Los Angeles – The world of international soccer is mourning one of the game’s true innovators as it was announced today that Holland great, Johan Cruyff has lost his battle with lung cancer. The 68-year-old passed away at his home in Barcelona. According to a statement on his official website, he “died peacefully,” and was “surrounded by family” at the time of his passing.
Cruyff first burst onto the international soccer scene in early 1970s as a member of the Ajax side that won three consecutive European Championships between 1971 and 1973. With his flowing hair and elegant trickery on the pitch, Cruyff brought a sense of intelligence and artistry to the game of soccer that was very much in-line with the counter cultural movement that was taking place in Amsterdam at the time.
Together with Ajax manager, Rinus Michels, Cruyff innovated what was known as total football, an intricate, possession-based, attacking style of play that is very much the foundation of the modern game as it’s played today.
In 1974, Cruyff introduced Dutch total football to the wider world when he captained the Netherlands to the World Cup final. Along the way, Cruyff and his teammates played the game in a way many had never imagined possible, steamrolling over the likes of Brazil and Argentina on the way to the final against Franz Beckenbauer’s Germany. Even though the Dutch lost the final 2-1, there is little debate today as to which was the better team.
If was at the ’74 World Cup that Cruyff performed his signature move, the Cruyff Turn, which he executed in a Group Stage clash with Sweden. After receiving a long, diagonal ball from teammate, Arie Haan, Cruyff stood off his marker, Swedish right back, Jan Olsson, shaped to pass back downfield, and performed what is perhaps the most famous feint in the history of the game, freeing himself to speed towards the Swedish box while Olsson was left headed in the wrong direction.
Cruyff eventually followed Michels from Ajax to Barcelona where he helped instill the passing; possession-based game the Catalan club is famous for – first as a player, and later as a manager. In the early 1990s, he managed Barcelona to its first ever European Cup triumph.
That team, known as the “Dream Team,” featured a young Catalan midfielder named Josep “Pep” Guardiola, who as a manager himself, later adapted Cruyff’s principles into foundations of today’s Barcelona team – arguably the greatest club side in the history of the game.
Cruyff was born in a working-class neighborhood of Amsterdam in 1947. He made his first team debut with Ajax at age 17. As a player, his many honors included eight Dutch titles and three European Cups with Ajax, as well as a La Liga and a Copa del Rey with Barcelona.
As a manager, in addition to the European Cup, he won four La Liga titles with Barça and two KNVB Cups with Ajax. He was voted world player of the year three times and was named as the greatest European player of the 20th century.
Photos courtesy of https://www.worldofjohancruyff.com.