside, laces, and outside of both feet. In other words, I was six times better than today’s players."
“Why couldn’t you beat a richer club? I have never seen a bag of money score a goal.”
The Dutch genius was always positive in approach and insightful in observation. Here are 14 quotes on Johan Cruyff that try and capture his otherworldly legacy.
Johan Cruyff painted the chapel, and Barcelona coaches since merely restore or improve it – Pep Guardiola on Cruyff’s coaching work at the Nou Camp.
Pythagoras in boots. Few have been able to exert, both physically and mentally, such mesmeric control on a match from one penalty area to another.
– David Winner, author of Brilliant Orange.