Johan Cruyff's 10 Greatest Moments

Ryan Bailey@ryanjaybaileyFeatured ColumnistMarch 24, 2016

Johan Cruyff's 10 Greatest Moments

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    -/Getty Images

    The beautiful game collectively mourned on Thursday as news of Johan Cruyff's passing emerged.

    The Dutch genius' official website revealed that he died after being diagnosed with cancer at the age of 68, prompting tributes to flow in from all over the world. 

    In recognition of one of the greatest men ever to step on to the field, here are the best moments of Cruyff's career as a player and manager...

Turning Ajax into a European Superpower

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    Johan Cruyff first joined his local club Ajax when he was 10 years old. Fifteen years later, the Netherlands' greatest player of all time had transformed the Amsterdam side into continental giants. 

    Under the tutelage of manager Rinus Michels, Cruyff helped hone the "Total Football" style that would define the Dutch game for generations.

    In his second season in the senior side, Cruyff won the first of three consecutive league titles with Ajax. In the 1970-71 campaign, he helped bring the Amsterdammers their first-ever European Cup, thanks to a 2-0 win over Panathinaikos in the final in London.

    Ajax would go on to retain the trophy in the following two season, during which time Cruyff earned a fearsome reputation—and a world-record transfer to Spain.

The Cruyff Turn

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    Johan Cruyff gave so much to the beautiful game, but the moment that will ensure his name is known by future generations occurred in the 23rd minute of the Netherlands' group-stage game with Sweden at the 1974 World Cup: the Cruyff Turn.

    Receiving the ball on the left flank, Cruyff evaded the challenge of Swedish defender Jan Olsson with a move that had never been seen before. With a simple drop of his shoulder, Cruyff sent Olsson downtown to buy fish and chips as he dragged the ball behind his standing leg to rapidly change direction. 

    How many other players have had a move named after them?

The 1974 World Cup

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    It was the 1974 World Cup that launched Cruyff into the stratosphere—and not just because he invented new moves. 

    Cruyff led the Oranje all the way to the final as a key exponent of the Total Football style developed at Ajax. When he latched on to a through ball and beat Argentinean goalkeeper Daniel Carnevali during a 4-0 drubbing in the second round, the Dutch looked truly unstoppable.

    Johan Cruyff scored 33 goals in 48 appearances for the Dutch national team. Incredibly, the Oranje never lost a match in which he scored.

Winning 3 Ballons D'or

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    STAFF/Getty Images

    In the early 1970s, Cruyff was at the height of his powers. He won the Ballon d'Or in 1971, 1972 and 1974, with only Germany's Franz Beckenbauer punctuating his streak in 1973.

Winning the League with Barcelona in 1974

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    1974 was a very special year for Cruyff, who helped Barcelona win their first league title in 14 years in his debut season in Catalonia.

    He scored 16 goals in 26 league appearances for the Blaugrana that season, including a beautifully worked effort in a 5-0 win over Real Madrid at the Bernabeu.

    His affection for Barcelona was clear, not just because he later returned to manage the team but because he also gave his son Jordi a Catalan name.

The 'Impossible' Goal

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    Barca finished 10 points clear of closest rivals Atletico Madrid during that successful 1973-74 campaign, thanks in part to a 2-1 victory at the Vicente Calderon.

    On that evening, Cruyff scored one of his most iconic goals, latching on to a cross to turn in a volley from beyond the far post with the outside of his right foot.

    It has been dubbed the "Impossible Goal" as it is so difficult to replicate.

His Triumphant Return to Ajax

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    In December 1981, at the age of 34, Cruyff signed a new contract with his boyhood club after spells in the USA and with Levante in Spain. 

    Many assumed his best days were behind him, but as you can see from the sublime chipped goal above, this wasn't the case.

    He helped the  Amsterdammers win the title by five clear points in 1982 and was part of the team that won the Dutch Cup the following season, too.

The 'Pass Penalty'

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    The novel and inherently risky "pass penalty" wasn't dreamed up by Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, nor were Robert Pires and Thierry Henry responsible for its inception. 

    In a 1982 league game for Ajax against Helmond Sport, Cruyff chose to pass his penalty to team-mate Jesper Olsen, who duly tapped it back for the talismanic forward to finish.  

    This is just a small slice of the creativity and ingenuity that he offered throughout his career.

Winning 4 Consecutive League Titles as Manager of Barcelona

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    Very few legendary players are able to make a significant impact in management, but Cruyff was a notable exception. 

    After a stint in which he led Ajax to two Dutch Cups and a European Cup Winners' Cup, Cruyff took charge of Barcelona in 1988.

    He brought in players such as Hristo Stoichkov, Michael Laudrup, Pep Guardiola, Gheorghe Hagi and Ronald Koeman—and managed to reinvigorate the Catalans, just like he had as a player.

    His "dream team" won four consecutive Liga titles between 1991 and 1994, and he also brought them to major success on the European stage...

Winning the European Cup with Barcelona in 1992

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    In the midst of Barcelona's hugely successful domestic run, Cruyff also delivered the club's first-ever European Cup win.

    After picking up the trophy three times as a player, Cruyff brought his winning ways to the Blaugrana bench, taking the glory after a 1-0 win over Sampdoria at Wembley. 

    After eight seasons in charge at the Camp Nou, Cruyff became the club's most successful manager of all time with 11 title wins—a tally that has only been usurped by a prominent student of his philosophy, Pep Guardiola. 

    Guardiola once pithily expressed the debt that Barcelona—and the beautiful game—owe to the Dutch master: "Johan Cruyff painted the chapel, and Barcelona coaches since merely restore or improve it."