Home Football Johan Cruyff - Your Legacy will Live on

Johan Cruyff – Your Legacy will Live on

“Soccer is simple, but it is difficult to play simple.”

Johan Cruyff, Dutch Footballer ( 1947-2016)

An offhand quote it may seem at the start, but it has a much deeper meaning attached to it.

The other day, when the news broke that, the Dutch legend of football, Johan Cruyff, had passed;

I immediately dropped everything and started getting to know more about him.

I asked my father, at dinner so what did his generation think of Johan Cruyff?. He summed it up in one word “legacy”.

Legacies are abounding everywhere; every family has a legacy within their own parameters. But the legacy i.e. Total Football laid down by the Dutch Maestro, was a refreshing tactical nuance that revolutionized the entire world of football which in turn has influenced the modern era like none other.

The Flying Dutchman aka El Flaco (The Thin One)

“Totale voetbal” as known in Dutch, was something that was incepted in the labs i.e. the footballing grounds of Ajax Amsterdam and then it was refined further in the hallowed grounds of Catalonia, where Barcelona FC was the platform. From there, the seeds of total football were scattered among the up and coming coaches, which has for once and all changed the entire way football was looked at.

As the tributes have poured in, the one thing that is essential clear was the ability of Cruyff, to think differently.

He treaded a path which no one had, and thus in the process defined football as entertainment. Centuries earlier, when kings and queens ruled, sporting spectacles were entertainers, but those were games of brute strength and agility in which the only rule was survival. Instead, Cruyff sought to focus on the artistic side of the game.

Essentially, he sought to implement a system, in which the understanding of space in a field was more important than just pelting the ball around towards the goal.

He was a proponent of beauty with efficiency and he preferred to combine the both to attain the desired result.

“Quality without results is pointless,” he was quoted as saying. “Results without quality is boring.”

Way before, the “Economist – Arsene Wenger”, introduced rigid diets and other healthy lifestyle habits in the late 90’s at Highbury, it was Cruyff who almost two decades earlier had already revolutionized Dutch football.

In modern times, the combination of understanding space and the body has helped teams across the World achieve success in a manner that has boosted the coffers of the clubs economically and visibility.

The deadly duo has entertained and exhilarated us. Add a dash of the special skills of all the individual players and you have a heady cocktail that will leave you asking for more.

The concept of space in the modern era can be best illustrated by, “Müller who is nicknamed as the Haumdeuter, which is German for “space investigator”. His special power is to find space, space invisible to the non-Raumdeuter, and spread into it like a plume of smoke, or a form of insidious footballing dry rot” best described by Barney Ronay of the Guardian.

But while, Muller dwells in that space, the vision to find such space shouldn’t be underrated.

These concepts which are now so freely implemented in football, was one of many such revolutionary ideas that Cruyff was a proponent of.

Johan Cruyff
Johan Cruyff playing for Ajax.

A player, who hailed from the working class neighbourhood of Ajax, realised his potential and sought to act on it. His understanding of the system in Ajax, and then choosing to move to Barcelona FC on his own terms, rather than being traded as a commodity was one of the highlights in a career which shone and flourished brightly.

Demanding payment as Dutch footballers, professionalising the game and to recognizing the self worth of all footballers were more such ideas that he implemented.

Developing the concept of Total Football, which was built on the conceptions of space, through which the team in defence would try and make the pitch as small as possible, while implementing the opposite strategy in attack, i.e. giving the players space when in possession of the ball? The ability to transition into every position with no specialized position is what made the teams successful. Ajax reaped the benefits by winning three European Cups.

The developing of such a culture in football can be attributed to the Cultural Revolution that was taking place in Dutch society at the same time that was Provos of Amsterdam: a questioning attitude to tradition and authority. An obsessive concern with participatory democracy characterised both social movements and the internal organisation of the great Ajax squads, personified by Cruyff.

Given the way, though his career with the Dutch squad panned out, where the failure to win the World Cup has always been a haunting presence to his much vaunted career, it is quite suitable to say his was a career of unfulfilled prophecy.

But when Cruyff was questioned, his only response was, Which team do you remember in the 1974 World Cup?.

Such was the style, that people(except the German fans, of-course) often forget that it was Germany who won the tournament staging a comeback to win 2-1. For Cruyff, though as was through his life, it was about establishing the point. Although the result may not have been which he might have envisaged, it was the impression that the Dutch team left, often gives it a mystic feeling.

Like eternal love stories, the best remembered are the ones which aren’t fulfilled.

Managerial Escapades –

He understood the need for individual opinions within a collective. Football is a game of cohesion and in victory it has to be quality. When Cruyff, made the transition to a manager, it was to prove that he could be as good a manager as he was as a player.  The fierce determination that had led to his playing success, in time reflected on his managerial style as well.

The ability to recognize patterns and players who could be molded to understand such a system which reaped exponential benefits for Barcelona. He helped establish an identity for Barcelona through football. He changed the entire psyche of how people in Spain perceived football.

From purely being a result oriented business, he started making people see the artistic side of football. Obviously, winning helps and it is much easier to move ahead with your project without being questioned.

Johan Cruyff as coach of Barcelona
Johan Cruyff as coach of Barcelona

The roots of the current Barcelona can be easily traced to Cruyff’s ideologies. With his very own “Dream Team”, that he managed in the 90’s he won 11 trophies. The members of that team are nowadays the most heralded coaches as well. Pep Guardiola, Ronald Koeman, Michael Laudrup to name a few.

His foundations have been tweaked accordingly, by the new generation to varied results and resources available to these managers. The results have varied as well. In the modern era, whether in its entirety or an offshoot of those earlier philosophies are still seen, be it in the Premier League or the La Liga.

Opinions in respect of sport is very simple “ Win”, Cruyff sought to revise that same phrase to “Entertain and Win”. For him, the Nou Camp was the stage, with football being poetry in motion.

The hallmarks of Cruyff turn, the Phantom goal, the silky way he used to drift past defenders. He was an assimilation of overpowering talent. Some have called him crazy and obsessive in the manner that he went about portraying football.

He taught footballers to value themselves as artists, instead of just restricting themselves to being athletes. He expanded the horizons of players and managers who were willing to listen.

Even centuries down the line, we will realize that these principles will still govern football. The reason why his principles were lauded was he chose to innovate and radicalize within parameters of football, which made the game more attractive. FIFA should be thankful the way he changed the perception about football. That perception has led them to rake in such huge amounts of money into the game.

English journalist David Miller labelled him “Pythagoras in boots” for his ability to see open space and advantageous angles on a field. Spreading joy through a football, was his message, his overview of the game was so outrageous, that it felt he was blessed with aerial vision.

To hear so much about a player which my father’s generation witnessed even three decades after his impact shows that while he may be lost in body, his soul in football will always remain alive.

To sum up Kevin Spacey as Congressman Frank Underwood, in House of Cards when he ponders the question of affiliation by asking himself, “Let’s see if he stays with the herd or joins the pack.”

Cruyff’s life can be confidently classified as someone who chose not to stay either with the herd or the pack.

He was a trailblazer when it came to football.  Rest in Peace, Sir.

Sourav Saha
A freelance writer who likes writing, reading and discussing football. I have been writing about the sport for the past 8 years or so and I try to capture the moments in as many words as I can.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Teofimo Lopez should give Vasyl Lomachenko a rematch

Teofimo Lopez would be doing himself a disservice to dodge Vasyl Lomachenko. It sounds like a contradiction to say a fighter could dodge an opponent he’s already faced but that’s precisely what critics would say if Lopez avoids giving Lomachenko a rematch. However, before the argument can be made that Lomachenko does indeed deserve a second chance, Lopez should be praised for his performance in their initial bout. Coming into the fight, Lomachenko was praised...

2020 World Series Exhilarating Games

The 2020 World Series is close to being over, and it is a sad time for fans. The 2020 MLB season is 1 or 2 games away from being over after 3 extremely exciting World Series games over the past 3 days. To come into these 3 days, the series was tied at 1-1. The Dodgers left the set up 3-2. Game 4 was possibly the most exhilarating World Series game of all time. The...

Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son – The Dynamic Duo

Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son are unstoppable Harry Kane to Heung-Min Son has become a familiar combination this season, with the duo now combining for 29 times across their five seasons together in the Premier League after last night's winner at Burnley, that is just seven off the all-time leaders of Didier Drogba & Frank Lampard. Heung-Min Son's 76th minute winner at Burnley was was the seventh time that Harry Kane has assisted Son this season,...

The Most Underrated Football Players of All Time

The most underrated football players of all time Not only football fans, but enthusiasts and punchers have also ever heard of the players who are always in the spotlight. The top players are always discussed and can be seen in the top magazines, advertisements and TV shows. Not all the popular soccer stars, though, are much better than those who stay unrecognised even despite their splendid performance and great mastery. Who are they? This is a...

Is Bryson DeChambeau the man to beat at the US Masters?

Will Bryson DeChambeau repeat his US Open success at the US Masters? The way Bryson DeChambeau powered his way to victory at the US Open last month made many of his would-be doubters sit up and take notice at last. For a golfer who has, throughout his career, experimented with so many different ways to forge an advantage or make marginal gains on his rivals, it was a seminal moment. DeChambeau’s first major title came in...

Inoue Moloney, Brodnicka Mayer top ESPN+ show on October 31

Japanese power-punching sensation Naoya Inoue returns to the ring this Saturday against Australia's Jason Moloney. 'The Monster' will defend his unified WBA (Super) and IBF Bantamweight titles in the featured attraction on ESPN+. This will be the second time Inoue has boxed in the US and his first time headlining. The Japanese star is hoping to land a unification fight next year against either Philippines' John Riel Casemiro or WBC Champion Nordine Oubaali. In the co-feature,...

Robert Whittaker vs Jared Cannonier Post-Fight Reaction

Before being announced a fight with Robert Whittaker, Jared Cannonier resume had one quality win over Anderson Silva, he came into the limelight when champion Israel Adesanya, openly called out Cannonier as his next challenger, of course, Cannonier had to go through Whittaker to earn his title shot. So Whitaker vs Cannonier became the fight for Number 1 contender spot. Jared Cannonier is an explosive striker who knocks his opponents out with his barrage of strikes,...

Lewis Hamilton Makes Grand Prix History in Portugal

Lewis Hamilton wins the Portuguese Grand Prix A standing ovation from the gathered crowds at the Portuguese Grand Prix marked Lewis Hamilton’s newest entry into the history books.  As of today, he is the holder of Formula 1’s all-time win record, previously held by Michael Schumacher.  He now stands alone among the other record-breakers in the history of Formula 1. Yet it could have been very different.  Although he finished first at one point, he dropped...

NRL Grand Finals – Broncos Claim Three-Peat, Storm Hold On

The 2020 NRL Grand Finals have made history. The Brisbane Broncos claimed a third straight NRLW Premiership before the Melbourne Storm survived a comeback to claim the men's trophy after a hard year on the road. Here's a quick recap of the big plays of the games. NRLW Grand Final While the sun was still out, the women's game kicked off the big day with a showdown between the Brisbane Broncos and the Sydney Roosters. The Broncos struck...

Khabib Nurmagomedov retires from UFC in tears after defeating Justin Gaethje

Khabib Nurmagomedov submits Justin Gaethje at UFC 254 Khabib Nurmagomedov, the young boy from Dagestan, Russia, wrestling and wrecking machine with the most polite and professional attitude towards his opponents and his peers, he is Khabib Abdulmanapovich Nurmagomedov, coming out from Russia he was a wrestling prodigy and when he came into the UFC he was thought to be a classic wrestler who would take his opponents down and...
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!