The world of football lost one of its true greats yesterday, when Holland’s Johan Cruyff lost his battle with lung cancer.
I never got the chance to see him play “in the flesh”, but it says a lot when the candidates for greatest footballer ever are listed, and he’s one of the top Europeans. I say that because the top two or three are almost always listed as Pele, Maradona, Di Stefano and / or Messi. Cruyff is mentioned in the same breath as Best and Beckenbauer, ahead of Ronaldo, and from what I’ve seen, rightly so.
If you look at what he achieved in his life from very humble beginnings: league championships galore, champions league titles, 3 times world footballer of the year – and that’s just as a player! Success as a manager too, and apparently a very affable polyglot to boot. He was part of the Dutch team that lost the World Cup Final in Germany in 1974, to the home nation, but which lit up the world with their brand of Total Football. Cruyff is often credited with creating the concept: even if he didn’t, he used it to set the foundations of a Barcelona side that even now bears his hallmarks.
There have been many talented footballers, with some wonderful skills, but I can’t think of any other player who has a skill named after them. The Cruyff Turn bamboozled defenders and was really difficult to play against.
2016 has seen a great number of icons, legends, great people taken from us already. Few had as big an impact on their profession as Cruyff had on football.