Johan Cruyff: The Flying Dutchman


Written by El-Khoury

This is undoubtedly a special, unique, and top football figure in world football. In the election of the International Federation of Football History and Statistics (IFFHS) he was voted the 2nd best football player of the 20th century, having become the 3rd best football player in the world and 1st in Europe, winning the golden ball, in a poll election by France Football magazine, for the best player of the 20th century. The one and only Johan Cruyff, the “Flying Dutchman”.

To begin with, he had a Huge career in Ajax and Barcelona, ​​while played for a minimal amount of time in America, Levante and Feyenoord. His large and heavy resume included appearances with the Dutch National Team, the colors of which he honored for 11 years (1966-1977). Of course, when one talks about Cruyff, it is not only about his excellent and rare football talents and Charismatic players, but also about his wonderful and human attitude towards life, the way he thought and worked, along with his diamond personality. Let us take the things from the beginning.

His fate has always been sealed in Ajax around the football world

Hendrik Johan Cruyff was born on April 25, 1947 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. His simple and poor looking house was located right across from the historic De Meyer Stadium in Ajax. In fact, his mother was a cleaner at the stadium and when Johan was young, he went to work for his mother. One could say that his fate was tied to Aiada and football.

The disbelief of the people of Aiada and the great denial

The years passed and Johan decided to become a professional footballer by following his heart. His mother was the one who supported him in his dream and made a great effort to finally convince the team officials to try little Johan. In early 1959, the little blond and skinny boy enrolled in the famous Ajax academies. However, the club’s officials misjudged Johan’s abilities and did not believe that he could do it. On the contrary, they thought that because of his tall physique, with the first marking, they would pick him up in pieces.

But little Johan was ready to fight for a place in the team and prove his strong potential on the field, and of course to solemnly prove them wrong. Soon everyone realized that he was an inexhaustible talent. Just looking at the way he played, one would think he was not a footballer, but a dancer. His simple, soft on the ball and has got graceful movements which in this incredible way overcame his opponents giving him the nickname “Flying Dutchman”.

A star was born

In 1964, Johan Cruyff became a member of Ajax’s first men’s team, following a suggestion from English coach Buckingham, who had even suggested to Ajax officials that they sign a contract with Cruyff while he was only 17 years old! And the English coach was right. Since then Johan is evolving as the club’s big star. In 1966 he won his first championship, while he also played for the first time in the Dutch National Team. It was now clear that Johan was becoming a great footballer. For many, one of the best the planet has ever seen.

Cruyff, in the 1970s, was now the best footballer in Europe. His only flaw was the fact that he was a fanatical smoker. For those who do not even know the clubs he played for, but also for the National Team, he always smoked a cigarette before any match, as he said it calmed him down.

Record transfer and hero of Barcelona

In 1973, the then 26-year-old Johan Cruyff took the big step and left the team of his heart where he won 8 Championships, 5 Cups, 3 Champions, 2 Super Cups and 1 Intercontinental cup. In fact, for the Catalan team to sign a contract with him they took out from their funds an amount close to today’s 2.5 million euros. As one can see, this was a record amount for the time and was a global transfer record. In the Barcelona team, Cruyff played for 4 years, winning 1 Championship, 1 Cup, as well as writing his own story there, since he very quickly became the number one idol for the Catalans.

The downfall and the end of his career at the hated opponent

The continuation of his career cannot be considered as spectacular as in previous years. Cruyff moved to the United States and spent two years (1979-1980) in Los Angeles Aztecs and (1980-1981) at the Washington Diplomats. In 1981, he went to Spain and played for 1 year in Levante and in the same year, he returned to his “home” Ajax, where he played until 1983 and in order to end his football career he joined the hated opponent Feyenoord winning a Championship and cup of Netherlands.

The coach who changed the history of football

In 1985, almost 10 years after the end of his career, Johan Cruyff returned to the field after taking over as coach of Ajax. He has been on the bench for 3 years but has won only 1 European Cup Winners’ Cup. In 1988, he took over the technical leadership of Barcelona, ​​where he wrote history. He stayed there for 8 years, winning 4 Championships, 1 Cup, 3 Super Cups, 1 Cup Winners’ Cup and 1 Champions Cup. In 2009 until 2013 was part of technical leadership of Catalonia where he finally leaves the world of football, leaving his stigma, from the instructions of the legendary coach, Reno Michelis , the whole football world, the Tiki-Taka, and his great influence in the La Masia.

His death and the legacy

In October 2015, Johan Cruyff was diagnosed with lung cancer and after a six-month battle with the disease, on March 24, 2016, the “Flying Dutchman” took his last breath. This time he was a flying dutchman in the sky, while sadness fills the entire football world. Undoubtedly, Cruyff’s history and huge football legacy will never be forgotten. In 2018, the Ajax stadium was renamed Johan Cruyff Arena in his honor, while Barcelona named a stadium of the Academies after him aswell.