One of the greatest exponents of the ‘beautiful game’, John Cruyff will be remembered for being one of the leading stars of the legendary Dutch team of the 1970s that created the revolutionary concept of ‘Total Football’.
Cryuff, who was diagnosed with lung cancer, passed away in a Barcelona hospital on Thursday at the age of 68. From the late 1960s to the early 80s, he held much of the football world spellbound with his skill, movement and vision.
Voted the world player of the year on three occasions, Cryuff guided Holland to the World Cup final in 1974 where the Dutch team left a profound mark on the evolution of the game with their ‘Total Football’, a philosophy explored by their coach Rinus Michels.
The concept of ‘Total Football’ was a fluid system in which no player occupies any fixed outfield role. Holland were ultimately beaten by hosts West Germany in the final, but their legacy left a far-reaching influence on the game.
Indisputably the most thrilling national side of that era, Holland suffered yet another defeat in a World Cup final four years later — this time to hosts Argentina — and earned the moniker of the best team never to be crowned world champions.
Cruyff enjoyed phenomenal success at the club level as well, first with Ajax Amsterdam and later with Spanish giants FC Barcelona.
He started his career at Ajax where he won eight Eredivisie titles and three European Cups. In 1973 he moved to FC Barcelona for a world record transfer fee, winning the Spanish league in his first season and was named European Footballer of the Year.
After retiring as a player in 1984, Cruyff became highly successful as a manager as well. He started at Ajax, coaching them from 1985 to 1988 before spending eight years in charge of Barcelona. He guided the Catalans to European Cup glory in 1992 and won four successive La Liga titles between 1991 and 1994.
He continued to remain an influential advisor to both clubs. His son Jordi also played football professionally.
As a player, Cruyff scored 392 goals in 520 matches over a hugely successful career spanning 19 years. But his influence reached far beyond creating goals, thanks to his qualities as a leader, thinker and speaker. As a coach, he had 242 victories in 387 matches, with 75 draws and 70 losses.
Cryuff will continue to live on in the hearts of countless football fans all over the world.
(Ajeyo Basu can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)