R.I.P. Johan Cruijff (1947-2016)
Johan Cruijff is the greatest Dutch Soccer hero, only second to Pele? Cruijff has his own lexicon in the Dutch language and has given a deep meaning to showing leadership. On the field he played a pivotal role in total soccer, playing the final of 1974 World Cup and achieving many cups. However his biggest legacy is in Barcelona at La Masia.
Cruyff’s arrival sparked the change. “I had short lads like Albert Ferrer, Sergi or Guillermo Amor; players without great physiques but who pampered the ball with their touch and pressed the opposition like rats,” he recalled. “Even Pep wasn’t all that physically, but with the ball he was intelligent. That’s what I wanted.” The ball was converted into the only protagonist and even fitness work was done with a football,” recalls Mundo Deportivo journalist Oriol Domenech, who spent six years in Barça’s youth teams in the Cruyff era. “There were more opportunities for the little players like me. When I was at La Masia, Guardiola was very thin and it was Cruyff who said that he always had to play because eventually he would grow. Without him, Xavis, Iniestas and Thiagos of this world wouldn’t exist.” (more)
Remember: Messi had a weak body. At age 10, he was diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency and was treated for years. Still all three finalists (record) for the Ballon d’Or in a single year came from la Masia, with Lionel Messi winning.