Hendrik Johannes "Johan" Cruijff, anglicised to Cruyff, a world renowned football player am coach, is widely regarded as one of the greatest players in football history. He was included in the FIFA 100 list of "World's Greatest Living Players" in the year 2004. Here are some very interesting facts about the Dutch legend:
He was born Hendrik Johannes Cruijff, on April 25, 1947, in Amsterdam, Netherlands. He is the second son of Hermanus Cornelis Cruijff and Petronella Bernarda Draaijer.
Cruyff did not thrive at school, leaving Frankendaal Uno at the age of thirteen to become a part-time clerk for Perry van der Kaar on the Ceintuurbaan in 1960. It suited him well for he was able to combine training with work.
After his father’s death at the age of 45 due to heart attack, Cruyff had a strange feeling that he would also meet the same fate at that age. True to his belief he had very serious heart problem at 45 years.
Although he earned the right to be mentioned in the same breath as Pele, Beckenbauer and Maradona, he never won an international title with his country and played in only one FIFA World Cup.
Cruyff prodigious talent was clearly evident even by the age of ten, when he was signed by Ajax. His impressive performance in the youth team and as part of his growing reputation was appointed as ball boy when Benfica beat Real Madrid 5-3 in the European Cup final.
He made his first team debut on November 15, 1964, in a game against F.C Groningen in the Eredivisie League. He scored his team’s only goal in 3-1 defeat.
He made his presence felt in the first team of Ajax by scoring 25 goals in 23 games of 1965-66 season and helped it to win the league championship.
Cruyff was the leading goal scorer with 33 goals in the 1966-67 season of Eredivise League and Ajax went on to win the championship as well as the KNVB Cup that season. He was named Dutch footballer of the Year.
On September 07, 1966, he made his debut for the Dutch National Team in the UEFA Euro 1968 qualifier against Hungry and scored a goal in drawn encounter.
He is the first Dutch international to receive a red card. In his very second outing with the national team in friendly against Czechoslovakia, he was sent off.
Cruyff wore his famous jersey number 14 for the first time on October 30, 1970 in a game against PSV Eindhoven. He went on to sport that number even with the Dutch National Team, defying the usual practice of sporting numbers 1 to 11.
Cruyff led Dutch with its total football to a runner-up medal at the 1974 World Cup held in West Germany. He was voted ‘Player of the Tournament.’
His jersey number # 14 was retired by the Ajax club on April 25, 2007 at his 60th birthday celebration match.There is also a documentary film on his life titled ‘Number 14 Johan Cruijff’ produced by his father-in-law CorKoster.
After Ajax won the European Cup for the first time in 1971, hesigned seven year contract extension with the club. He was named the Dutch and European Footballer of the Year at the end of the season.
In 1972, Cruyff single handedly led Ajax to yet another European Cup, KNVB Cup and Intercontinental Cup titles. He was also the top scorer with 25 goals in the Dutch league as Ajax became the champion again.
His display at the 1973 European Cup final against ‘Juventus F.C’ in Belgrade was one of the greatest 20-minute spell of football ever seen as Ajax won the cup 1-0.
At the start of 1973-74 season, he was transferred to Barcelona F.C for a world record transfer fee of 6 million guilders, which is around USD 2 million then. He helped the club win the La Liga championship for the first time since 1960 and was crowned ‘European Footballer of the Year.’
His spectacular goal in a game against Atletico Madrid was dubbed as ‘The Phantom Goal.’ He received a neck high ball, leaping in the air and slotted it home with his right heel from wide of the left goal post.
In 1978, he lost almost all his earning with ill-advised investments. He lost millions in pig-farming which forced him to resume his footballing career from near retirement. At the age of 32 he signed a lucrative deal with the Los Angeles Aztecs of the NASL, where he was voted ‘Player of the Year.’
He rejoined Ajax on November 30, 1980, as its technical advisor to trainer Leo Beenhakker. His stint in US and Spain was short lived with injury, management disagreement and failed bid to secure a deal.
In 1982 he scored a famous goal while taking a penalty against ‘Helmond Sport.’ Instead of taking penalty kick, he tapped the ball to teammate Jesper Olsen on the left and scored of the return pass.
After he failed to earn a contract with Ajax, he signed up with ‘Feyenoord’ for the 1983-84 season. He led them to league championship and the KNVB Cup title as well. As veteran at 36 years, he managed to play the entire league match except for one and earned the Dutch Footballer of the Year, with his performance.
Although Cruyff retired from international football in October 1977, he officially retired from competitive games on May 13, 1984 and played his last game in Saudi Arabia against Al-Ahli, scoring a goal in the match.
In the 1984-85 season, he took over coaching the young Ajax side before moving over to coach Barcelona first team for the 1988-89 season. With him Barcelona experienced a glorious era in the space of five years.
He was a successful coach with his Barca’s ‘Dream Team’ taking it to four La Liga titles in a row, a Copa del Rey title in 1990, three Supercopa de Espana Cup, 1989 European Cup Winner’s Cup and 1992 European Cup. He favored talent over physique and instilled winning mentality.
In 1991, he underwent double heart bypass surgery which prompted him give-to up smoking and led anti-smoking campaign developed by the Health Department of the Catalan autonomous government.
After he quit as the coach, he joined Ajax as a member of board of advisors in February 2011 and resigned in April 2012, when there was difference of opinion within the board. He later took over as a technical advisor of Mexican club Guadalajara for over ten months before being terminated.
In September 2009, Cruyff along with Ruud Gullit were appointed as ambassador for the Belgium-Netherland joined bid for the World Cup finals in 2018 or 2022.
He goes by many nicknames such as ‘Jopie,’ ‘Number 14,’ ‘Het orakel van Betondorp,’ ‘El Salvador’ the Saviour and ‘El Flaco’ the skinny one.
He married Diana Margaretha Coster on December 02, 1968, at the age of 21 years. They had three children, Chantal, Susila and Jordi. They were married for over 42 years before he died at the age of 68 on March 24, 2016, due to lung cancer.