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Johan Cruyff: The Total Footballer


After a busy day outside trying to paint others blue, red and yellow, I came back to the news that the football legend Johan Cruyff had passed away, succumbing to lung cancer. Looking up his biography online, I was so inspired by the man that writing an article on his career felt necessary.

Cruyff was born on April 25, 1947, in Amsterdam, Netherlands near the local football club, Ajax Amsterdam. At the age of 10, he joined its youth team and made his senior debut for Ajax in 1964.

Awe-Inspiring Career:

Cruyff generally played as a center forward – where his skills and goal-scoring ability thrived – during his 9 years with Ajax. In 1973, owing to a successful career, he was bought by F.C. Barcelona for a then world record transfer fee of 920,000 pounds (Feels very little compared to Ronaldo’s transfer fees, doesn’t it? That’s inflation for you). He spent 5 years there, winning over the fans’ hearts during his tenure.


(source: Daily Mail)

He also played in the world cup once in 1974, leading the Oranje to the final where they had to face a tragic 2-1 defeat at the hands of West Germany.


(source: Daily Mail)

Even though he declared his retirement in 1978, he came back to play in the United States, followed by stints at Levante and Ajax. He officially retired in 1984 after spending one year with Feyenoord.

Trophy-Laden Management Period:

Cruyff followed his success as a player with an equally successful managing career with Ajax, winning 2 Dutch Cups and a UEFA Cup Winner’s Cup during his tenure there. Thereafter he shifted to Barcelona in 1988, laying the foundations of Tiki-Taka football as we know it now. He won four league titles, three Super Cups, a European Cup and a Copa Del Rey title with them.

Achievements. Achievements Galore!

Now I come to the reasons why I have being fanboying over him.

Cruyff was a part of an Ajax team which symbolized the principle of “Total Football” – a strategy where players kept rotating their positions to create an incredibly seamless attacking display (believe me when I say that it looks beautiful but is really hard to implement at the same time). Under manager Rinus Michels, Ajax won six Dutch championships, three European Cups, and two UEFA Super Cups. With Barcelona, he won a Spanish Championship in 1974 before coming back to Netherlands to win the Dutch Championship twice with Ajax and once with Feyenoord.

He ended with 425 goals from 752 official appearances.

For his national team, Cruyff scored 33 times in 48 matches and was adjudged the best player of the tournament during the 1974 World Cup.

(The Cruyff turn: one we do all the time now but was made famous by this player)

In 1971, he was awarded the Ballon d’Or (then only given to European footballers) and was the first Dutch player to receive one. He received it again – in 1973 and1974 – to become the first player ever to receive the coveted prize thrice. (Imagine how big his trophy cabinet would be. Insane.)

Outspoken thoughts:

Johan Cruyff was known as much for his for his comments as for his gameplay. Here are a few gems –

  • “In a way I’m probably immortal.”
  • “If I wanted you to understand it all, I would have explained it better.”
  • “I don’t believe in God. In Spain all 22 players cross themselves, if it works the game is always going to be a tie.”
  • “Quality without results is pointless. Results without quality is boring.”
  • “In my teams, the goalie is the first attacker, and the striker the first defender.”
  • “Why couldn’t you beat a richer club? I’ve never seen a bag of money score a goal.”

The 4th one won me over completely!

Social Media Reactions:

His death led to many people taking to social media platforms to express their grief – footballers and non-footballers alike:






Johan Cruff was a legend. I don’t think anyone would doubt that. He truly made football a beautiful game and I thank him for that.

May he rest in peace.



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