Johan Cruyff was a Dutch professional football player and coach. As a player who he won the Ballon d'Or three times, in 1971, 1973, and 1974. Cruyff was the most famous exponent of football philosophy. At the 1974 finals, he became famous for his move "Cruyff Turn", which was widely replicated in the modern game. Cruyff started his career at Ajax, where he won eight Eredivisie titles, three European Cups and one Intercontinental Cup. His time in Ajax was known as the “Golden era” in football. Let’s read further about this era.
A golden era in Football:
Johan Cruyff entered the Ajax youth system on his 10th birthday. Cryuff made his first team debut on 15 November 1964 in the Dutch League Eredivisie and scored the only goal for Ajax in a 3–1 defeat. He really started to make an impression in the 1965–66 season and established himself as a consistent first-team player after scoring two goals against DWS in the Olympic stadium in 1965 with a 2–0 victory. He then went on scoring 8 goals in 7 games. He even scored the first 3 goals in a league game against Telstar. In this season, Ajax won the Championship, he scored 25 goals in 23 games.
In the 1966–67 season, Ajax again won the championship, and the KNVB Cup, for Cruyff's first "double". Cruyff ended the season as the leading goalscorer in the Eredivisie with 33. He won the league for the third successive year in the 1967–68 season bringing in constant silverware for the Dutch side. He was also named Dutch footballer of the year for the second successive time, an achievement he replicated in 1969. On 28 May 1969, Cruyff played in his first European Cup final against Milan, but the Italian giants won 4–1.
In the 1969–70 season, Cruyff won his second league and cup double, at the beginning of the 1970–71 season, he was out due to a groin injury. He made his rejoinder on 30 October 1970 against PSV, and rather than wear his usual number 9, he used number 14. Ajax won 1–0. It was very uncommon in those days for the starters of a game not to play with numbers 1 to 11, from that instant onwards, Cruyff wore number 14, even with the national team. Cruyff became the greatest example and teacher of complete football.
Cruyff looked undefeatable in a league game against AZ '67 where he scored six goals in an 8–1 victory. After winning the 2nd leg of KNVB Cup final against Sparta Rotterdam by 2–1, Ajax won in Europe for the first time. In 1971, in London, Ajax won the European Cup by defeating Panathinaikos 2–0. Cryuff then signed a seven-year contract at Ajax. At the end of the season, he was named the Dutch and European Footballer of the Year for 1971.
In 1972, Ajax won a second European Cup, beating Inter Milan 2–0 in the final, as Cruyff scored a brace. Cruyff also scored in the 3–2 victory over ADO Den Haag in the KNVB Cup final. In the league, Cruyff was the top scorer with 25 goals as Ajax became champions. Ajax won the Intercontinental Cup, beating Argentina's Independiente 1–1 in the first game followed by 3–0, and then in January 1973, they won the European Super Cup by beating Rangers 3–1 away and 3–2 in Amsterdam. Cruyff's only own goal came on 20 August 1972 against FC Amsterdam. A week later, against Go Ahead Eagles in a 6–0 win, Cruyff scored four times for Ajax. Although in the mid 1973, Cryuff was sold to the Spanish giants, Barcelona for a record transfer fee of 2 million US Dollars.
As a manager:
Cryuff came back as a manager to his beloved club, where it all started. In June 1985, he was appointed as Ajax’ manager. He managed the Dutch side for 3 years and won 86 out of the 117 games that Ajax played under him. He won the KNVB Cup twice in 1985-86 and retained it in 1986-87. He also bagged a UEFA Cup Winners Cup in his last season. He was an Ajax legend who was an exceptional talent, both as a player and a manager. He was known for his famous quotes like “In my teams, the goalie is the first attacker, and the striker the first defender.”
As the manager of AFC Ajax, Cruyff was able to implement his favoured team formation (3–4–3): with three mobile defenders; and one more covering space – becoming a defensive midfielder, two controlling midfielders with responsibilities to feed the attacker and one second striker including two touchline-hugging wingers and one versatile centre forward. This system won Ajax the Champions League in 1995. The starting point of his system was always the Total Football doctrine of dominating the game with ball possession. When Manchester United lost against Barcelona in the European Cup in 1994 with 4-0, Sir Alex Ferguson remarked about the system Cruyff was using:
“That was a big lesson for me. They showed us how important it is to possess the ball. I hadn't understood it until then. I learned how important it is to have control of the ball in European matches.”
Video: Johan Cruyff • Best of His Career • Goals & Skills