Johan Cruyff

Eyridiki Sellou | Sep 19, 2022

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Hendrik Johannes (Johan) Cruijff (Amsterdam, April 25, 1947 - Barcelona, March 24, 2016) was a Dutch professional footballer and soccer coach.

Cruijff is recognized worldwide as one of the best soccer players of all time. In 1999, he was voted European Footballer of the Twentieth Century by the IFFHS. In the IFFHS election of World Footballer of the Twentieth Century, he finished second behind Pelé. The former striker and playmaker was particularly praised for his technique, starting speed, handling speed and game insight. Three times he was voted European footballer of the year and also won the European Cup I three times, the latter with Ajax, where he was considered the leader and star of the team. In 1974, as captain of the Dutch team, Cruijff reached the final of the World Cup, losing 2-1 to West Germany.

After a 20-year career as a soccer player, in which he played as a professional for clubs in the Netherlands, Spain and the United States, Cruijff turned to coaching in 1985. Without the necessary diplomas, the former player became a trainer at Ajax, and with the Amsterdammers he won two KNVB Cups and the European Cup II. After Cruijff resigned from Ajax in early 1988, he became a trainer at his former employer FC Barcelona. There he formed a team that went down in history as the Dream Team. Highlight during his stay at FC Barcelona was winning the European Cup I in 1992. This made Cruijff the third footballer in history to win this tournament both as a player and as a trainer, after Miguel Muñoz and Giovanni Trapattoni. Cruijff had already won the European Cup II with FC Barcelona in 1989 and the European Supercup in 1992. After his dismissal in 1996, Cruijff ended his coaching career, but remained influential at both Ajax and FC Barcelona. He founded several socially engaged institutions, focusing particularly on youth and sports. He also remained involved in soccer, including as an analyst, ambassador, advisor and columnist. In 2009, Cruijff decided to take up coaching again when he was approached for the national coaching position of Catalonia. He held this position through 2013. In addition, Cruijff served on the supervisory board of Ajax from June 2011 to April 2012.


Johan Cruijff was born on Friday, April 25, 1947, at the Civil Hospital on Linnaeusstraat in Amsterdam. He was the second son of Hermanus Cornelis Cruijff and Petronella Bernarda Draaijer, who named him after their maternal grandfather Hendrik Johannes Draaijer. Johan, who was called "Jopie" by his mother, grew up in Akkerstraat in the Betondorp neighborhood, a stone's throw from the then Ajax stadium De Meer. Father Manus and mother Nel both came from the Jordaan neighborhood. After the war, they had started a vegetable store called Cruijffs Aardappelenhandel in a residential storefront. Nel also volunteered to work occasionally as a helper in the Ajax stadium's canteen.

Together with his brother Henny, who was two and a half years older, 'Jopie' played soccer a lot in the streets. Later they also played together in the youth of Ajax.

When Johan was twelve years old, the family moved to a ground-floor apartment in Weidestraat. On the evening of July 8, 1959, while 'Jopie' Cruijff was saying goodbye to the Groen van Prinstererschool on Zaaiersweg, his father, 45 years old, died of a heart attack. The death of his father was the great tragedy of Johan's life. For years to come he would have imaginary conversations with him. Nel could not continue the vegetable store on her own, so the store was closed. At that time Nel was the sole breadwinner of the family and went to work as a housekeeper for Ajax coach Vic Buckingham. Ajax also offered the Cruijff family relief by paying Nel to work at the club from then on. A few years later, she remarried.

After elementary school, Johan attended Frankendaal-Ulo from September 1959. At lunchtime he regularly ate with his mother and the Buckingham family. Here he made his first acquaintance with the English language. The school was not a success. Johan failed twice and left the Ulo after a few years without a diploma. Through Ajax he got a job as a sales clerk at Perry van der Kar on the Ceintuurbaan. After Johan's marriage, in 1968, the contact with his brother faded. After the death of their mother, in December 2007, they had no more contact.


At teammate Piet Keizer's wedding, on June 13, 1967, Cruijff met his future wife Danny Coster. They got engaged and on December 2, 1968, they got married. They went to live in Vinkeveen and had three children: Chantal (Nov. 16, 1970), Susila (Jan. 26, 1972) and Jordi (Feb. 9, 1974).

It was during a Dutch Open in the mid-1970s that Cruijff first became acquainted with the sport of golf. Afterwards, he could regularly be found on various golf courses. True to tradition, he and Maarten Lafeber participated annually in major golf tournaments, such as the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland or the KLM Open. According to the registration of the NGF, on the basis of which Golf Weekly published the results of a number of well-known soccer players in 2006, Cruijff had a handicap of 35.3 in that year.

Smoking and health issues

On Jan. 26, 1991, during a walk with his wife Danny, Cruijff experienced heart trouble. At the hospital, he then underwent emergency bypass surgery due to a diagnosis of arteriosclerosis. In addition to two months of rest, the then FC Barcelona coach was also advised by doctors to quit smoking. During his active career, Cruijff had always behaved like an exemplary professional when it came to eating and drinking, but he could not resist the temptation of smoking. Sometimes he smoked eighty cigarettes a day. The Wasem, a nickname the Bild-Zeitung once gave him, decided to follow the doctors' advice and collaborated on a commercial discouraging smoking. After quitting smoking, Cruijff traded his cigarette for a Chupa Chups lollipop, which he regularly sucked on in the dugout. In soccer-loving Catalonia, sales of this lollipop doubled in 1991.

In October 2015, Cruijff was diagnosed with lung cancer. A month before his death, Cruijff expressed positivity about his prospects of overcoming the disease in a written statement: 'I have the feeling that I am 2-0 ahead in the first half of a game that is not yet over. I am sure I will win in the end'. On March 2, 2016, he still sought out Formula One driver Max Verstappen at the Barcelona circuit. A week later, he visited his son Jordi in Tel Aviv. He died of his illness on March 24, 2016 at Hospital Sant Pau in his hometown of Barcelona. His death was rather unexpected to the outside world, but it was known in a small circle that he had metastases.

After his death

Soccer club FC Barcelona praised Cruijff on the day of his death in an in memoriam signed by the president and as many as seven former presidents. The club declared a period of mourning until April 2. On the evening of his death, Feyenoord and Sparta played with mourning bands on. Flowers were laid at the house in Betondorp where he lived for the first 12 years of his life. He was cremated privately the next day. The same day, at the practice match between the Netherlands and France in Amsterdam, the match was stopped after fourteen minutes and applauded for Cruijff for one minute. On March 26, De Telegraaf devoted three pages of obituaries to Cruijff. Among others, former soccer players and coaches Marco van Basten and Frank Rijkaard each placed an ad, as well as various companies and organizations. Three days later, at the friendly match between England and the Netherlands at Wembley, the spectators clapped for Cruijff for one minute in the fourteenth minute, as agreed. The game was not interrupted. A picture of Cruijff appeared on the stadium screen during that minute.

Immediately after Cruijff's death, voices were raised to name the Amsterdam ArenA after him as a tribute. In April 2017, a letter of intent was signed to achieve an official name change to Johan Cruijff ArenA. FC Barcelona named the new second stadium (Estadi Johan Cruyff) at the youth complex after Cruijff. In addition, the footballer would get a statue in front of Camp Nou. A meter-high mural appeared in De Watergraafsmeer in 2017.

The City of Amsterdam decided to rename Stadionplein as Johan Cruijffplein in 2018. Just before the change was to be implemented, it was announced that the name change was off the table. Inquiries about the run-up to the decision revealed that the advice from stadsdeel Zuid was based on incorrect information, and a negative advice from the Commission Naamgeving Openbare Ruimte (CNOR) had not reached the city council. Incidentally, Amsterdam has had the Johan Cruijff Bridge since 2005. The Johan Cruijff Memorial by Steffen Maas in Betondorp followed in 2021. After the unsuccessful renaming of Stadionplein, the Amsterdam City Council decided in 2020 to rename Arena Boulevard in Southeast as Johan Cruijff Boulevard.

Unauthorized posthumous biography

November 2019 saw the publication of Johan Cruijff, the biography written by Auke Kok, which painted a disconcerting picture of his personal life. In a broadcast of the TV program De Wereld Draait Door following the publication, Kok claimed that Cruijff would have been a "notorious cheater" and also that during his life he would have received an annual sum of 1 million euros from the Johan Cruyff Foundation. In summary proceedings, Kok was ordered to rectify the disputed passage. He did not appeal, but looked into the matter more closely. In March 2021, he came out with a republication of the biography, with an entire chapter on the matter. He now stated, that from 1998 Cruyff received about a million annually from a secret deal of his father-in-law and business manager Cor Koster with the Sponsor Lottery and Terre des hommes. The Cruyff Foundation, however, was outside that.

AFC Ajax

From the age of six, Cruijff trained with Ajax. It was not until his tenth birthday that he was able to become an official member of Ajax. On April 25, 1957, he received a letter stating that he was accepted as a member. Youth coach Jany van der Veen had already seen him play regularly in Betondorp and thought he was good enough to become an Ajax member immediately; he did not have to play a trial match. In the years 1957-1963 he went through youth training. In the 1962 season

On November 15, 1964, Cruijff made his official debut in the first team of Ajax, which was under the direction of coach Vic Buckingham. As a debutant that afternoon, Cruijff scored the only goal in the 3-1 lost away match against GVAV. Three weeks earlier, on Saturday, October 24, 1964, Cruijff played for the first time with Ajax 1 in a practice match in Helmond against second division club Helmondia'55 (2-3).

He did not play long under Buckingham's reign, because a little over two months after Cruijff's first appearance, the coach returned to England and was succeeded by Rinus Michels. The inexperienced selector actually considered Cruijff too young and physically not strong enough for the first team. Nevertheless, the seventeen-year-old talent played ten games in his debut season, in which he scored four goals. For Ajax, the season was very disappointing from a sporting point of view. The club finished thirteenth in the league table and narrowly escaped relegation. The final ranking of 1965 is still the lowest Ajax has ever achieved since the introduction of professional soccer. Michels decided to intervene and urged the board, which was headed by new chairman Jaap van Praag, for reinforcements. The club management decided to bring back Co Prins and Henk Groot and also contracted goalkeeper Gert Bals from PSV. Although Michels did not think it was yet time to give Cruijff a permanent place in the team, he was given a starting place on October 24, 1965 against DWS when he replaced the injured Klaas Nuninga. Cruijff scored twice that afternoon, convincing Michels of his ability. With Cruijff in the striker's box, Ajax then remained unbeaten sixteen games in a row. The 2-0 away win against FC Twente on May 15, 1966, meant that Ajax was certain of the title two games before the league ended. That season Ajax was the most treacherous team in the premier league with 79 goals. In the following season, Ajax's first team scored 122 goals in the league; a number that has never been surpassed. Cruijff had the largest share with 33 goals and became top scorer of the Eredivisie with this number. With a positive goal difference of 88, which would remain a record in the Eredivisie for 21 seasons until the 1987 season

During this period, Cor Coster, Cruijff's father-in-law-to-be, was one of the first to recognize that individual players represented commercial value. He understood that De Meer attracted many spectators every match, who came mainly for Cruijff. Coster's insights led Cruijff to decide from then on to be represented by his father-in-law-to-be, who thus became one of the first business agents in national and international top soccer. The entrance of the fiduciary brought about a change in the soccer world, since until then sports administrators were used to drawing up the terms of the contract and players only had to sign. Illustrative, for example, was when it came to his attention that new acquisition Dick van Dijk was going to earn more than Cruijff. Coster intervened and personally saw to it that Cruijff's contract was broken open. A financial upgrading took place in which the annual salary was increased to 50,000 guilders: the same amount Van Dijk received. Coster felt that if someone could play soccer as well as Cruijff, he should be royally rewarded. In the early 1970s, when player salaries took off, Coster even went a step further by promising himself that he was going to make sure that Cruijff would become a millionaire because of his soccer skills.

In 1968, Ajax became national champions for the third time in a row. As a result, in 1968 the club

A groin injury caused Cruijff to miss the first games of the following season. After weeks of absence, Cruijff's comeback took place on Oct. 30, 1970, against PSV. During that match, however, he did not wear his regular jersey number 9, but number 14. This originated in Gerrie Mühren's missing jersey with jersey number 7, which was not found in the laundry basket. Since Cruijff had been injured for a long time, he felt that Mühren should then take his jersey with number 9. Cruijff then put on a reserve jersey with jersey number 14. After the game against PSV ended in a 1-0 victory for Ajax, Cruijff wore the jersey with number 14 again a week later because against PSV it "went so well" and Mühren could once again play with number 9. Out of superstition, Cruijff kept jersey number 14, which in time became inextricably linked with him in the image. In that context, it is notable that he continued to play regularly with other back numbers throughout the remainder of his career. Cruijff recovered remarkably quickly after his long absence and showed this within a month of his comeback on November 29, 1970 against AZ'67, when he played a major part in Ajax's 8-1 victory with six goals. In doing so, Cruijff equaled the record of Lammers and Kerkhoffs, who also scored six times in one league game. In 2007, however, Afonso Alves shot that record out of the books when he found the net seven times against Heracles. On November 21, 1971 in the game against Telstar, Cruijff scored after only 9 seconds, making it the fastest goal since the start of the premier league.

By now Michels had a team that could compete with the European top. In addition to youngsters such as Stuy, Krol, Neeskens, Rijnders, Blankenburg and Haan, the team included veterans who had already been present at the 1969 European Cup final, such as Suurbier, Hulshoff, Vasović, Swart, Keizer and Cruijff. Almost two years later, on June 2, 1971, this team again reached the final of the European Cup I. At Wembley, Greece's Panathinaikos, coached by Ferenc Puskás, was the opponent. Like Feyenoord a year earlier, Ajax also managed to win the prestigious tournament this time thanks to goals by Van Dijk and Haan.

After winning the European Cup I, speculation arose that Cruijff would leave Ajax. Among others, he was interested in FC Barcelona, but a move to Feyenoord was also a possibility. Coster secretly negotiated for months with the Rotterdam club to have Cruijff, through a rental construction with a foreign club, become the intended successor to the departing Ove Kindvall. After long negotiations, Cruijff and Coster did reach an agreement with Ajax on July 12, 1971. Cruijff got the financial security he was hoping for. He signed a seven-year contract that netted him 95,000 guilders annually, plus profit bonuses of 1,500 guilders. In mid-1978, when Cruijff's contract was due to expire, he was also scheduled to stop playing soccer permanently. Therefore, Coster also arranged another agreement with Koninklijke Bijenkorf Beheer, which included that Cruijff would receive an annual payment of 60,000 guilders from age 31 until age 65.

In 1971

Contrary to 1971, when Ajax, as title holder of the European Cup I, had cancelled participation in the World Cup, the club decided in the fall of 1972 to seek the confrontation with the winner of the Copa Libertadores after all. Initially, there were doubts because of the long journey and the low profile of the World Cup, but the intention within the player group to want to win it all finally made the decision to go anyway. In the battle between the European and South American champions, Argentinian Independiente was defeated 4-1 by Ajax over two matches in August and September 1972. After the World Cup win, Cruijff succeeded Piet Keizer as Ajax's captain. Under Cruijff's leadership, Ajax also captured the European Super Cup in January 1973 after a double victory over Glasgow Rangers (3-1 away in Glasgow and 3-2 at home in Amsterdam). An important 4-0 home victory over Bayern Munich followed in the quarterfinals of the European Cup I on March 7, 1973. The game was voted the best European Cup match ever by L'Équipe in 2005. The French sports newspaper described the duel as "the best demonstration of total soccer. After the Ajaciens also eliminated Real Madrid in the semifinals (2-1 win at home, 1-0 win away), the club reached the European Cup I final for the third time in a row on May 30, 1973. In it, the Amsterdammers managed to win again, this time beating Juventus 1-0.

Meanwhile, enthusiasm about Cruijff's captaincy among players began to wane. In July 1973, a mutually divided selection went on a training camp at a hotel in De Lutte. Keizer wanted to be captain again, but Cruijff did not like this. A vote was therefore taken on whether Cruijff should remain captain or not. With three votes in favor and thirteen against, the players' group expressed their confidence in Cruijff and Keizer regained the captain's armband. Cruijff perceived the player group's decision as a vote of no confidence and felt his authority was being undermined. Shocked, he returned to his hotel room, where he contacted his father-in-law. Speaking on the phone, Cruijff instructed him, "You have to call Barcelona right now. I am leaving here."

Spain's borders were opened again to foreign players and Barcelona, which had wanted to sign Cruijff earlier, made its move, after the transfer of Gerd Müller had fallen through at an earlier stage. Cruijff did still play two league games for Ajax in the new 1973 season

FC Barcelona

In Barcelona, Cruijff was reunited with Michels, who was his trainer at Ajax from early 1965 to mid-1971. FC Barcelona had had to wait a long time for Cruijff's arrival. First the Spanish Football Federation did not allow foreigners and then the KNVB did not cooperate, as Cruijff was contracted after the transfer period had expired. Cruijff was initially only able to play for FC Barcelona in friendly matches and made his unofficial debut against Cercle Brugge (6-0) on September 5, 1973. The receipts from the friendly duels were such that FC Barcelona, even before Cruijff was eligible to play in the Spanish league, completely recouped Cruijff's transfer fee. Arguing that Cruijff needed to maintain match rhythm for the Dutch national team, the KNVB gave in after all. This allowed Johan Cruijff to finally make his official debut for FC Barcelona on October 28, 1973 in the home game against Granada. By then the season was already seven rounds old and, after two wins, two draws and three losses, FC Barcelona found themselves in the lower reaches of the league table. Cruijff scored two goals against Granada, winning 4-0. With the Dutchman in the team, the club then remained unbeaten for 25 games in a row (nineteen wins and six draws). Five games before the end of the competition, the competition could no longer overtake the club: after fourteen years, FC Barcelona finally won the championship of Spain again. Cruijff scored sixteen goals (one goal less than club top scorer Marcial) and made a fundamental contribution to this championship. This became the highest number of goals he would score in a season in Spain, a number far removed from the 33 in his best season at Ajax.

When his wife was pregnant with their son Jordi and due on the very day of the away match against arch-rival Real Madrid, the couple agreed to bring the delivery a week earlier by Caesarean section. The match on Feb. 17, 1974, ended in a resounding 5-0 victory, in which Cruijff scored once. Also that season was the famous goal against Atlético Madrid, in which Cruijff turned with the back of the goal only to tap the ball in past goalkeeper Miguel Reina with his heel. Cruijff's achievements led to him being voted European footballer of the year again in 1973 and 1974. In doing so, he became the first player to win the award three times. Michel Platini and Marco van Basten were for a long time the only players to match this.

Although Cruijff was in the heyday of his career at the time, the 1973 season's national title remained

Johan Cruijff's popularity in Barcelona is not only due to his sporting contribution. Cruijff joined FC Barcelona in the latter days of the Franco regime. The regime knew only one Spain, including the region of Catalonia - Catalan symbols were not allowed. FC Barcelona was one of the few visible symbols of Catalan identity. So its victory over Real Madrid in early 1974 was celebrated as a victory over Spain, with a big party at Plaça de Catalunya. He then named his son, who had been born a few days earlier, Jordi, after the patron saint of Catalonia: Saint George. Because Jordi was born in the Netherlands, the Spanish civil registry could not refuse this name, although forbidden by the Spanish regime. Partly because of this, his popularity in Barcelona remains enormous to this day.


The 31-year-old Cruijff decided to end his career in the summer of 1978. With a 3-1 victory over Ajax, he bid farewell to the Catalan public on May 27, 1978. Especially for Cruijff, Ajax organized another farewell match on Nov. 7, 1978. Germany's Bayern Munich was invited to the honorary match in the Olympic Stadium. Beforehand, Cruijff received an inscribed gold watch and a color television from chairman Ton Harmsen. The latter gift caused hilarity in the stands, but it later turned out that the television was bought at the wish of Cruijff's wife Danny.

It was not a day of celebration and not a usual result for an honorary match. In a full stadium and with millions of TV viewers around the world, Ajax was canned 8-0. The Germans were taunted by the defeats they had suffered in previous years against Ajax (in August 1972 it was 0-5 in Munich and 4-0 in Amsterdam in March 1973). In addition, no one from the Amsterdam club was at Schiphol Airport to welcome the Germans and they were accommodated in a second-rate hotel. They also revealed afterwards that they were scolded from the stands (for 'Nazi-Schweine', among other things). The Ajax team wanted to make it a fun night, but was surprised by Bayern Munich's concentrated fighting spirit. After the eighth goal, by Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Cruijff left the field for Ray Clarke. It is the biggest defeat Cruijff suffered in his career. In May 2006, some former Bayern Munich players apologized for this match in NOVA.

After his soccer career, Cruijff plunged into a business adventure in Spain. Having previously focused on business with Jack van Zanten, Cruijff now decided to join forces with good friend and business partner Michel Basilevich. From a luxury office on Barcelona's Passeig de Gràcia, they started CB-International (with the C of Cruijff and the B of Basilevich) together. The company's activities included exporting wine, cement and vegetables, dealing in real estate, representing Warner Bros. and operating pig farm Ganadera Catalana. However, the project ended in fiasco: Basilevich turned out to have skilfully siphoned off the assets, fooled Cruijff with forged papers that he owned several companies and left him with a debt of six million guilders. Cruijff's father-in-law warned him about Basilevich, but Cruijff ignored that advice and broke off contact with Coster. After the debacle, things got back on track between them.

Los Angeles Aztecs

Cruijff was forced to take up soccer again. He was eager to go to the United States, where New York Cosmos seemed to be the next club of his career. Indeed, at Cosmos, Cruijff had once signed a preliminary contract stipulating that he could only play for that club in the United States. When he took part in a benefit match as a guest player on August 30, 1977, a few weeks before his farewell, Cruijff had already become acquainted with the American team. Club owner Steve Ross, who was also the boss of WarnerBros, decided to make work of Cruijff's arrival and offered him a three-year deal with a fee totaling four million dollars. However, Cruijff turned down that offer, saying he only wanted to come out for the club for one year. The explanation is that Cruijff did not have much appetite for the commercial activities he had to perform on behalf of the club for Warner Bros, as was expected of former player Pelé in the past. Among other things, New York Cosmos would go on a world tour, raising millions of dollars. Other stories tell that influential star player Giorgio Chinaglia was not keen on Cruijff's arrival and therefore blocked a transfer.

After it appeared that a continuation of Cruijff's career was not in the cards at New York Cosmos, Los Angeles Aztecs showed interest. On the American west coast, a lucrative contract was waiting for Cruijff with an annual salary of $750,000. The unemployed Cruijff agreed and signed for one season. However, he was not about the money, as he stated in dozens of interviews. In his own words, he could have earned much more in Europe. Cruijff thought of himself as being on a mission: he wanted to make soccer a success in the United States, to show that it was "the most beautiful sport in the world. Whether Cruijff meant this or not, in the Netherlands he got the reputation of a money-grubber. In the U.S., however, he was praised for his dedication and love of the sport. For example, Cruijff proved willing to drive hours if he was allowed to talk about soccer for ten minutes on television somewhere free of charge.

Straight from the plane, with jet lag still in his body and having not trained for nine months, Cruijff made his debut against Rochester Lancers on May 23, 1979. He immediately showed the American public his calling card by scoring twice within ten minutes. In the second half, he provided another assist that made it 3-0. For Cruijff, his time with LA Aztecs meant a second reunion with Michels, who was recruited by the club a year earlier. In addition to Cruijff, Dutchmen Thomas Rongen, Leo van Veen, Huub Smeets and Wim Suurbier played at the Aztecs since 1979. Michels built a team completely attuned to Cruijff and instructed his players, "you just have to run where Johan is not." As with Ajax and Barcelona, Michels allowed Cruijff to set the lines inside the field. His performance led to him being named the NASL's most valuable player at the end of the season. His goal in the playoffs against Washington Diplomats was voted Goal of the Year. Despite these personal successes, Cruijff's stay with the Aztecs was limited to one season, this as the new owners wanted to see more Mexican influences at the club in 1980. Other sources reported that the Aztecs had to let him go because they could not afford Cruijff's salary for another year.

Washington Diplomats

Cruijff decided to stay in America and signed a contract with Washington Diplomats, where he became Wim Jansen's teammate. His debut on March 29, 1980 against Tampa Bay Rowdies ended in a 3-2 defeat after shoot-outs. America had different rules of the game. There was a maximum of nine points per game and a tie was not possible. Shoot-outs, which Cruijff not infrequently missed, had to bring the decision. In Washington, Cruijff had a less successful season than with the Aztecs. The Diplomats were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. Moreover, Cruijff suffered frequent injuries, probably caused by the artificial turf. He also came into conflict with coach Gordon Bradley and some of his teammates. Unlike LA Aztecs, where Cruijff's instructions were still listened to, fellow players at the Diplomats were not interested in his advice. Cruijff also had to get used to the Diplomats' style of play, which was almost the opposite of the way he was used to. The game was especially comparable to the hard soccer played in the English third division.

After the American competition ended, Cruijff became active in the Netherlands. In the fall of 1980, he trained with the Ajax selection. Playing along was forbidden to him by the KNVB because attracting "American" players outside the transfer period would lead to competition distortion. However, Cruijff was appointed technical advisor to trainer Leo Beenhakker by Ajax on November 24, 1980, after Ajax dropped to 8th place in the Eredivisie due to 3 successive league defeats in October 1980, and also weak results in November 1980. The 1-1 draw away against MVV on Saturday night, November 22, 1980, was the straw that broke the camel's back for the Ajax management; in the last 6 league matches, Ajax has won only once, drawn once, and lost no less than four times, and in the Europa Cup I tournament Ajax went down 6-3 in total in two matches against Bayern Munich. In the position of technical advisor, Cruijff caused a big stir by descending from the stands in Amsterdam during the match at a 3-2 deficit against subtopper FC Twente on Nov. 30, 1980, and taking a seat on the bench next to bewildered coach Leo Beenhakker. After trailing 3-1, Ajax, ranked eighth at the time, won 5-3 after bringing in Rijkaard and other players. A sixth league defeat in the fourteenth round was thus avoided. Ex-Feyenoord player Wim Jansen, asked by Cruijff to come along from the Washington Diplomats to Ajax, joined the selection. During the Ajax-FC Twente match (5-3), Jansen was a stand seater for the time being; he would not make his debut until a week later in Rotterdam in the Feyenoord-Ajax match (4-2), in which he dropped out after only 18 minutes, after receiving a snowball thrown at one of his eyes by a young, vindictive Feyenoord supporter. From January 1981, things really started to go well at Ajax, and in May 1981 and June 1981 Ajax still finished 2nd, a feat. Although Ajax finished a long way from AZ'67, which was superior that season, Ajax still just passed numbers 3, 4 and 5, FC Utrecht, Feyenoord and PSV. Ajax also reached the cup final, having knocked out sub-topper FC Twente (5-1) and top club PSV (2-2 away, 2-1 at home), among others. The cup final was lost 3-1 to national champion AZ'67 in Amsterdam.

In addition to his work for Ajax, Cruijff also played four friendly matches as a guest player for first division club DS'79 from Dordrecht in January 1981. The request for this came from DS'79 chairman Nico de Vries, who wanted to draw more attention to his sports brands Admiral and Pony. In addition to Cruijff, De Vries also found Rob Rensenbrink willing to participate. Together with DS'79, the two former internationals worked through four duels against Chelsea, Charleroi, MVV, and Ajax.


As Cruijff planned to make his return to the Dutch national team in early 1981, he needed to play regularly again. His intention spread through Europe and led to concrete interest from four clubs. Arsenal was interested, but only wanted to contract him for the 1981 season.

On March 1, 1981, Cruijff made his debut in the Spanish second division against Palencia. It caused the home ground Estadi Ciutat de València to be completely sold out for the first and only time. However, Cruijff's arrival proved to have a negative impact on the club. Football was no longer played seriously and within the Levante board everything revolved solely around money. Although around Christmas there was still a prospect of promotion to the highest level, the club eventually finished ninth in the league table. The organization within the club became a mess and players locked themselves in the locker rooms toward the end of the season to force the board to pay their salaries. Cruijff also experienced a disappointing period at Levante. His entire stay was marked by minor injuries and loss of form, preventing him from making more than 10 appearances and scoring two goals.

Washington Diplomats

Even before his tenure with Levante officially ended, Cruijff re-signed a contract with Washington Diplomats on June 18, 1981. His return to the American fields took place on July 1 during the away game against San Diego Sockers (3-2 loss). During his second season with the Diplomats, however, due to the after-effects of a hamstring injury, Cruijff made only five appearances and scored only two goals. He suffered the hamstring injury in June 1981 during the Mundialito tournament, where he was a guest player in a friendly match between AC Milan and Feyenoord. Player agent Ploon Konijnenburg arranged for Cruijff to play one half on the Milan side for a fee of $20,000.

In December 1981, Cruijff returned to Ajax. It was Jack van Gelder, at the time the PR manager of Cruyff Sports since 1979, who ensured that the two parties started talking to each other again. One Sunday afternoon, Van Gelder reported for Langs de Lijn, in which he stated that it was too crazy for words that both Cruijff and Ajax wanted to work together, but that both parties were too proud to take the first step. Then that same evening Rolf Leeser, a close friend of Michels, called Van Gelder, saying that he was quite willing to play a mediating role. The next morning, Van Gelder came to the realization that he could also play that role himself. After receiving permission to do so from Cruijff, he called Ajax chairman Harmsen, who also immediately agreed. A constructive conversation followed, but after the meeting there was no unanimity within the Ajax club management. Van Eijden and Harmsen appeared to be in favor of Cruijff's arrival, but they failed to convince the other three board members. Westrik and Neefjes were blocked by treasurer Bartels, who felt that Cruijff was a financial risk and would almost certainly cause problems over money.

Meanwhile, Van Gelder was tipped off by Harmsen that a decision on Cruijff's arrival would be made at a subsequent board meeting. Van Gelder then decided to use a trick to get Cruijff's return through the board. He called Neefjes the night before to tell him he was aware of the planned vote a day later. Van Gelder then managed to convince him that he would be the only board member opposed to Cruijff's arrival. Cousins replied that he did not want that on his conscience. When Harmsen started the vote at the board meeting the next day, unlike all other times, Neefjes agreed to Cruijff's arrival. Neefjes' decision led to a unanimous board decision, allowing Cruijff to return to the club where he had started his career.

Cruijff signed a contract on a receipts basis, agreeing that as soon as there were more than 11,000 spectators in De Meer, he would receive half of the extra revenue. Both parties were satisfied with this deal, since on the one hand the Ajax management knew that matches in 1980 were sometimes attended by no more than 8,000 people, and Cruijff realized on the other hand that he personally could provide extra spectators, especially when Ajax was going uphill again athletically. Despite fine results in, and a first place finish after the first eight league matches of the 1981 season

Cruijff's comeback took place on Dec. 6, 1981, against HFC Haarlem in a sold-out De Meer. 12,000 more spectators than usual showed up that afternoon, while thousands more fans stood in line for the ticket booths. Initially there was skepticism about Cruijff's arrival, but he managed to dispel that skepticism in the 21st minute when he slalomed past Piet Huijg and Martin Haar in the penalty area after a pass from Sören Lerby and scored the 1-0 by skipping the ball with a subtle lob over goalkeeper Edward Metgod. The stadium went wild and the crowd saw that the player with number 14 could still do it. With Cruijff's arrival, Ajax's volatility disappeared, allowing PSV and AZ to pass them in the league table after the winter break. The club from Amsterdam did not lose a single match in the league and only drew twice, and because the closest rivals lost points in the final round of the competition, Ajax became champions in 1982 with five points ahead of number two, PSV, and an impressive goal difference of +75 (117-42).

Almost exactly one year after his comeback, Cruijff provided another rare moment when Ajax was leading 1-0 against Helmond Sport on December 5, 1982. The Amsterdammers were awarded a penalty, after which Cruijff claimed the ball. This in itself was a striking incident, as the veteran had never before taken a penalty for Ajax. However, the execution was then even more curious: Cruijff laid the ball wide to Jesper Olsen, who kicked it back to Cruijff, who was able to tap it in simply because goalkeeper Otto Versfeld was facing Olsen. The Helmond players protested, but the penalty kick taken complied with the rules. The goal went all over the world, but it later turned out that it was not the first time a penalty was taken in three. The Feyenoord duo Bas Paauwe and Gerard Kuppen performed this trick once before on May 4, 1944 against Sparta, and also in 1936 such a penalty was taken in a match by the club Surinam Boys The 1982 season

In the final months of the season, Cruijff came into conflict with Ajax chairman Harmsen. The board member thought Cruijff was too old and did not want to pay his salary of one and a half million guilders. Driven by resentment over the Ajax board's treatment, Cruijff instructed Coster to contact Feyenoord for an unimaginable move to the arch-rival. After months of negotiations, the parties came to an agreement, setting up a similar pay structure on a recette basis to Ajax, as Feyenoord's club coffers were nearly empty. On May 10, 1983, Cruijff announced his retirement. A week later, after winning the cup final, the club icon left.


Initially, Feyenoord supporters had trouble with the routine player, who had come over from Ajax. This quickly disappeared when Cruijff proved his worth after making his debut against FC Volendam on August 21, 1983. Despite an 8-2 defeat to Ajax, Cruijff achieved his sporting revenge by winning both the national title and the KNVB Cup with the Rotterdam club. Apart from a tormented Cruijff, this was thanks to the strong playing of Ruud Gullit and André Hoekstra and the surefooted Peter Houtman. Despite his relatively advanced age, Cruijff played all but one league game that season. That one missed game was promptly lost, 1-0 at FC Groningen, along with the 8-2 defeat at Ajax Feyenoord's only league defeat of that season. . Because of his performance on the pitch, the 37-year-old Feyenoord player was voted Dutch footballer of the year for a fifth time in 1984. At the end of the season, the routinier announced his final farewell. On May 13, 1984, he was sent off the field with a symbolic red card by referee Severein in the league match against PEC Zwolle eleven minutes before time. He was replaced by a youthful Mario Been.

Cruijff played his very last game three-quarters of a year later in Saudi Arabia, when Feyenoord received a very tempting offer from Saudi King Fahd for many millions. Two retiring internationals from the Saudi national team were offered a farewell match and because Cruijff was the best soccer player the king had ever seen, he had to and would play. Cruijff, already retired from soccer, appeared untrained at kickoff. He scored twice for Saudi Arabia's team in the first half and brought Feyenoord back into the game after halftime with a goal and an assist. After the game ended in a 2-2 draw, Cruijff received a four-piece 24-carat gold service as thanks for his participation.

Matches and goals

* Excluding the suspended match Ajax - Feyenoord (Jan. 21, 1968)

Debut and controversy

Cruijff made his debut for the Dutch national team as a 19-year-old on Sept. 7, 1966, during the European Championship qualifier against Hungary. The striker scored the second goal for the Oranje, ending the confrontation in a 2-2 draw. Less than six months earlier, on Feb. 9, 1966, Cruijff made his unofficial appearance for the Dutch national team in an exhibition match against Racing Strasbourg. In that game Cruijff scored a hat trick and the Dutch won 7-0. Already in his second international match, on November 6, 1966 against Czechoslovakia, Cruijff was sent off. This made him the first Dutch international to be sent off the field. Cruijff allegedly punched referee Glöckner in the face, although this was disputed by the player himself. Following the incident, the KNVB decided to exclude Cruijff from international soccer for a year, but under pressure from the media, the striker was called up again after just eight months for the European Championship qualifier against the GDR. He graced his comeback with a goal within two minutes, which also set the final score.

Although Cruijff soon made a name for himself within the Oranje, it did not prove to be an impetus for a long-term international career. In 1968, discord began to arise between Cruijff and the KNVB. The striker, along with four Ajax teammates, could not agree on the amount of compensation they would receive for participating in a training camp and playing an international against Bulgaria. The internationals, led by Cruijff, only wanted to play for the Dutch national team if a substantial amount of money was paid in return. It was not unusual for Cruijff to occasionally put his own interests above the national interest. He regularly cancelled matches for various reasons. For example, the striker was once suspended by national coach Keßler because, due to visiting a foreign shoe fair as part of his own business, he had missed an important training session. Although relations at times were difficult at times, Cruijff was meanwhile elected captain of the Dutch national team. He had held this role since his fifteenth international appearance, on December 1, 1971. He would retain the captain's armband for the remaining 33 games of his international career.

Despite the international successes of Ajax and Feyenoord in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Dutch team failed to qualify for the World Cup in 1970 and European Championship in 1972. Cruijff later admitted that during that period, the importance of Orange was not so understood. The Netherlands did manage to qualify for the 1974 World Cup, after 36 years of absence from the global final tournament. Before traveling to host West Germany, Cruijff told Voetbal International that this would be his first and last World Cup. The striker left no doubt that he would stop playing soccer in 1978 at age 31. Participation in the next World Cup in Argentina was thus ruled out. Cruijff looked forward to the long stay in South America, but also feared the risks he would run in Argentina. In 1972 Ajax played in Buenos Aires for the World Cup and that trip was accompanied by several incidents. Also, when staying in South America, the danger of kidnapping lurked.


Under national coach Rinus Michels, the Netherlands started the World Cup on June 15, 1974. In the opening game against Uruguay, two goals from Johnny Rep determined the final score, and because the Netherlands was the only country to impress in the first round of play, it was immediately labeled the future world champion in the press. Against Sweden, the next opponent in the group stage, the Dutch team stuck to a 0-0 draw. In the final group game against Bulgaria, however, the Dutch showed what they were capable of. Cruijff was given a free role in attack by Michels. Roaming all over the pitch, he created space and put teammates in position. The Netherlands played the total soccer it would be known for for years to come and defeated the Bulgarians 4-1. After two wins and a draw, the Dutch qualified for the final pool, where Argentina was the next opponent. Against the South Americans, Orange played its best game to that point. Michels' and Cruijff's system was implemented as it was intended. Cruijff scored his first two World Cup goals. The Netherlands won 4-0 and could prepare for the next game against East Germany. This match was less high quality than the game against Argentina, but was won relatively easily 2-0. A draw during the final game against Brazil would then be enough to reach the final. However, the encounter with the reigning world champion degenerated into a legendary kicking match, marred by spitting at opponents, standing on each other's feet and flying tackles. The Dutch did not let themselves get off the hook, and thanks to goals by Neeskens and Cruijff, the Brazilians were defeated 2-0, helping the Netherlands reach the World Cup final for the first time.

Even before the final match was played, a riot arose on the Dutch side. A day before the final, the German boulevard magazine Bild-zeitung published a story about a swimming party at the Waldhotel Krautkrämer in Hiltrup, where the Dutch team was staying. The article carried the headline "Cruyff, Sekt und nackte Mädchen" and described a swimming party that allegedly took place after the victory over East Germany, during which Dutch players would have been in the company of naked German women. What exactly happened that night remained a mystery, but Cruijff in particular got into big trouble with his wife Danny, who immediately hung up the phone. According to some, this would have affected Cruijff's play during the final, as he did not reach his usual level in that match.

On July 7, 1974, the Netherlands kicked off for the final against West Germany. Even before the Germans had touched the ball, the Netherlands took the lead through a penalty kick scored by Neeskens. The penalty kick was given after a foul by Uli Hoeneß on Cruijff, who would not play a major role in this match anymore. After West Germany went into halftime with a lead, Cruijff received a yellow card from referee Taylor on his way to the locker room for persistent protesting. In the second half, the Netherlands tried to do something back, but the combination play and supremacy with which the team took control of previous matches was missing in the final. The game ended 1-2 and West Germany became world champions. Cruijff's performance at the tournament did ensure that he was voted best player of the World Cup afterwards.


Two years later, the Netherlands qualified for the European Championship in 1976. The goal was to make up for the lost World Cup two years earlier with a final place. In the semifinals against Czechoslovakia, however, the Netherlands failed to score and goals from the opponent ensured a 3-1 final score. One of the protagonists during the game was referee Thomas, who was known for his strict interpretation of the rules of the game. Van Hanegem and Neeskens received red cards from him, as did Czechoslovak Pollák. Cruijff received a yellow card, and because he had also received it during a qualifying match, the European Championship was over for him after one match. The Netherlands then won the consolation final from Yugoslavia 3-2, finishing third after all.

On Oct. 26, 1977, Cruijff, as he had announced years in advance, played his last game for Orange. Hardly anyone believed it was Cruijff's last international, but the protagonist himself appeared determined. In 1981 it seemed that Cruijff would make a comeback with the Oranje after all, after he had a long talk with national coach Rijvers. Because of different sponsorship interests, Cruijff (who had a contract with Cor du Buy Sports, which had acquired Puma's import rights for the Benelux countries from Rudi Dassler) and the KNVB (which was sponsored by Adidas) did not reach an agreement on the number of stripes on the shirts' sleeves. Cruijff wanted to play with two stripes, but the KNVB insisted on adidas' signature three stripes. Prior to the 1974 World Cup, the stripes issue also played out, but at that time Adidas and the KNVB eventually agreed to Cruijff's demands, making him the only Dutch player to play in a shirt with two stripes. All other internationals did have the three Adidas stripes on their jersey.

After his active career, during the 1984 season Cruijff was

With the coaching position, Cruijff brought about new developments within the soccer world. Under his supervision, total soccer was further developed and, in addition, he came up with new insights. For example, he hired an opera singer to teach his players to breathe in a different way. He also had youth soccer players switch positions so that attackers learned how defenders thought. In addition, Cruijff believed that players should receive low base salaries and high performance bonuses. At Ajax, Cruijff had access to a talented group, with players such as Menzo, Silooy, Koeman, Vanenburg, Rijkaard, Van 't Schip, Van Basten, Bosman and De Wit. Successes as a trainer soon followed. Already in his first season with Ajax, Cruijff won the Amsterdam-710 tournament (August 1985, 2-0 against Verona from Italy and 4-1 against Atletico Mineiro from Brazil) and the KNVB Cup. The national title went to PSV, despite a positive Amsterdam goal difference of 85 (120 goals for and 35 against) and very offensive and spectacular play with a 3-4-3 system in the first half of the competition and even a 3-3-4 system in the second half of the competition. Ajax finished second. During the second season, Ajax again only managed to cash in on their performance in the KNVB Cup, the national title again went to Eindhoven, again Ajax finished second in the premier league. The European success was a plaster on the wound, however, because after fourteen years another international prize was won in the form of the European Cup II. On June 1, 1987, two weeks after winning the European Cup II, the KNVB awarded Cruijff the Professional Football Coach license on the basis of "his merits for Dutch soccer in general and Ajax in particular." This officially authorized the selector to work as a trainer.

In the first half of the 1987-1988 season, the team was struggling. Many of the players Cruijff had fitted in left Ajax. Ronald Koeman and Gerald Vanenburg left for PSV as early as the summer of 1986; a transfer of Rijkaard to that club was narrowly avoided. In the summer of 1987, four-time Eredivisie top scorer Van Basten and routine player Silooy left for foreign clubs, while after a conflict with Cruijff, Rijkaard also left a few months later. Cruijff also came into conflict with routinists Jan Sørensen and Peter Boeve. The purchases Cruijff made, Jan Wouters, Danny Blind, Arnold Scholten and the Scot Alistair Dick in 1986, Henny Meijer, the Irishman Frank Stapleton, the Finn Petri Tiainen, the Dane Jan Sørensen and the Swede Peter Larsson in 1987, all turned out not to be immediate reinforcements for the first team. In contract negotiations for a new two-year contract, Cruijff demanded that he be allowed to make purchases and sales without consulting the board. The board, however, was dissatisfied with the play shown and even distanced itself from Cruijff's training method with the words "It is time, that a team with such player material once learns to play more than one system." Also, since De Mos' dismissal in 1985, the club had not won a national title, Ajax had finished second twice, and was also in second place this third season, 1987-1988. The board also did not want to give Cruijff carte blanche in technical policy, given the results and purchases. In January 1988, the bomb burst and Cruijff unexpectedly submitted his resignation.

On April 1, 1988, the Utrechts Nieuwsblad published an article about an imminent takeover of FC Utrecht. A consortium including English newspaper magnate Robert Maxwell, Philips, KLM and Cruijff were said to have plans to take over FC Utrecht. The club's supporters were strongly opposed to this takeover, especially because of the interference of archetypal Ajacied Cruijff. Ultimately, the takeover fell through.

FC Barcelona

In the months following his departure, it seemed for a while that Cruijff would leave for sc Heerenveen. But after an offer from FC Barcelona, the former player decided to return to his former employer. As in the Netherlands, objections arose in Spain to his appointment as trainer. Cruijff did have the necessary diplomas, but he lacked the required three years of experience as a trainer. Despite this lack, Cruijff's appointment was still approved. In doing so, he succeeded interim coach Charly Rexach, who was known as a close friend of Cruijff's during their joint stay at Barcelona in the 1970s. Rexach returned to his old position as assistant coach and went on to assist Cruijff in building a new team to be formed. Indeed, a large part of the original player group revolted when they demanded the departure of the club management on April 28, 1988, during a self-initiated press conference because of a financial dispute. Club president Núñez was little forgiving and fired all but nine players.

With the departure of so many players, Núñez and Cruijff had complete freedom to work together to lay the foundations for a team that met their own desires. To create the new FC Barcelona, they employed a double strategy. First, the best footballers had to be contracted from home and abroad. Afterwards, the rest of the team would be supplemented with talents from the cantera (youth academy). The first part of the strategy was concretized with Spanish purchases such as José Bakero, Txiki Begiristain and Julio Salinas. Foreign reinforcements appeared after the first season when Ronald Koeman and Michael Laudrup were committed in 1989 and Christo Stoichkov in 1990. For the flow of talent, Cruijff laid a foundation ten years earlier when, just before his departure as a player, he gave an important piece of advice to Núñez: start a youth training program. With the creation of La Masía, Núñez heeded his call, which over time allowed Cruijff to call on such promising youth players as Pep Guardiola, Guillermo Amor, Albert Ferrer and Sergi Barjuán.

The team Cruijff formed was to adopt a style of play derived from total soccer. Starting points were technique and ball possession: Barcelona had to have the ball as much as possible, dominate and not adapt to the opponent. In Cruijff's eyes, scoring points is not the most important thing; that is only part of the game. In his philosophy, the key to getting results is playing attacking soccer. Cruijff's vision was not only transferred to the first team but also applied throughout the youth academy. That way, talents from the youth could more easily make the transition to the first team.

After a few seasons, the style of play began to bear fruit and a years-long heyday began. The successful team was nicknamed the Dream Team, which was derived from the American basketball team of the same name that won Olympic gold in Barcelona in 1992. Under Cruijff's leadership, the Dream Team broke Real Madrid's long-standing dominance and won four consecutive national titles (1991-1994), three of them on the last matchday of the competition. At the European level, Barcelona captured the 1989 European Cup II and won the 1992 European Cup I. During both finals, the Catalans were too strong for Sampdoria. Winning the European Cup I in particular is a memorable moment, as it is the first time in history that Barcelona captured the most important European cup. Other trophies won by Barcelona under Cruijff's reign include the Copa del Rey in 1990, the European Supercup in 1992 and three Supercopas in 1991, 1992 and 1994. Winning these eleven awards made Cruijff by far the most successful coach in the club's history. The record stood for fifteen years, but was broken on Aug. 26, 2011, when Guardiola took his twelfth title by winning the European Supercup with Barcelona, passing his teacher's tally. This took him only three seasons.

On May 18, 1994, the turning point in the Dream Team's series of success occurred. That night, FC Barcelona, labeled as favorites beforehand, lost the Champions League final to AC Milan 4-0. In the previous 16 editions, only once had a team lost the final by more than one goal difference. The beating was followed by two seasons without a title for Barcelona. This was mainly due to the decline in quality of the player group due to the departure of Laudrup, Romário, Koeman and Stoichkov, respectively. Cheaper Eastern European replacements such as Hagi, Kodro, Kornejev and Prosinečki failed under Cruijff's reign. In hindsight, Rexach said it was often wrongly thought that the system determined the result, whereas the players were the ones who had to win matches. Drafting his son Jordi and bringing in son-in-law Angoy also got Cruijff in trouble after accusations of nepotism. Jordi could still keep up the level, but Angoy was clearly short for Barcelona, according to Spanish media. Núñez increased the pressure by holding Cruijff personally responsible for the disappointing results and began criticizing his selection policy. On May 18, 1996, the day before the second-to-last match against Celta de Vigo, the bomb burst. Indeed, the Saturday newspaper reported that morning that Núñez and vice president Gaspart had contracted Bobby Robson as their new coach. When Cruijff beseeched that Barcelona had secretly forced a split, he went out of his mind. He said it could not be explained, after which the conversation with Núñez and Gaspart degenerated into a painful argument. The rift marked the departure of Cruijff, who was fired after 2,936 working days. With his eight consecutive years of service, he became the longest-serving coach in club history. After his dismissal, Cruijff remained active in soccer as an adviser, ambassador and analyst. A return as trainer or national coach was often discussed but never came to pass.


Cruijff had lived in Barcelona since 1988 and had a soft spot for Catalonia. In 2006, he received the St. George's Cross, one of the highest honors, from the Catalan government in recognition of his achievements for the region. Cruijff never accepted offers from soccer associations or clubs after leaving Barcelona, until he was probed by the Catalan Football Federation in September 2009 for the coaching position of Catalonia. He decided to comply with the request. On Nov. 2, his appointment was announced worldwide. In addition to his role as national coach of the autonomous region, he went on to do other work for the Football Federation to further develop Catalan soccer. The Catalan national team plays only a few matches a year and is not affiliated with FIFA or UEFA, so it cannot qualify for a final tournament.

An attempt was made from Spain to arrange a practice international with the Orange, but because of the full schedule, the KNVB rejected the request. Cruijff then made his debut as national coach on Dec. 22, 2009, against Argentina and recorded a 4-2 victory at the Camp Nou stadium. During Cruijff's second appearance as national coach, over a year later against Honduras, Catalonia recorded another big win (4-0). The third game under Cruijff's leadership, on December 30, 2011 against Tunisia, ended in a scoreless draw. On Nov. 7, 2012, Cruijff announced in an official statement that he would sit on the bench for the last time as national coach during the international on Jan. 2, 2013. During the game, they played a 1-1 draw against Nigeria. As a result, Catalonia maintained its undefeated status under Cruijff's reign.


This list is updated up to and including the Catalonia - Nigeria match (1-1) on Jan. 2, 2013.

In a career spanning more than 30 years, Cruijff won many awards as a player and as a trainer. For example, he is one of only seven soccer players to have won The Cup with the Big Ears as both a player and a trainer alongside Muñoz, Trapattoni, Ancelotti, Rijkaard, Guardiola and Zidane. Moreover, his name regularly pops up in lists of best footballers ever, including those of FIFA, UEFA, IFFHS, AFS and magazines such as France Football and World Soccer. He was also included in several world teams of the 20th century, which appeared worldwide from the early 1980s.

For his special merits in sporting and social matters, Cruijff twice received royal honors. After the lost World Cup final, Cruijff, like Michels and Fadrhonc, was appointed Knight of the Order of Orange-Nassau, for which he received the decorations from Prime Minister Den Uyl. Twenty-eight years later, on April 10, 2002, Cruijff was promoted to Officer in the Order of Orange-Nassau. He also received high recognitions from various organizations such as the KNVB, UEFA, FIFA, Ajax and the Ministry of Welfare, Public Health and Culture. In 2004, Cruijff was nominated for the title The Greatest Dutchman. In doing so, as the only Dutchman still living within the top ten, he finished in sixth place. Posthumously, the Spanish Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport awarded Cruijff the Gold Medal in the Royal Order for Merits in Sport.






Jan van Beveren was missing from the 1974 World Cup after having been the first choice in the Dutch national team for nearly seven consecutive years. However, there are different stories about the reason for his absence. What is certain is that Van Beveren struggled with persistent groin problems prior to the World Cup. However, the goalkeeper seemed to have recovered just in time to travel to West Germany. During training for the preparation games against Argentina and HSV, however, things went wrong. Van Beveren trained forcibly for two days but appeared to need more time for his recovery. Together with his club coach Kees Rijvers, he therefore informed Rinus Michels that he was unable to participate in the World Cup.

However, the book written by Ruud Doevendans about Jan van Beveren, Klem!, gives a different reading of the story. The biography reveals that a high-level financial conflict with Cruijff and Coster was behind Van Beveren's absence. The KNVB allocated a sum of 150,000 guilders in the summer of 1974 to buy off the personal contracts of four players (Cruijff, Neeskens, Van Hanegem and Keizer). However, this money came from a common pot, from which all players had to be paid. On balance, therefore, the remaining players received less money than the four celebrities. When Van Beveren noticed this and informed the group of players about it, the problems arose, according to him: "something must have arisen: we have to get rid of that guy. He is being much too difficult, is becoming much too dangerous for us". The fact that Van Beveren did not want to be coached by Inter Football, Coster's company, was also called "not smart" by a KNVB official. Michels wanted to avoid problems with Cruijff and therefore put Van Beveren under pressure. Just before the World Cup, Michels demanded that the goalkeeper play in the friendly match against HSV. Van Beveren was not yet completely fit because he had just recovered from a groin injury, but told him he would be ready to play in a few days. Michels replied, "Then I have bad news for you," and he sent Van Beveren home. Orange historian Matty Verkamman also confirms this reading of the story.

Van Beveren returned to the Orange in September 1975, when he and five other PSV players were selected for an away game against Poland. Cruijff and Neeskens were allowed to travel to Eastern Europe a day later. When the pair arrived, however, they turned out to be the only players to have brought their wives with them. Everyone greeted them except the six PSV players. Van der Kuijlen then made a comment along the lines of: so, the kings of Spain have arrived. To Cruijff's dismay, Van der Kuijlen's words made it into the newspaper. For this he called Van Beveren to account, because in his eyes he was the instigator. Cruijff then demanded: you out or we out. The decision was not made immediately, but after the match against Poland was lost 4-1, Cruijff decided to call national coach George Knobel with the message that Van Beveren and Van der Kuijlen had to be out of the team and Jongbloed and Van Hanegem in. If not, according to Cruijff, all the Ajax players would quit. As a result, a meeting was organized in Zeist, where Cruijff let Knobel decide again whether to kick out Van Beveren and Van der Kuijlen or to quit himself. Knobel sided with Cruijff, after which the Dutch national team won 3-0 over Poland at home.

Van Beveren then returned to the Orange one more time, when the Dutch team had to play Iceland in 1977. Just before the subsequent World Cup qualifier against Belgium, national coach Zwartkruis told Van Beveren that Jongbloed would play in his place. Zwartkruis gave as his reason that he was being manipulated: Cruijff would not participate when the PSV goalkeeper was between the posts. Van Beveren then knew enough and said goodbye to the Dutch national team for good. Van der Kuijlen, who was only indirectly involved in the actual conflict, also thanked the Dutch team twice because he did not get along well with Cruijff and the other Ajax players. The Ajax players arranged among themselves that the striker was not involved in the game, passing the ball to each other every time. Van der Kuijlen did not feel welcome and this led to the then top scorer of the Eredivisie all time in 1977, as well as Van Beveren, deciding to end his international career prematurely.

Cruijff himself looked back on these struggles upon Van Beveren's death in 2011:

The last time I met him was during the Race of the Century in 1999. Not only did I enjoy seeing Jan again, we immediately had good contact. I didn't notice that there would be any old pain. I therefore consider the conflict we once had as players a snapshot in time. In the same order as I had with Tscheu La Ling and Marco van Basten. Sometimes things happen at certain moments, but that's it. It shows when you meet again later. Then you actually go straight to the order of the day.

Louis van Gaal

Johan Cruijff and Louis van Gaal lived at odds from the late 1980s, early 1990s. In 2009, Van Gaal explained in his autobiography why things clashed between him and Cruijff and things never worked out after that:

I went to his house once, twice. Had one very good conversation about life, but that was mostly with Danny. Johan didn't say much. On December 26, 1989, I celebrated Christmas, with the Koemannetjes as well, at the Cruijff family home. Then the phone rang. It was for me. The family: 'Riet passed away.' My sister. I went home in a hurry. Later I heard that Johan blamed me for never thanking him.

Cruijff then gave his reading of the story:

I don't remember the incident, but Van Gaal really has Alzheimer's when he writes down something like that. There is no problem as far as I am concerned, so there is nothing to fix. When you hear something like that you ask yourself if someone has a loose wire or a cable. Normally I don't react to something like this, but this time it violates the norms we have in our family. After all, if I were angry, then I am no good as a human being.

Cruijff confirmed in his column in De Telegraaf that Van Gaal was at his home during Christmas 1989, but left suddenly because of the death of his sister. Shortly afterwards, they met again at the Sportgala: "Van Gaal was very friendly. So it is not true that I, or anyone in our family, would be angry because he left without thanking me."

However, there is another explanation for the difficult relationship between Cruijff and Van Gaal. It originates in the summer of 1992, when both trainers had achieved European successes with their club. Cruijff had won the first European Cup I in club history with Barcelona, and Van Gaal ended his first year as head coach at Ajax by winning the UEFA Cup. Both teams played attractive soccer and were considered the epitome of modern soccer. In the media, however, Cruijff supporters reacted reservedly to Ajax's unexpected success. After all, it was the first international prize Ajax had won without Cruijff playing a significant role in it. Van Gaal believed that the press did not credit him with the success.

According to Cruijff himself, the feud began only a few years later:

When Van Gaal became Barcelona's trainer in 1997, he immediately came in with strong criticism of the youth training there. That training that I set up together with Tonny Bruins Slot. Not only that; Van Gaal immediately sent away a lot of youth players that we trained. That was unacceptable, you don't do that. Van Gaal would do things differently at Barcelona. And then he brings busloads of Dutch players and trainers to the club where the Catalan identity is so important. Then you don't understand anything at all.


In his position as soccer analyst, Cruijff worked for the NOS television program Studio Sport for many years. He made his debut on Sept. 11, 1996, during the Champions League match Juventus - Manchester United. After that, he provided analysis for 12 European matches every year and could be seen during final tournaments such as the European Championship or World Cup. In August 2009, Cruijff resigned his duties as analyst because he felt NOS approached soccer from too critical an angle.

Cruijff was a columnist for daily newspaper De Telegraaf for decades, although chief sports officer Jaap de Groot was his ghostwriter here. Between February 2005 and December 2007, Cruijff was also a columnist for the soccer monthly magazine Nummer 14, where Bert Nederlof served as ghostwriter.

Failed return to Ajax

In 2008, Cruijff returned to Ajax. The honorary member suddenly joined the members' meeting on Feb. 20 after an absence of many years, where the results of the Coronel Commission report were discussed. During the meeting, an important recommendation to adjust the Amsterdam club's governance model was adopted. The board stepped down and Cruijff was then asked to shape Ajax's football-technical policy. Cruijff set about choosing the best form of organization, but after only two weeks he resigned his duties. His ideas did not match those of new head coach Marco van Basten. The reforms went too far for him because Cruijff wanted to overhaul the entire youth academy, firing almost everyone and then training talents with new faces.

Honorary chairman FC Barcelona

Because of his significance to FC Barcelona, Cruijff was named honorary president of the club on March 26, 2010. According to the Barcelona board, Cruijff met all the requirements and the decision to confer the honorary title on him was unanimous. However, he unexpectedly handed in the title with insignia three months later after new club president Rosell found that the decision to appoint him honorary president was made in a non-statutory manner.

'Velvet revolution' Ajax

At the beginning of the 2010 season

Cruijff himself also officially returned to Ajax, when the club announced on Feb. 10, 2011, that he was added to the Sounding Board Group for Technical Affairs. From that role, Cruijff, as chairman of the advisory body, presented a report in March with which he wanted to bring Ajax back to the top. According to Cruijff, the key to change lay in tackling youth training. In his view, Ajax had to be led again by former top footballers such as Wim Jonk and Dennis Bergkamp. To also take responsibility for his plans, Cruijff applied for the supervisory board. After approval from the members' council, he took his seat on June 6. In late 2011, however, Cruijff clashed with his fellow commissioners. They blocked the appointment of Tscheu La Ling as Ajax's new general manager. After a long impasse and after Marco van Basten also eventually relinquished the position, the remaining four commissioners appointed Louis van Gaal as general manager without Cruijff's knowledge. Cruijff appeared not to agree with this appointment, so he filed summary proceedings against Ajax NV and his four fellow supervisory directors. The court initially ruled against Cruijff in December 2011 by approving the appointment of Van Gaal, but suspended the appointment anyway to gauge the Ajax shareholders' confidence in the supervisory board. Ajax NV and the four supervisory directors appealed against this ruling, but these proceedings were lost at the Court of Appeal in February 2012. Cruijff won his case and as a result the entire supervisory board decided to resign. Ten Have and Römer were the first to resign on March 26, 2012, and on April 13, 2012, the other supervisory directors Davids, Olfers and Cruijff resigned as well. Cruijff did remain involved with Ajax afterwards in an advisory role. In late 2015, things still came to a head and Cruijff withdrew from Ajax as an advisor. The reason he gave was that his advice was not being followed correctly.

Advisor Chivas Guadalajara

On Feb. 23, 2012, Mexican soccer club Chivas Guadalajara announced it had hired Cruijff as an external consultant for a two-year period. After a long string of losses, club owner Jorge Vergara initially wanted to commit Cruijff as a trainer to turn the tide, but that was not an option for Cruijff. On his advice, former Ajacied John van 't Schip was recruited as the new trainer on April 21, 2012, after Cruijff had previously pushed for the departure of Mexican Ignacio Ambriz, the then incumbent trainer. Due to disappointing results, however, Van 't Schip soon came under pressure. Cruijff therefore chose to break with tradition within the club and no longer play only with players from his own country, which until then Chivas had been the only team in the Mexican league. However, all the changes initiated by Cruijff did not have enough effect and on December 2, 2012, Cruijff was sacked by the club for "not achieving the set goals. Van 't Schip also had to leave the club a month later.

After his active career, Cruijff wanted to become more involved in social initiatives and decided to establish a number of socially engaged institutions.

Cruijff also became famous in the Netherlands for his statements, usually one-liners that are somewhere between a brilliant insight and an open door. People speak of Cruijffian language. Cruijff often uses 'who

Because of Cruijff's specific voice, there are quite a few people who imitate him. Below is a selection:


  1. Johan Cruyff
  2. Johan Cruijff
  3. ^ Appearances in KNVB Cup and Copa del Rey
  4. ^ Appearances in European Cup and Fairs Cup
  5. a b (en) Johan Cruyff. Geraadpleegd op 28 juli 2022.
  6. (en) Benjamin Strack-Zimmermann, Johan Cruijff (Player). National Football Teams. Geraadpleegd op 28 juli 2022.
  7. "The Best of The Best" Rec.Sport.Soccer Statistics Foundation
  8. IFFHS' Century Elections, Rec.Sport.Soccer Statistics Foundation.
  9. «FIFA : Cruyff, le plus grand maestro néerlandais» (στα Γαλλικά). Αρχειοθετήθηκε από το πρωτότυπο στις 3 Μαΐου 2020. Ανακτήθηκε στις 12 Δεκεμβρίου 2020.
  10. «Johan Cruijff» (στα Ιταλικά). Αρχειοθετήθηκε από το πρωτότυπο στις 3 Ιουλίου 2022. Ανακτήθηκε στις 3 Ιουλίου 2022.
  11. «Top 5 Greatest Players In The History Of Football» (στα Αγγλικά). Αρχειοθετήθηκε από το πρωτότυπο στις 19 Οκτωβρίου 2019. Ανακτήθηκε στις 22 Ιουνίου 2021.

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