Today, a footballing legend died. Johan Cruijff, arguably the best player to come from Europe was the leader and captain of he famous Total Football teams of Ajax (3 Champions Cups in a row!) and Holland (he took that great team to the final in 1974, sadly losing to arch rivals West Germany). He also played for Barcelona as a player, lifting their pessimistic woe is me attitude and destroying Real Madrid 5-0. He only won 1 League title with Barcelona, later went back to Ajax and won more titles, and when they thought he was finished he went to arch rivals Feijenoord and proved them wrong by winning yet another Eredivisie title.
But it is not just his playing influence that change football, he laid the groundwork and philosophy of the current Barcelona team. Transforming them from underdogs with a defeatist attitude to one of the most feared teams in Europe, all the while playing attacking football, winning 4 league titles in a row and the first of their Champions Cup titles. One of the graduates from the Cruijff school of football thinking was a midfield player by the name of Josep Guardiola, who went on to become Barcelona coach and win an unprecedented number of titles. This groundwork for the Barcelona philosophy and style were laid down by Johan Cruijff first as a player and then a manager. In the recent Champions League knockout tie, Guardiola’s Bayern Munich was on the verge of being knocked out by Italian champions (and last year’s beaten finalists) Juventus. Guardola asked himself, “What would Cruijff do?”. Bayern Munich went through to the next round.
A sad day for football indeed.
And if any Spanish speakers are reading this, you may like to see Johan Cruijff speaking his funny Spanish, blaming his bad Spanish on mis-translating non-existent Dutch idioms :):
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