Johan Cruyff rescued Pep Guardiola from being sold by Barcelona
Holland and Barcelona legend Johan Cruyff’s autobiography, ‘My Turn’, has been published posthumously a few days back (6 months after he lost his battle with lung cancer in March this year), and he has revealed in it how he was responsible for Pep Guardiola staying on at Barcelona to become a key member of his ‘dream team’ that won four successive La Liga titles from 1991 to 1994 and their first European cup in 1992.
Cruyff was always a father figure to the now Manchester City manager, and Pep himself revealed shortly after Cruyff’s death that he “knew nothing about football” till he met the Dutch legend.
In his autobiography, Cruyff documents how Guardiola was underappreciated by everyone at Barcelona. He writes, “Barcelona wanted to get rid of Guardiola. The club thought he was too skinny, bad defensively and poor in the air. If it weren’t for me, Guardiola probably would have been sold to a second division club.”
Under the tutelage of the master of Total Football, Guardiola’s game developed and he went on to become one of the finest midfielders of his time. Usually deployed in the deep lying playmaker role, he was the lynchpin of the squad, using his technique and creativity to split open opposition defences.
In his autobiography, Cruyff also writes how he had several more words of guidance for Guardiola when he took over as coach of the Barcelona first team in 2008. “I told him that above everything else, you have to be the boss, the one that makes the decisions and is responsible for the consequences. In that sense, Pep followed the same path and guidelines that I did.”
Evidently, Guardiola was quick to absorb Cruyff’s words as he went on to win the treble – the Copa del Rey, UEFA Champions League and La Liga – in his very first season as manager. He ended his career as manager of Barcelona having won three La Ligas, two Copa del Reys, three Spanish Super Cups, two Champions Leagues, two Super Cups and two Club World Cups.
Guardiola expressed his sadness over Johan Cruyff's death in March saying, “It’s a great loss. We will not be able to see him when we would like to, but his legacy remains. Those that experienced it were fortunate to be able to enjoy him directly and personally and he has left many things.”
“He made us understand football. His advice was very important. He advised you to use your instincts, to take decisions. He opened your eyes.”
Indeed, Johan Cruyff’s legacy in football is long lasting. In his playing career with Ajax and Barcelona, he was European Footballer of the Year three times. He was also the talisman of the Dutch team which finished runners-up in the 1974 World Cup, playing ‘Total Football’ – a philosophy he would carry over to his coaching career.
Today, Barcelona’s identity and style is all a result of the vision that Johan Cruyff had.