Johan Cruijff’s story is not limited to Ajax. His story is so much more. FC Barcelona and the Dutch national team were very important parts of the greatest Dutch player of all time’s athletic life.
In the 1973-1974 season, Johan Cruijff followed his former coach and Ajax club icon Rinus Michels to cause a sensation in Spain. After some squabbling from the Spanish association and the KNVB, Cruijff made his debut for Fútbol Club Barcelona on October 28, 1973. He quickly became a figurehead for the Catalonian people. The nickname ‘El Salvador’, the saviour, was quickly adopted. Thanks in part to the Dutch contribution of Michels and Cruijff, Barcelona won the national championship in Spain in 1974 for the first time in fourteen years. Thanks to his many goals and tone-setting playing, Cruijff was selected as the European Player of the year during his first two years with the Spanish club.
In 1978, Cruijff felt that it was time for him to take leave of world football. German Bayern München was invited to play a farewell match against ‘his’ Ajax. Millions of Cruijff fans were glued to the television set for the celebratory match for the eternal number 14. But it was not the farewell that Cruijff had dreamed of. The motivated German team posted a 0-8 win, handing Cruijff the biggest loss of his career.
A few months later, Cruijff set off on an adventure to the United States. For the second time in his career, he was reunited with coach Michels at the Los Angeles Aztecs. The Americas got to know Cruijff’s football talents and selected the striker as the National Soccer League’s Most Valuable Player. After this successful year, he went to the Washington Diplomats for one year. After a short stint with the Spanish team Levante, Cruijff returned to Ajax in 1981. It goes without saying that he wore the magical number 14 once again.
Dutch national team
In addition to the rainbow of club colours worn by Cruijff, the Amsterdam native also player 48 interlands for the Dutch national team. He scored three times as an international and former captain of the Dutch national team. 19 year-old Cruijff made his interland debut on September 7, 1966, in a friendly match against Hungary.
During the 1974 World Cup, the Dutch team reached the finals in Germany with Cruijff as captain. The Dutch team faced arch rival West Germany in the finals. The game began in a spectacular fashion. Within a few minutes, Cruijff earned a penalty, which Johan Neeskens made good on. In the end, West Germany took a 2-1 lead, and this score remained until the final whistle was blown. The Germans were the world champions. But Cruijff had made his mark with the Dutch team, playing Total Football. As a reward for his impressive playing, Cruijff was selected as the Best player of the World Cup.
Crazy about football
Johan Cruijff was a unique person. As loving spouse of Danny Koster and father of three children, he travelled the world seeking (football) happiness. Cruijff dribbled through life, remaining in control and choosing his own path. His football vision, focussed on ball possession and technique, changed the way players, coaches and supporters in the whole world watched and approached the sport.
His mythical jersey number at Ajax has never been worn by another Ajacied, simply because ‘14’ never suited any other jersey besides Cruijff’s. He believed that anyone could do sports. He established the Johan Cruijff Foundation and the Johan Cruijff University. He wanted to give everyone in society a chance to play sports and to study. Cruijff was at home in many areas. The Amsterdam native brought many unforgettable moments to the sport, and, chiefly through his Foundation, Cruijff gave back a lot to the sport as well as society as a whole.
But his greatest impact was on the sport with which he fell in love as a 4 year-old boy. One ball, two teams of eleven players, on a field of 120 by 75 meters. That is what made Cruijff happy as a person, player and coach. Cruijff surprised the world with countless Cruijff statements, a revolutionary system of playing and tactics. Football is the game that Cruijff, with his magical feet and brilliant brain, changed forever. Johan Cruijff loved football, and football loved him. It really couldn’t have been any other way.