Football News: Johan Cruyff - The Total Footballer part 2


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Johan Cruyff - The Total Footballer
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Article part 2 of 10

"When players like Bale and Ronaldo are worth around 100million euros, Johan would go in the billions!" - Franz Beckenbauer in 2014


The following season, 1965-66, Johan established himself as a first team player as he scored 8 goals in 7 games in the winter, including both goals in an October victory over DWS at the Olympic Stadium. The following March he got his first hat-trick with the first 3 goals in a 6-2 league win over Telstar, then, just four days later, he notched 4 goals against Veendam in a 7-0 cup win. His 25 goals in 23 Eredivisie games helped Ajax to win the title, despite having finished just 13th the previous season.

That was followed up with a league and cup double as Ajax won the Eredivisie and KNVB Cup in 1966-67, Cruyff top scoring with 33 goals and picking up the Dutch Footballer of the Year award. 1967-68 saw Ajax get a third successive league title and Cruyff get a second successive Dutch Footballer of the Year award. Just 21 years old, Johan Cruyff had already got 3 successive league titles, a cup winners medal and 2 Dutch Footballer of the Year trophies on his mantelpiece! It is easy to see why football historian Jimmy Burns later said: "With Cruyff, the team felt they couldn't lose."

His personal life was also in a good place, he had met Diana Margaretha 'Danny' Coster, the daughter of his agent Cor Coster, at the wedding of Ajax team-mate Piet Keizer in June 1967. They were to marry in December 1968, a personal triumph to add to his third successive Dutch Footballer of the Year award he was given in the 1968-69 season. Unfortunately the league title eluded Ajax that year, partially down to the distraction of the European Cup as they reached the final, only to lose 4-1 to AC Milan.

The lack of trophies was rectified quickly, as 1969-70 saw Cruyff get a second league and cup double, though the Dutch Footballer of the Year award eluded him after 3 in a row. Next season came a moment that produced the number 14 that he became so well known for wearing (inspiring many future generations of players to wear 14 themselves) as he returned from a groin injury that had kept him sidelined for a while. It was the 30th October 1970 and Ajax's players were gathered in the dressing room ahead of a match with PSV Eindhoven preparing for the game.

In those days it was customary for the eleven players picked for the game to wear numbers 1-11, Cruyff usually wearing the 9 shirt. Gerrie Muhren was unable to find his number 7 shirt so Cruyff gave him the number 9 and went to the laundry basket to pull one out at random to wear - it was number 14. Wearing 14 Ajax won 1-0 so Johan suggested to Muhren that they should stick to wearing 9 and 14 afterwards, though he would sometimes be forced to wear the 9 again, particularly in Spain as league rules made numbers 1-11 mandatory, the 'Nummer 14' was born.

It was understandable he wanted to stick with 14 as he scored 6 goals in an 8-1 win over AZ '67 the next month and that season ended in a hugely triumphant moment as Ajax headed to London and beat Greece's Panathinaikos 2-0 in the 1971 European Cup final, Ajax's first European trophy. A 4th Dutch Footballer of the Year award was joined by a European Footballer of the Year award (which was later to become the Balon d'Or) and Ajax awarded their star a 7 year contract.

Cruyff's star was still rising as Ajax landed a second successive European Cup, Cruyff getting both goals in the final as Ajax saw off Inter Milan 2-0. They also won another KNVB Cup, with a 3-2 victory over ADO Den Haag, but they were not stopping there. Argentina's Independiente were beaten over two legs in the forerunner of the Club World Cup, the Intercontinental Cup and Rangers were also despatched over two legs in the European Super Cup. The only thing missing from the 1971-72 season was yet another league title.

Perhaps the most notable moment of the 1972-73 season is Johan's only ever career own goal, which he scored in August against FC Amsterdam, as Ajax won yet another league title and a third successive European Cup with a 1-0 final win over Juventus. It was almost becoming a routine of title after title, except that it was all to end, suddenly, in acrimony after the players held a secret ballot to choose a new captain and picked Piet Keizer instead of Johan. Cruyff, displaying the arrogance and confrontational attitude that reared its head throughout his career, took the result as a personal insult and demanded a move away, declaring he would go on strike if he was not given his wish.

So it was that the great man left Ajax for a world record fee of around $2m for the surprise choice of Barcelona, who were not the juggernaut of today by any means. His final game for Ajax was the second game of the 1973-74 season as he took part in a 6-0 win over FC Amsterdam in 19th August, with many of the Dutch population believing his move was purely motivated over money. Despite all he achieved on the pitch, Cruyff was not the most popular man in Netherlands.

Written by Ed001