Johan Cruyff has died at 68.
I remember playing soccer as a kid and doing “Cruyff turns”.
This was circa 1999.
Before the YouTube.
No context, just Cruyff turns.
I’m sure I asked – or someone did – “What’s a Cruyff?”
In the span of a generation, he went from a man to a legend to a thing.
What a boss.
During the early ’70s, Cruyff won the Ballon d’Or 3 times between 1971-1974 and led his team, Dutch club Ajax, to three consecutive European titles in ’71, ’72, and ’73. He took the Netherlands to the World Cup final in ’74 where they lost to West Germany.
After retiring, he managed Ajax from 1985-1987, bringing home the European Winners’ Cup in 1987.
In the summer of 1973 (2 games into the Ajax’s season), Cruyff was sold to Barcelona for a then-record $2 million.
He was a godsend, leading the club to their first La Liga title since 1960 which culminated in a 5-0 drubbing of Real Madrid at the Bernabéu.
In 1988, he returned to Barcelona as manager.
Under his tutelage, Barcelona won four La Liga titles in a row from 1991-1994 and delivered the club their first European Cup in 1992. The club also won the European Winners’ Cup in 1989 and the Spanish Copa Del Rey in 1990.
Cruyff was the inception for the beautiful, fluid “tiki-taka” style of play that we have come to associate with Barcelona.
Without Cruyff, there would be no Messi.