The title of this blog post might make you think that I’m writing about Johan Cruyff, who you all know as one of the most famous football players that ever lived. This is where you’re wrong! Johan Cruyff is so much more than a football player! He is a national hero, a philosopher, and possibly the best thing that ever came out of Holland! More than enough reason to put him on our list of national icons!
Johan Cruyff, born on the 25th of April 1947 in Amsterdam, 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 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.
Through his career, Cruyff became famous for his 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.
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 and acceleration, but his greatest quality was vision, based on an acute sense of his team-mates' positions as an attack unfolded. The sports writer David dubbed him "Pythagoras in boots" for the complexity and precision of his angled passes.
Cruyff played for Ajax, the club he joined on his 10th birthday, Barcelona, Los Angeles Aztecs, Washington Diplomats, Levante, and Feyenoord during his career. He later continued his career as manager of both Ajax and Barcelona.
However, Cruyff is probably most famous, in the Netherlands at least, for his famous statements that people still use on a daily basis in all sorts of contexts, not just when talking about football! So rather than boring you with all the details of his career, here’s a couple of his best quotes:
"Voetbal is een spel van fouten. Wie de minste fouten maakt wint. (Football is a game of mistakes. The ones who makes the least mistakes win.)"
"Je gaat het pas zien als je het door hebt. (You won’t see it until you've got it.)"
"Ieder nadeel heb z’n voordeel. (Every disadvantage has its advantage)"
"Als je een speler ziet sprinten, is hij te laat vertrokken. (When you see a player sprinting, he left too late.)"
"Je moet schieten anders kan je niet scoren. (You’ve got to shoot or you can’t score.)"
"Italianen kennen niet van je winnen, maar je ken wel van ze verliezen. (Italians can’t beat you but you can lose to them.)"
"Voetbal is simpel, maar het moeilijkste wat er is, is simpel voetballen. (Football is simple, but the hardest thing there is, is to play simple football.)"
"Je moet altijd zorgen dat je één doelpunt meer scoort als de tegenstander. (You always have to make sure that you score one goal more than your opponent.)"
"Je ken beter ten onder gaan met je eigen visie als met de visie van een ander. (It’s better to lose with your own vision than with someone else’s.)"
"Als wij de bal hebben, kennen zij niet scoren. (If we have the ball, they can’t score.)"
"Als ik iets eerder begin te lopen, dan lijk ik sneller. (If I start running a little earlier, I’ll seem faster.)"
"Als ik zou willen dat je het begreep, zou ik het wel beter uitleggen. (If I wanted you to understand, I would explain it better.)"
"Als ik thuiskom van een televisie-analyse, vraagt mijn vrouw: Wat heb je gezegd? Dan zeg ik: Al sla je me dood. (When I come home after a television-analyse, my wife asks: What did you say? Then I answer: I have no idea.)"
"Zonder de bal kun je niet winnen. (Without the ball you can't win)"
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