The best managers of all time: #24 Johan Cruyff
Legendary Manager Series
Football management can often be a thankless task, more so in today’s times. Win and your players walk away with most of the credit. Lose and your tactics are immediately blamed and questioned. With massive funds flowing into the game, and expectations sky high, patience seems to run thin at clubs, even though at the end of the day only one team can win any given competition.
A lot is on the line, and the top coaches are expected to implement their strategies with immediate effect and bring success. The demands are high, but achievements of a few managers in the game far exceed their peers and sets them apart.
The men that we will be looking at, have changed the way the game is played. They have extracted the last ounce of sweat and drive from their personnel and defied the odds to emerge with a resounding array of success, to leave a mark in the history of the beautiful game.
The list of the 25 best managers of all time is full of extraordinary individuals, men who have left behind a legacy, an inspiration and an ethos that will remain long after they’ve retired. Our primary considerations have been trophies won, modernism brought to the game and consistency.
#24 Johan Cruyff
Among the many iconic quotes of Johan Cruyff, one that stands out is:
“You play football with your head, and your legs are there to help you”
It stands apart because it gives us an insight into one of the most brilliant men to have been involved in football. Johan Cruyff isn’t just one of the all-time best players of the sport; he’s also one of the best visionaries, managers and men to have been associated with the game.
Cruyff famously said that he would have been rejected by the Ajax youth academy if they had carried out their selections on statistics. He ‘couldn’t kick a ball 15 yards with his left foot and maybe 20 with his right’ at the time. His real qualities were his technique and his vision, things that couldn’t be measured by stats or computers; he had gone on to say.
Let’s imagine for a moment that the 15-year-old lanky teenager was rejected by Ajax and we were deprived of an icon of his calibre. Think of the identity of the Netherlands national team, the recent success of Barcelona and Spain that he’s had a significant role in, his influence in revamping the academies of Ajax and Barcelona and his impact on some of the best contemporary footballers and managers. It’s stunning, isn’t it? And that says it all really.
Cruyff’s tenure as manager
After his retirement, Cruyff had no intention of sailing off into the sunset. It was clear that he had so much to contribute to football, and being a manager seemed a natural next step.
He was immediately implementing his innovative ideas and won 3 trophies with Ajax, including the then prestigious UEFA Cup Winner’s Cup. It was his spell at Barcelona that really cemented his legacy as one of the best managers in history, though.
11 trophies in a trophy-laden spell included 4 consecutive league titles and a European Cup. The players he brought in at that time include Pep Guardiola, Txiki Begiristain, Ronald Koeman, Michael Laudrup, Romário, Gheorghe Hagi and Hristo Stoichkov. While all these players are household names now, that wasn’t always the case and Cruyff played a significant role in their development.
Cruyff eventually fell out with chairman Josep Nunez in 1996 and was let go as Barcelona’s manager. He didn’t take up another coaching job afterwards, though he would have had a multitude of offers.
A tenure from 2009 to 2013 as manager of Catalonia was really a symbolic position and meant that Cruyff was really a full-time coach for 11 years, perhaps one of the shortest periods amongst the many veterans in this list. But it was enough time for him to win a slew of trophies and cement his legacy as one of the best football managers of all time.
It probably is the best way to end with another of the now deceased Dutchman's famous lines,
"It’s better to go down with your own vision than with someone else’s.”