In quotes: Johan Cruyff

After watching the Netherlands narrowly lose to Spain in the 2010 World Cup final, Johan Cruyff launched a scathing attack on the ‘thuggery’ and ‘anti-football’ shown by his home country.

He was no longer connected with the national side, but Cruyff had witnessed a betrayal to the Total Football revolution of the 1970s which he had been so instrumental in. He even criticised the referee Howard Webb for not sending off at least two Dutch players.

Where most people would have been driven by bias, their minds clouded by patriotism, Cruyff stuck to his principles, lamenting that his nation chose “the ugly path.” It was testament to his unrelenting philosophy about how the game should be played.

It is true, though, that Cruyff had a foot in both camps in the Johannesburg final. Spain, powered by the Xavi-Iniesta axis, won the World Cup trophy with the kind of football that had been inspired by the Dutchman at Barcelona many years before.

Widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, Cruyff’s trophy cabinet is bursting with both team and individual honours as both player and manager.

Many of the greatest teams in the history of the game would not have existed without the influence of the great Dutchman, and, for generations to come, many more will continue to embody the Total Football philosophy that Cruyff was right at the heart of.

Johan Cruyff was a football powerhouse, a man of integrity and a perennial student of the beautiful game. Enjoy the quotes…

In Johan’s words…

1. On coaching in the modern game:

‘Every professional golfer has a separate coach for his drives, for approaches, for putting. In football we have one coach for 15 players. This is absurd’

2. On targeting opponents’ weakest players:

‘We must make sure their worst players get the ball the most. You’ll get it back in no time’

3. How he learnt football as a child:

‘I trained 3-4 hours a week at Ajax when I was little but played 3-4 hours everyday on the street. So where do you think I learnt football?

4. On keeping it simple:

‘Playing football is very simple, but playing simple football is the hardest thing there is’


5. On the influx of money in the modern game:

‘Why couldn’t you beat a richer club? I’ve never seen a bag of money score a goal’

6. Critical of divine intervention:

‘I’m not religious. In Spain all 22 players make the sign of the cross before they enter the pitch. If it works all matches must therefore end in a draw’

7. Dispelling the myth of the standout player:

‘Someone who has juggled the ball in the air during a game, after which four defenders of the opponent get the time to run back, that’s the player people think is great. I say he has to go to a circus’

8. Balancing the art of football with results:

‘Quality without results is pointless. Results without quality is boring’

9. Aligning football with his philosophy on life:

‘It’s like everything in football – and life. You need to look, you need to think, you need to move, you need to find space, you need to help others. It’s very simple in the end’

10. On how a football match is won and lost:

‘Football is about mistakes. Whoever makes the fewest mistakes wins’


Fellow professionals…

11. Paul Gascoigne:

‘I remember watching a match where Johan Cruyff did a turn, and I was like, wow. And then I tried to remember how he did it and went outside to practice with a tennis ball’

12. Franz Beckenbauer:

‘He was certainly the best footballer Europe has produced’

13. Pep Guardiola:

‘Johan Cruyff painted the chapel, and Barcelona coaches since merely restore or improve it’

14. Terry Venables

‘Was he the greatest European player of all time? On form, it’s difficult to imagine who was better. It does not matter how and where you remember Johan playing, he was the best; in midfield he was the best; deep, the best; as an attacker, the best’

15. Ossie Ardiles

‘He was a great player at a time when Dutch football was going through a great period and deserves to be considered as one of the all-time greats’


16. Jordi Cruyff

‘I think he’s one of those legends whose name is always going to be spoken about with the Peles and Maradonas. The rest of us, we’re just mortals, we come and we go’

17. Eric Cantona

‘I loved the Dutch in the ’70s, they excited me and Cruyff was the best. He was at the heart of a revolution with his football. Ajax changed football and he was the leader of it all. If he wanted he could be the best player in any position on the pitch’

18. Marco van Basten

‘I think the person I learnt the most from as a coach was Cruyff because he was always talking about tactics – how to play, where to play and when to play. I think that helps a lot of young players, which is good. He was the most important trainer for me’

19. Peter Schmeichel

‘One of the greatest players ever, a true giant in our game’

20. Frank Rijkaard

‘He is like the Godfather of Dutch football’


Chris Henderson

By |2020-04-20T14:17:06+00:00April 19th, 2020|

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