Johan Cruyff: Final Turn of a Master
Johan Cruyff was regarded as one the greatest players of all time, he won three consecutive European Cups (1970–71, 1971–72, 1972–73) with Ajax and went on to play and manage Barcelona to their first European Cup triumph in 1992.
He was unique as not only as a great footballer winning three (Ballon d’Or 1971,1973,1974) but as an outstanding club manager at Ajax and Barcelona wining four consecutive La Liga titles from 1990-91 to 1993-94 under his guidance. He is considered to be one of the most influential figures in football history.
Cruyff’s style of play and his football philosophy has significantly influenced many notable managers. He insisted football was played in ‘the head’ and maintained strong standards to the way the game should be played. He was the star member of the Holland side that came runners up in the 1974 World Cup, to many an injustice to their creative and original play which came to be known as ‘Total Football’. Cruyff’s skills during that campaign underlined his credentials as being the greatest footballer in the world at the time. No one will ever forget watching their TV and seeing him in a flash turn the ball behind his leg, away from a defender with such skill and speed, leaving the player off balance and redundant. The move became to be known as the ‘Cruyff turn’. Copied by many a professional player and schoolboy in parks all over the world.
The man conducted himself well off the pitch which reinforced his credentials and mass appeal. His poster among others hanging from my teenage bedroom wall. When Holland played a friendly at Wembley in 1977, it was Cruyff who pulled the strings to create their 2-0 victory, being a young member of that crowd, remembering the way the Dutch were applauded off in complete admiration of their talent, especially Cruyff, the member of the team we had all come to watch.
Cruyff was known as a strong family man. He married Danny Coster in 1968. The marriage is said to have been a happy one for almost fifty years. It also said that Danny always had a big influence over Cruyff’s football career, both as a player and manager. His son Jordi also became a footballer playing for Barcelona (while father Johan was manager), Manchester United, Alavés and Espanyol as well as the Netherlands national team.
For a player of his skill and acceleration, it was amazing he was as a large smoker, often lighting up in the dressing room after a game. Although he did give up in 1991 following surgery, going on to campaign against the use of cigarettes. In an advert stating ‘Football has given me everything in life, tobacco almost took it all away’.
Johan Cruyff died on 24 March 2016 at the age of 68 from Lung Cancer
Johan Cruyff footballing honours
• Eredivisie: 1965–66, 1966–67, 1967–68, 1969–70, 1971–72, 1972–73, 1981–82, 1982–83
• KNVB Cup: 1966–67, 1969–70, 1970–71, 1971–72, 1982–83
• UEFA Intertoto Cup: 1968
• European Cup: 1970–71, 1971–72, 1972–73
• UEFA Super Cup: 1972
• Intercontinental Cup: 1972
• La Liga: 1973–74
• Copa del Rey: 1977–78
• Eredivisie: 1983–84
• KNVB Cup: 1983–84
• FIFA World Cup Runner-up: 1974
• UEFA European Championship Third Place: 1976
• KNVB Cup: 1985–86, 1986–87
• UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup: 1987
• La Liga: 1990–91, 1991–92, 1992–93, 1993–94
• Copa del Rey: 1989–90
• Supercopa de España: 1991, 1992, 1994
• European Cup: 1991–92
• UEFA Super Cup: 1992
• UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup: 1989 Runner-up 1991
• UEFA Champions League Runner-up: 1993–94
• Dutch Footballer of the Year: 1968, 1972, 1984
• Ballon d’Or: 1971, 1973, 1974
• Dutch Sportsman of the Year: 1973, 1974
• FIFA World Cup Golden Ball: 1974
• FIFA World Cup All-Star Team: 1974
• Don Balón Award: 1977, 1978
• North American Soccer League MVP: 1979
• FIFA World Cup All-Time Team: 1994
• FIFA World Cup Dream Team: 2002
• World Team of the 20th Century
• FIFA 100
• World Soccer Greatest XI of All Time: 2013
• World Soccer Awards Manager of the Year: 1987
• Don Balón Award for Coach of the Year: 1991, 1992
• Onze d’Or for Coach of the Year: 1991, 1992
Matthew Willetts MA is the Director of Comicus who has over 35 years experience in television, film, theatre, and comedy club/cabaret entertainment, working as a performer, screenwriter, producer and agent. He lectured at Southampton Solent University in Comedy, Screenwriting, Television, Theatre & Radio. Matthew can sometimes be seen and heard on TV & Radio and often quoted in the national press and media publications. As well as speaking regularly at festivals and industry conferences, he has been a judge at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the Montreux Television Festival.