In the 1970's, the Netherlands national team became famous for their football philosophy known as ''total football.'' 

During that era the country boasted the best attacking talent in the world with players such as Johan Neeskens, Rob Rensenbrink and Johnny Rep. The best of them though was Holland's famous no.14, former Barcelona and Ajax legend, Johan Cruyff.

Cruyff began his career in 1964 with hometown club Ajax and made his debut that same year at the age of 17. He won his first Eredivisie title the following season and scored 25 goals in 23 games, putting the world on notice of what a talent he was and at such a young age. 

He won his first cap for his country two years after his professional debut in 1966. During his first spell with the Amsterdam club, Cruyff won the Eredivisie six times, the KNVB Cup four times and also won the European Cup three years in a row in '71, '72 and '73. 

He received the Ballon d'Or award while playing for his hometown side aswell as scoring 251 goals from 1964-1973 before being sold to Spanish giants Barcelona for an estimated £900,000 (a world record at the time) in the summer of '73.

Upon his arrival at Nou Camp, Cruyff helped Barcelona win the La Liga title for the first time in 14 years. During the 73/74 season, the Catalan club defeated rivals Real Madrid 5-0 at the Bernabeu and at the end of 1973, Cruyff was crowned European Footballer of the Year for a second time in his career. He was the Netherlands' star player in the 1974 FIFA World Cup tournament in Germany.

The Oranje defeated the likes of Uruguay, Bulgaria, Argentina and Brazil en route to the final and Cruyff scored two goals to help his country book their place against hosts West Germany in the match to determine the world champions. 

On paper, Holland had much the stronger side and were led by their famous No.14 against Franz Beckbenbauer's, West Germany. The match couldn't have started better for the Netherlands who managed to take the lead inside of two minutes courtesy of a penalty from Johan Neeskens. 

For much of the game however, the German defence stifled Cruyff, allowing the host’s midfield to dominate the game. Ultimately, Germany went on to lift the World Cup for a second time with Gerd Muller scoring the winning goal. 

Cruyff's dream of lifting the World Cup was over. However later that year, he received the Ballon d'Or for a third time, becoming the first player ever to win the award three times.

Cruyff helped Barcelona win the Copa Del Rey in 1978 and during his time with the Spanish side, the Dutchman scored one of his most famous goals, which later became known as ''The Phantom Goal'' against Atletico Madrid. 

The goal has also been named ''Cruyff's impossible goal.'' 

In 1979, Cruyff left Barcelona to play in the United States. He spent two years in the NASL and played for both the Los Angeles Aztecs and the Washington Diplomats before returning to Europe with Levante in 1981.

Despite playing just ten games for the Spanish second division side, Cruyff decided to return to his hometown club, Ajax. He remained with the Amsterdam side for two years, winning another two Dutch championships and the KNVB Cup in 1983. 

He ended his professional career with Feyenoord, winning the Eredivisie for a ninth time in his final season in the game. During his time in the game, Cruyff scored 368 goals in 662 matches in Spain, the United States and the Netherlands. He also won 48 caps for his country, scoring 33 goals.

After retiring from the game, Cruyff became highly successful as a manager.  Particularly at his old club, Barcelona as he led the Catalan club to the La Liga title four times in a row and also winning the European Cup in 1992.

His legacy lives on in football and his name is placed along the likes of Pele, Diego Maradona, Franz Beckenbauer, Alfredo Di Stefano and Zinedine Zidane as one of the all time greats to play the beautiful game.

Do you think Johan Cruyff is the greatest player of all time? Have your say below.


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Topics:
Barcelona
World Cup
Football
Ajax