It’s an overused term when it comes to reading, but the Johan Cruyff autobiography is a book that I simply couldn’t put down. I finished the whole thing in under two days.
How good was Johan Cruyff?
I would say he Johan Cruyff was one of the greatest of all time.
In fact let me clarify, I’d say he was the greatest of all time.
You might think this is me just being different for the sake of being different, but as I wrote in my book: ‘The Football Spider Web‘ (shameless plug), it all comes down to perspective.
Whatever you value most in a player e.g. their ability to score, assist or lead a team, then your greatest of all time will in fact end up being ‘the best scorer, assister or leader of a team’.
So, let’s look into why Johan takes my pick.
A legendary Playing Career
How many players have a turn named after them?
Well, Johan Cruyff was far more than that.
In a time where tactical fluidity was shelved in favour of whatever was needed to get a result, Johan was among the few original football trailblazers to take us into its technicolor future.
In his autobiography ‘My Turn‘ (brilliant name, by the way), he talks about how a slight, nimble little thing like him would probably get kicked to bits in his age and couldn’t be a footballer.
But when he stepped through the Ajax doors, manager Rinus Michels realised what he had on his hands, which is why he developed him the way he did and took him everywhere he went.
A few turns took him to the summit with Ajax and Barcelona to the depths of the NASL which was beginning to burn out once he got there. But don’t worry – I won’t spoil the rest, because the story of Johan Cruyff and Feyenoord is one that needs to be read by every football fan.
Changing the game as a Manager
Not many players can do what Johan Cruyff did on the pitch.
And even fewer what he did as a manager.
It annoys me how everyone today thinks that Pep Guardiola is a genius in that of itself. Of course, he’s a tactical mastermind and well deserves the plaudits which have come his way.
But he wouldn’t be who he is without the tutelage of Johan Cruyff, who also wouldn’t be who he is without the teachings of Rinus Michels – so it’s important to remember all of that.
In the book, I love how refreshingly open and honest Cruyff is about all of this. He’s pretty care-free about the tactics and methods he used to coax the best out of players. Which, in a digital-less age, is a pretty remarkable and poignant thing to hear about from the horse’s mouth.
The Johan Cruyff Philosophy
He believed that football had to be played in a simple fashion. Which is something which still forms the basis of the philosophies in the Ajax ranks, and largely with the ways of La Masia.
You had to pass, move, pass and move again – and not be afraid to receive the ball in whatever area of the pitch you’re in. Thus, maturing the ‘Total Football‘ mantra birthed by Michels.
In order to be good on the pitch somewhere, you had to be good everywhere.
Like when you were a kid – you didn’t hone into a single position. You went everywhere and saw which bit you were best at. That, in very basic ways, was the Johan Cruyff philosophy.
Everything you like about Ajax and Barcelona is because of Johan Cruyff.
His simple ways, his to-the-point approach to communication and the way people have mimicked his impressions well beyond his time enacts a beautiful legacy that few will come to better.
He was the definition of a football icon, and is responsible for some of the most interesting and thought-provoking footnotes in the game’s history.
I could talk about this man all day long.
And I might keep doing that for as long as I’m around.
Players and fans today need to learn and appreciate the greatness of Johan Cruyff for as long as the essence of the game is more-or-less preserved in the face of modernity.
Thankfully, books don’t age. At least, this one doesn’t. So make sure you stay up to date with this collection of the Hobby FC archive for more book recommendations.
Have you read the Johan Cruyff autobiography?