I got on the train at Farringdon this evening and as always, reached straight for my phone to catch up on the day’s football news. The first story I came across was the tragic passing of Johan Cruyff at the age of just 68.
I’m not old enough to remember him as a player, but like all football fans, I’m very aware of his standing in the history of the game, his influence at Barcelona and indeed over generations of aspiring young footballers.
Though he had no obvious connection with Arsenal, without Cruyff, we may never have been lucky enough to have our very own Dutch master, Dennis Bergkamp. In an interview with Four Four Two magazine just over five years ago, Dennis revealed just how big a part Cruyff had played in his development as a young player and progression into the Ajax first-team:
At Ajax, Johan Cruyff was the first-team coach. One evening he came to our training ground and took a session – that was really intimidating. A big name like that coaching 12-year-olds! But he talked to me in a very relaxing way: “Just play your game, enjoy it.” Later, he guided me into the first team. Others at the club said I wasn’t strong or aggressive enough, but he said: “Just look at the talent.”
I suppose at times, it takes talent to recognize talent.
I’ll leave you with a YouTube tribute of Cruyff at his mesmeric best and a few quotes lifted from the BBC that I think would resonate with all Arsenal followers:
“Playing football is very simple, but playing simple football is the hardest thing there is.”
“Quality without results is pointless. Results without quality is boring.”
“In my teams, the goalie is the first attacker and the striker the first defender.”
“There is only one ball, so you need to have it.”
“Why couldn’t you beat a richer club? I’ve never seen a bag of money score a goal.”
“It’s better to go down with your own vision than with someone else’s.”
RIP to one of the very best of all time, Johan Cruyff, 1947-2016.