Retro Heaven

Johan Cruyff-In Appreciation

Johan Cruyff diagnosed with lung cancer…

Johan CRUYFFAnyone who followed football in the 1970s must surely have been if not a fan, an admirer of the Dutch playing style of ‘Total Football’ so brilliantly executed by the national team and their most famous club, Ajax.

The style evolved under the leadership of the Ajax and Holland coach Rinus Michels and with their star striker Johan Cruyff as their most talented exponent, it was a joy to watch. Cruyff won eight league titles and three European Cups with Ajax and his speed, agility and incredible technique cemented his place in football’s highest tier. His style of play was dazzling to watch, his footballing brain without equal. He was brilliant and he knew it.

Three times Dutch Footballer of the Year, three time winner of the Ballon d’Or, World Manager of the Year and countless others including a guaranteed place in every all-time world eleven, Cruyff’s status as one of the greatest ever remains undiminished. But for all of the awards and all of the success it was the thrill of seeing him play football on television that remains one of my treasured childhood memories. Who doesn’t remember ‘that turn’? The way he took on defenders along the win before turning on a needle point and sending the opposition into a state of unbalanced confusion.

Cruyff embodies all that is Dutch football, it is full of remarkable skill and technique, so good that you feel they deserve to win a tournament for the sake of football and yet they always fall short. For all of the skill that Dutch team of the 70s possessed it was never quite enough to overcome the industry of the Germans or the flair of the South Americans. But who wanted to be Beckenbauer or Villa on the playing field? None of us. No, we wanted to be Cruyff.

So it is sad news indeed that we learn of his diagnosis for lung cancer, a reformed heavy smoker, he went on to campaign against the habit having undergone heart bypass surgery whilst still the coach at FC Barcelona. He embodied the passion and stress which comes with top flight football and it is sad to see that it is now taking its toll. So I wish him well, I loved football in the 1970s and most especially those magical European Cup nights. Cruyff was European football in the 1970s and the game was so much the better for his presence.

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