Only a few players have earned the right to be named in the same breath as Pele, Franz Beckenbauer, Michel Platini and Diego Maradona, and although he never won a trophy with his country and only played in one FIFA World Cup™ tournament, Johan Cruyff is certainly one of them. The Dutch playmaker possessed such exceptional talent that he is considered one of the greats of our sport.
King Johan, the best Dutch footballer of all time, was equal parts gutsy, brilliant, arrogant and innovative. He was regarded as a fleet-footed, elegant and technically adept player who never shied away from a tackle. At the same time, Cruyff was a playmaker, exceptional crosser and goalscorer able to time passes better than practically any other player before or since.
'Johan was better'
With these qualities, Cruyff led the Netherlands to the Final of the 1974 FIFA World Cup Germany™. Although the Dutch ultimately lost that match 2-1 to Franz Beckenbauer’s Germany and Cruyff was almost marked out of the game by Berti Vogts, the memory of the Oranje’s brand of total football at the competition that year remains etched on football’s collective consciousness. Despite the defeat, Cruyff was deservedly named player of the tournament. “Johan was the better player, but I became world champion,” Kaiser Franz Beckenbauer once said, full of respect for King Johan.
Cruyff made his international debut against Hungary in September 1966 and subsequently earned 48 caps in an Oranje shirt before announcing his retirement from the national side in October 1977. His final few appearances helped the Netherlands to qualify for the 1978 FIFA World Cup in Argentina.
Cruyff's club career lasted somewhat longer. He won the European Cup with Ajax three times in succession in 1971, ’72 and ’73 before collecting an additional array of titles with Barcelona and Feyenoord. The son of a greengrocer, Cruyff finally hung up his boots in 1984 before embarking on an equally successful career as a coach, where he caused a stir with teams such as Ajax and Barça.
To mark his 67th birthday on 25 April 2014, FIFA.com has collated 14 of the legendary Dutch No14’s best quotes.
“We showed the world you could enjoy being a footballer; you could laugh and have a fantastic time. I represent the era which proved that attractive football was enjoyable and successful, and good fun to play too.”
Summarising his time with the national team
“One trophy is good, but two are better. That way, when a hero wears his medals on his chest, at least his steps are level as he walks by.”
Expressing his logical arguments on footballing honours
“Footballers from the street are more important than trained coaches.”
Sharing his views on the value of coaching
“Every disadvantage has its advantage.”
His 'cup half full' perspective regarding every negative situation
“If we have the ball, the other team can’t score.”
Explaining the simplicity of football
“If you’re behind, you have to bring on a defender.”
Revealing approach to dealing with a deficit
“If I wanted you to understand it, I would have explained it better.”
Addressing a journalist
“Before I make a mistake, I don’t make that mistake.”
The Dutchman shares his approach to avoiding errors
“I’ve got two masseurs. One plays in the second division, the other in the third. Both of them can shoot just as well with their left and right feet. But are any of my team two-footed? For me, it’s a matter of technique.”
Expressing his frustration with his players’ lack of versatility
“I don’t think you can say the name Cruyff without everybody knowing who you’re talking about.”
An example of the Oranje legends well-known self confidence
“If you can’t win, make sure you don’t lose.”
Giving his perspective on damage limitation on the football pitch
“Football is a game of mistakes. Whoever makes the fewest mistakes wins.”
The Dutchman again breaking the game down to its simplest components
“What is speed? The sports press often confuses speed with insight. See, if I start running slightly faster than someone else, I seem faster.”
Trying to get across the difference beteween a quick mind and fast feet
“Coincidence is logical.”
Breaking down his beliefs on chance