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Shirt number 14 Dutch flag

Cruyff

Netherlands

Full name: Hendrik Johannes Cruijff
Date of birth: 25/04/1947
Position: Playmaker/deep forward
International caps: 44
International goals: 33
World Cups: 1974 - Runners-up
European Footballer of the Year: 1971,1973,1974
Clubs: Ajax
Barcelona
Los Angeles Aztecs
Washington Diplomats
Levante
Ajax
Feyenoord
1964-1973
1973-1978
1979-1980
1980-1981
1981
1981-1983
1983-1984

Johan Cruyff is well established as one of the greatest attacking players of his generation. A tempestuous star, he was one of the architects of "Total Football", Ajax's own brand of soccer that saw magnificent team play and fluid build-ups which kept possession away from the opposition for long stretches of the game.

Cruyff started playing for local giants Ajax at the age of 19, and in his first season, he was the Dutch league's top scorer. In eight years he won a clutch of domestic titles, the European Cup in an amazing three consecutive years (1971-1973) and European Footballer of the Year on three occasions. In the 1971-72 season alone, Ajax won the European Cup (with Cruyff scoring both goals in a 2-0 victory), the Dutch league (top scorer Cruyff with 25), the Dutch Cup, the World Club Championship (beating South Americans Independiente 4-1) and the inaugural European Super Cup. In 1973, Cruyff followed his old Ajax boss Rinus Michels to Barcelona. Having scored 190 goals in 229 league games for Ajax, the pressure was on to perform in the Spanish league. However he quickly won over the fans (who named him "El Salvador" - The Saviour), scoring 48 goals in 143 games and winning the Spanish league (1974) and Copa del Rey (1978).

Cruyff in action for the Dutch

The biggest stage for Cruyff was the 1974 World Cup, in which he captained the Dutch national team. During the whole tournament, the quicksilver Cruyff was the centre of everything - each of Holland's 15 goals either started or ended with the captain. Even the two penalties awarded to the Dutch in the third group game against Bulgaria were for fouls on Cruyff. He was full of devastating runs and magical turns, and none were more magical than the one in the second World Cup group game against Sweden. Cruyff beat his man on the goal line by turning the ball behind his own leg, a much-televised piece of genius that was to become the undying image of the tournament. (See the turn via my YouTube links page).

By the second round group stage of the tournament, Holland seemed to be toying with their opposition, scoring goals for fun. They beat Argentina 4-0 (Cruyff scoring twice) and both East Germany and Brazil 2-0. These results set the Dutch up with a battle against host nation West Germany for the trophy. When, in the second minute, a foul upon Cruyff gave the first ever World Cup final penalty, which Neeskens converted, it seemed as though Dutch "Total Football" had finally come of age. However, Germany's Vogts started to mark Cruyff out of the game. Without their captain, and after conceding a penalty, the Dutch folded and the West Germans went on to win 2-1. Holland's 1974 Cruyff-led squad vie with Puskas' "Magical Magyars" as the best squad never to win the World Cup (ironically both were beaten in finals against West Germany).

Cruyff in action for the Dutch

Cruyff never really reached his full potential on the international stage as a result of disputes with the Dutch FA, and he refused to travel to Argentina for the 1978 World Cup because of threats to his family. Later that year he moved to America to play in the NASL, where he was voted the NASL player of the year in 1979. He then had a spell with Lavante in Spain before rejoining Ajax and, later, Feyenoord - winning league titles with both of the Dutch clubs. As manager of Ajax, he won the 1987 European Cup Winner's Cup. In 1988, he took charge of Barcelona, created the "Dream Team" era and leading them to four Spanish league titles between 1991-4, the 1989 European Cup Winners' Cup, the European Cup in 1992, a Copa del Rey (1990), the European Super Cup (1992) and three Supercopa de Espana.

While his temperament was sometimes questionable, being strong minded and indpendent (as with his number 14 shirt at a time when the first team usually wore 1-11), he had excellent vision, silky skills, and deadly efficiency in front of goal - as 33 goals in 48 internationals shows.