The Dutch hero sadly passed away today at the age of 68. To honour his memory, we look back on 11 moments that created a true football legend.
1. Announces himself on the European stage
Aged 22, Cruyff is part of a young Ajax side that surprises everyone to reach the final of the European Cup. They are well beaten, 4-1 by AC Milan at the Santiago Bernabeu, but a marker has been laid down and Europe duly takes note.
2. European Cup winner
Two years later Cruyff and Ajax return to the European Cup final. Wembley is the stage as Rinus Michels’ team dominate Panathinaikos to win 2-0. Cruyff’s influence is recognised when he is voted European Footballer of the Year.
3. Home rule
The 1972 European Cup final is played in his native Netherlands and Cruyff rises to the occasion. He scores twice as Ajax defeat Inter Milan 2-0 to defend their trophy.
4. Hat-trick heroes
Cruyff and Ajax make it three in a row with a 1-0 win in the 1973 European Cup final over Juventus, Johnny Rep scoring the only goal in a display that included what has been described as “one of the greatest 20-minute spells of football ever seen”.
5. Catalonia calling
The ‘73 final was to be his Ajax swan-song, and Cruyff joined Barcelona for a then world record transfer fee of close to a £1 million. It was the start of a love affair with the club and Catalonia. In his first season he helped the club win La Liga for the first time since 1960, defeating Real Madrid 5–0 at the Bernabéu on the way.
6. 1974 World Cup
As Ajax soared, so too did the Dutch national side. Michels was the coach but Cruyff was the exponent of “Total Football”, the style of play that involved inter-changing of positions and complete comfort on the ball. The Dutch dazzled at the 1974 World Cup but flopped in the final against West Germany where they lost 2-1 despite leading 1-0.
7. Cruyff turn
The 1974 finals awoke the world to the Cruyff turn, a perfectly executed piece of footwork that left Swedish defender Jan Olsson flummoxed and football purists purring.
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8. Winning the 1987 European Cup Winners’ Cup Final
Cruyff learned his managerial trade back with Ajax, coaching the Dutch side for three years. He didn’t get his hands on a league title, though he did lead them to European Cup Winners’ Cup glory in 1987. Ajax defeated Lokomotive Leipzig 1-0 in the final with a young Marco Van Basten grabbing the game’s only goal.
9. Creating a culture at Barcelona
Barcelona have won more league and European trophies in the 28 years since Cruyff took charge than they did in the previous 89 years of their history. He is also credited with creating the technical, aesthetically pleasing style of play the club is famous for today.
10. Barcelona’s first European Cup
The Catalan giants never managed to get their hands on European club football’s greatest prize until Cruyff led them to glory in 1992. A nervy final with Sampdoria was eventually settled with a goal from Ronald Koeman in extra-time.
11. Four league titles in a row
No other Barcelona manager, not even Pep Guardiola, has won the La Liga title in four consecutive seasons. His “dream team” - featuring Guardiola, Koeman, Michael Laudrup, Romário, Gheorghe Hagi and Hristo Stoichkov - won the title every year between 1990 and 1994.
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