Johan Cruyff was one of the best players in the history of the game. He carried his talents over to a managerial role after hanging up his boots. And continued to make an impact on the game after leaving the sideline.
The forward passed away today at the age of 68 after battling cancer since being diagnosed in October 2015. He was optimistic until the end saying in February, “(I am 2-0 up in a match (against lung cancer and) sure I will end up winning.”
News of his death has touched soccer players, manager, and fans from around the world.
The Dutch FA said in a statement:
Words can hardly be found for this huge loss. The greatest Dutch footballer of all time and one of the world’s best ever. Our condolences go to his wife, family, friends and the entire football world at home and abroad. We wish everyone a lot of strength in this difficult time.
Others have taken to social media to remember the man.
— AFC Ajax (@AFCAjax) March 24, 2016
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) March 24, 2016
Deeply saddened by the death of my best coach and good friend. Thanks for everything. Forever in our heart. pic.twitter.com/DnMWxydiAn
— Ronald Koeman (@RonaldKoeman) March 24, 2016
Thank you Johan for being my biggest inspiration and teacher. Thank you for paving the way for our generation … https://t.co/2fp2CYuBgv
— Ruud Gullit (@GullitR) March 24, 2016
Very sad news about the death of legend Johan Cruyff. What an amazing player, Coach, teacher and person he was:https://t.co/fwXNRlB3IO
— Jürgen Klinsmann (@J_Klinsmann) March 24, 2016
It is hard to know where to start when looking back on his career. He burst on to the scene with Dutch club Ajax and helped make them a European powerhouse, winning 3 consecutive European Cups (now known as the UEFA Champions League) starting in 1971.
He was a catalyst with the Netherlands national team and a key to the ‘total soccer’ revolution that helped the side to the 1974 FIFA World Cup final. They lost 2-1 to West Germany but many still consider that team the best (or one of the best) not to have won the Cup.
After hoisting the 3rd title with Ajax, he joined Barcelona for a world record transfer fee. He helped the club to the La Liga title and won the Ballon d’Or in his first season with the club. It was the third consecutive time he took home the individual honor.
His brilliance was on display in the United States as well. At the age of 32 he joined the Los Angeles Aztecs of the North American Soccer League and was voted the NASL Player of the Year in his one season with the club. He played a second season in NASL with the Washington Diplomats.
As a manager with his former club, Barcelona, he laid the foundation for today’s successful Barcelona sides. He put together a dream team that included Romario, Hristo Stoichkov, Michael Laudrup, Ronald Koeman and Pep Guardiola which helped the club win their first European Cup in 1992 along with winning 4 consecutive La Liga titles in the early 1990’s.
“Cruyff painted the chapel and Barcelona coaches since merely restore and improve it,” Guardiola said of his former coach.
For the youngest players on training fields around the globe to seasoned professionals, Cruyff will always be remembered for the ‘Cruyff turn,’ first showcased against Sweden during the 1974 World Cup, as a way to elude a defender and continue the attack.
He is often quoted with many of his opinions still holding true today.
“In a way I’m probably immortal.”
“It’s better to go down with your own vision than with someone else’s.”
“If I wanted you to understand it all, I would have explained it better.”
“Quality without results is pointless. Results without quality is boring.”
“Actually I never make a mistake, because it takes a huge effort for me to make a mistake.”
“In my teams, the goalie is the first attacker, and the striker the first defender.”
Read more classic soccer quotes from some of the game’s best players managers and more…
“I don’t believe in God. In Spain all 22 players cross themselves, if it works the game is always going to be a
“There is only one ball, so you need to have it.”
“Why couldn’t you beat a richer club? I’ve never seen a bag of money score a goal.”
“Italians can’t win the game against you, but you can lose the game against the Italians.”
“Playing football is very simple, but playing simple football is the hardest thing there is.”
Interesting Facts about Johan Cruyff
- Cruyff joined the Ajax youth system at age 10 playing soccer and baseball. He turned his focus to soccer at 15.
- After returning from injury in October 1970 his regular #9 jersey was being used by Gerrie Muhren so Cruyff pulled on the #14 jersey and opted to keep that number even using it with the Dutch national team. This was outside the norm at the time when starters wore jerseys #1-11.
- Cruyff was the linchpin in coach Rinus Michels ‘total football’ style of play.
- His approx. $2 million transfer fee c. 1973 was a world record at the time.
- He gave his son, Jordi, a Catalan name which only increased the loyalty of Barca faithful. At the time this was banned by Spain.
- Cruyff played exhibition games with the New York Cosmos and was rumored to be joining the club but signed with Los Angeles Aztecs and then played with the Washington Diplomats.
- Leicester City were close to signing Cruyff in 1981 after his time in the U.S.
- After Ajax decided not to offer Cruyff a new contract after the 1982/82 season, he signed with rival Feyenoord…and helped them to the Eredivisie title.
- The Netherlands lost only 1 match out of 29 that featured Cruyff between 1970 and 1974…the 1974 World Cup final.
- The Netherlands never lost a match that Cruyff scored in.
- Cruyff was the first player ever sent off for the Netherlands being shown a red card against Czechoslovakia in his second cap.
- He retired from the Netherlands in 1977 after helping the team qualify for the 1978 World Cup. He said in 2008 he retired after an attempted kidnapping of he and his family.
- He was in talks to manage the Holland national team at the 1994 FIFA World Cup in the U.S. but talks stalled at the last minute.