Football

Johan Cruyff: The game-changing wisdom of a true football legend

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Johan Cruyff in 1996, shortly after leaving Barcelona

Image credit: Reuters

ByToby Keel
24/03/2016 at 11:45 | Updated 24/03/2016 at 13:50

The world of football is in mourning following the death of Dutch football legend Johan Cruyff.

Cruyff wasn't just a master on the pitch, however: he was also one of the deepest thinkers the game has ever known, and his insights into football have gone on to inspire generations of players.

Here are some of his finest and most eye-catching quotes, which give a flavour of the wisdom and insight of this unforgettable genius.

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On how to win

"Don't run so much. Football is a game you play with your brains."

"You have got to shoot, otherwise you can't score."

The most difficult thing about an easy match is to make a weak opponent play bad football.

"To win you have to score one more goal than your opponent."

(from left) Johan Cruyff, Hugo Sotil and Johan Neeskens

Image credit: AFP

"Choose the best player for every position, and you’ll end up not with a strong XI, but with 11 strong 1’s."

"There are very few players who know what to do when they’re not marked. So sometimes you tell a player: that attacker is very good, but don’t mark him."

Johan Cruyff

Image credit: PA Sport

On technique

Technique is not being able to juggle a ball 1,000 times. Anyone can do that by practising. Then you can work in the circus. Technique is passing the ball with one touch, with the right speed, at the right foot of your team mate.

"I find it terrible when talents are rejected based on computer stats. Based on the criteria at Ajax now I would have been rejected. When I was 15, I couldn’t kick a ball 15 metres with my left and maybe 20 with my right. My qualities technique and vision, are not detectable by a computer."

Johan Cruyff

Image credit: PA Photos

"Players today can only shoot with their laces. I could shoot with the inside, laces, and outside of both feet. In other words, I was six times better than today’s players."

"To play well, you need good players, but a good player almost always has the problem of a lack of efficiency. He always wants to do things prettier than strictly necessary.”

On mistakes

"Football is a game of mistakes. Whoever makes the fewest mistakes wins."

Before I make a mistake, I don't make that mistake.

Johan Cruyff in 1974

Image credit: Imago

"It’s better to go down with your own vision than with someone else’s.”

"There’s only one moment in which you can arrive in time. If you’re not there, you’re either too early or too late.”

"Players that aren’t true leaders but try to be, always bash other players after a mistake. True leaders on the pitch already assume others will make mistakes."

On the importance of keeping it simple

"Playing football is very simple, but playing simple football is the hardest thing there is.”

"Footballers from the street are more important than trained coaches."

I look at Messi, and he makes me laugh. A beautiful footballer who is still like a kid. A world superstar, but still a kid. Innocent, you know. He just plays.

Johan Cruyff in action with Ajax

Image credit: Imago

Making fun of the media and critics

"If I wanted you to understand it, I would have explained it better."

"What is speed? The sports press often confuses speed with insight. See, if I start running slightly earlier than someone else, I seem faster."

“People who are not on my level can’t affect my integrity.”

On life and success

"After you’ve won something, you’re no longer 100 percent, but 90 percent. It’s like a bottle of carbonated water where the cap is removed for a short while. Afterwards there’s a little less gas inside."

"Why couldn’t you beat a richer club? I’ve never seen a bag of money score a goal."

Johan Cruyff

Image credit: Reuters

"I'm not religious. In Spain all 22 players make the sign of the cross before they enter the pitch. If it works all matches must therefore end in a draw."

"I’m ex-player, ex-technical director, ex-coach, ex-manager, ex-honorary president. A nice list that once again shows that everything comes to an end."

In a way I’m probably immortal.

Johan Cruyff in his early days at Ajax

Image credit: Imago

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