Friday, December 23, 2011

Johan Cruyff

Hendrik Johannes Cruijff ( born 25 April 1947 in Amsterdam), known as Johan Cruyff, is a retired Dutch footballer and is currently the manager of the Catalan national team as well as a member of the AFC Ajax board of directors. He won the Ballon d'Or three times, in 1971, 1973 and 1974, which is a record jointly held with Michel Platini and Marco van Basten. Cruyff was one of the most famous exponents of the football philosophy known as Total Football explored by Rinus Michels, and is widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time.

After his retirement from playing in 1984, Cruyff became highly successful as manager of Ajax and later FC Barcelona; he remains an influential advisor to both clubs. His son Jordi has also gone on to play football professionally.

In 1999, Cruyff was voted European Player of the Century in an election held by the IFFHS, and came second behind Pelé in their World Player of the Century poll. He came third in a vote organised by the French weekly magazine France Football consulting their former Ballon d'Or winners to elect their Football Player of the Century.

Style of play
Through his career, Cruyff became synonymous with the playing style of "Total Football". It is a system where a player who moves out of his position is replaced by another from his team, thus allowing the team to retain their intended organizational structure. In this fluid system, no footballer is fixed in their intended outfield role; anyone can be successively an attacker, a midfielder and a defender. The style was honed by Ajax coach Rinus Michels around the time Cruyff came to prominence.

Strictly speaking, Cruyff played centre forward in this system. But he would drop deep to confuse his markers or suddenly move to the wing with devastating effect. No one had seen a centre forward like that before. Due to the way Cruyff played his game, he is still referred to as "the total footballer."

Cruyff was known for his technical ability, speed, acceleration and dribbling but his greatest quality was vision, based on an acute sense of his team-mates' positions as an attack unfolded. The sports writer David Miller believed Cruyff superior to any previous player in his ability to extract the most from others. He dubbed him "Pythagoras in boots" for the complexity and precision of his angled passes and wrote: "Few have been able to exact, both physically and mentally, such mesmeric control on a match from one penalty area to another."

Cruyff also perfected a move now known as the "Cruyff Turn." To do this move, Cruyff would look to pass or cross the ball. However, instead of kicking it, he would drag the ball behind his planted foot with the inside of his other foot and turn through 180 degrees and accelerate away outside a defender.

International career
As a Dutch international, Cruyff played 48 matches, scoring 33 goals. The national team never lost a match in which Cruyff scored. In his second Dutch national team match, a friendly against Czechoslovakia, Cruyff was the first Dutch international to receive a red card. He received a one-year suspension from the Royal Dutch Football Association.

Accusations of Cruyff's "aloofness" were not rebuffed by his habit of wearing a shirt with only two black stripes along the sleeves, as opposed to Adidas' usual design feature of three, worn by all the other Dutch players. Cruyff, however, had a separate sponsorship deal with Puma.

Cruyff led the Netherlands to a runners-up medal in the 1974 World Cup and was named the player of the tournament. Thanks to his team's mastery of Total Football, they coasted all the way to the final, knocking out Argentina (4–0), East Germany (2–0), and Brazil (2–0) along the way. Cruyff himself scored twice against Argentina in one of his team's most dominating performances, then he scored the second goal against Brazil to knock out the defending champions. The Netherlands faced hosts West Germany in the final. Cruyff kicked off and the ball was passed around the Oranje team 13 times before returning to Cruyff, who then went on a rush that eluded Berti Vogts and ended when he was fouled by Uli Hoeneß inside the box. Teammate Johan Neeskens scored from the spot kick to give the Netherlands a 1–0 lead, and the Germans had not even touched the ball. Only during the latter half of the final was his playmaking influence stifled by the effective marking of Berti Vogts, while Franz Beckenbauer, Uli Hoeneß, and Wolfgang Overath dominated the midfield, enabling West Germany to win 2–1. Cruyff received a yellow card during half time for talking to the referee.

Cruyff retired from international football in October 1977, having helped the national team qualify for the upcoming World Cup. Without him, the Netherlands finished runners-up in the World Cup again. Initially the reason given for missing the 1978 World Cup were political reasons given a military dictatorship was in power in Argentina at that time. In 2008, however, Cruyff stated to the journalist Antoni Bassas in Catalunya Ràdio that he and his family were involved in a kidnap attempt in Barcelona a year before the tournament, and that this had caused his retirement. "To play a World Cup you have to be 200% okay, there are moments when there are other values in life."

On 2 December 1968, Cruyff married Danny Coster. Johan and Danny have three children together: Chantal (16 November 1970), Susila (27 January 1972), and Jordi (9 February 1974). The family has lived in Barcelona since 1973, with a six year interruption from December 1981 to January 1988 when they lived in Vinkeveen, The Netherlands.

His son Jordi has played for teams such as Barcelona (while father Johan was manager), Manchester United, and Alavés. Interestingly, the younger Cruyff sports "Jordi" on his shirt to distinguish himself from his famous father, which also reflects the common Spanish practice of referring to players by given names alone or by nicknames. It is also related to the commercial claim of "name and fame" of his father to the name Cruyff-Cruijff.

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