About Johan Cruyff
Johan Cruyff is recognized by many as Europe’s best ever player. If South Americans Pele and Maradona represent the very top brass, the world game’s two premier players, Cruyff can realistically lay claim to the European title.
Indeed, he was no stranger to titles as a player. Eight Dutch league medals with Ajax and three European Cups playing a brand of soccer known as “Total Football” meant he could boast the trophies to match his talent by the time he came to retire.
Only players of genuine class earn the right to have moves named after them. The Dutchman was one such player, with his ‘Cruyff Turn’ one of soccer’s iconic skills.
- Name: Hendrik Johannes Cruyff
- Nationality: Dutch
- Date and Place of Birth: April 25, 1947 in Amsterdam, Netherlands
- Position: Attacking midfielder, Second striker
- Clubs: Ajax (1964-1973), Barcelona (1973-1978), Los Angeles Aztecs (1979-1980), Washington Diplomats (1980-1981), Levante (1981), Ajax (1981-1983), Feyenoord (1983-1984)
- International Career: 1966-1977 (48 caps, 33 goals)
The Ajax Years:
Cruyff’s mother persuaded Ajax to admit her son to the youth development system, but at the age of 12 he had to cope with the death of his father from a heart attack. Such a setback may have seriously hindered the attempts of many to make it as a professional, but Cruyff continued his development, aided by coaching legend Rinus Michels’ exercise program aimed at strengthening this frail lad.
He made a scoring debut for the Amsterdam club in a 3-1 defeat to Groningen when he was 17. That was in 1964 and although the club would finish in the lowly position of 13th, Cruyff was the mainstay as Ajax dominated domestically from 1966 to 1973, winning the league title no fewer than seven times in this period.
Cruyff was a playmaker, a poacher and an excellent wide player all rolled into one. His ability to play in different positions was a key aspect of the “Total Football” movement, invented by Michels. That Ajax team is regarded as one of the most exciting to have ever played the game, but in contrast to other exponents of the beautiful game, Ajax won the trophies to support their philosophy.
This glorious period also garnered three European Cups in a row in the early 70s, and he walked off with three Ballon D’Ors (European Player of the Year awards).
For such a creative player to fall only just short of the 200-goal mark in his first spell in Amsterdam was a wonderful achievement, and one that prompted Barcelona to sign him in 1974 for a world record US$1 million fee.
Thrilling the Camp Nou Crowds:
Cruyff’s assertion that he chose Barca over Real Madrid because he could not play for a team associated with Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, won him instant admiration in Catalonia.
He helped deliver the league title in his first season at the club, featuring in a 5-0 destruction of fierce rivals Real at the Bernabeu.
Cruyff’s only other trophy with Barca was a 1978 Spanish Cup, but he is remembered as a highly influential player for the way he turned the club’s season around in 1973.
He will also be remembered for a stunning goal against Atletico Madrid in which he scored with his heel, with the ball at neck height.
On the Move:
After long spells at Ajax and Barca, from the age of 32, Cruyff moved with regularity, with his first stop being the Los Angeles Aztecs. After winning the North American Soccer League Player of the Year award, he moved onto the Washington Diplomats where he again featured prominently. A very brief stay at Levante followed, before a return to Ajax in 1981. Two league titles and a Dutch Cup win followed as Cruyff relived past glories in Amsterdam, playing some splendid soccer that conjured up memories of his early years at Ajax.
But after being upset at the club’s refusal to offer him a new deal, Cruyff joined arch-rivals Feyenoord and won the league and cup double in his only season at the club.
Cruyff’s international career was not one of great longevity, as he made his debut against Hungary in 1966 and retired in 1977 at 30. Thirty-three goals in 48 matches was a healthy return, however, and his finest hour in the Oranje shirt came at the 1974 World Cup where the team thrilled spectators with their “Total Football.”
Playing as a center-forward but also dropping deep to collect the ball, Cruyff scored three times, including against Brazil in a 2-0 semi-final win. He showed his class early on in the final against West Germany when one of his trademark runs led to him being fouled in the area by Uli Hoeness. Johan Neeskens converted the resulting penalty but the Germans came back to win the match 2-1.
That proved to be Cruyff’s final appearance in a World Cup because of disagreements with the Dutch federation and a desire to spend more time with his family. He did help the Netherlands qualify for the 1978 World Cup but a kidnap attempt in Barcelona a year before the tournament caused his international retirement.
Like many greats, the mercurial Dutchman has always been an outspoken character, very much his own man. Even nowadays, living in Barcelona, he is candid in his opinions about the club, having led them to four league titles and a European Cup as manager in the 90s.
This Johan Cruyff Net Worth profile originated at WealthyGenius.com