By Walter Broeckx
With the passing of Johan Cruyff a football legend has gone away.
I do admit that when I was a boy and growing up Cruyff was in his glory days in the seventies. And I didn’t really like him at that moment. But that had all to do with the fact that he played for teams I didn’t like very much. Ajax… Barcelona… and as someone from Belgium you just didn’t fancy your neighbours to be better than yourself. But I was only a small kid in those days.
But as a player Cruyff was an amazing player as I found out when I became an adult and started to look at things with a wider perspective. And then I started to appreciate the player more and even later I started appreciating the man Cruyff.
Cruyff after being successful in his playing days showed that he also was a good manager. He won cups with Ajax and then became successful at Barcelona where he won four titles in a row and won almost any other prize one could win in those days.
He then also became a in my opinion very respected pundit. In fact there have been only two pundits for whom I leave the sound on: Wenger and Cruyff. Because both have/had interesting things to say. And more because they have proven that they know what they talk about.
If you compare that to the rubbish that is spouted by English pundits who have never managed a team or when they did it ended in big failure… to hear those two talk is as different as chalk and cheese.
So my respect for the player, manager, pundit and human being had grown a lot coinciding with myself becoming adult and older (and probably wiser). I had the privilege to hear him speak a lot and as we share the same mother language I had the privilege to understand him perfectly. He could talk in a funny way at times but you always felt that he knew what he was talking about.
With Cruyff dying because of lung cancer it is a sad day for football worldwide. He was a loner and did it all his own way. He clashed at times with many people because that is what talented people do a lot. They are stubborn and go their own way. Because most of the time they know what they are doing and why they are doing things. Other can’t understand them and then criticised him.
But Cruyff was who he was. A genius football player, a genius manager and a very interesting pundit.
He said a lot of wise things over the years. And one of my favourite things is a quote I want to give to you about Arsène Wenger. He said this in December 2012.
This is what the grand Dutch master himself said about Wenger:
“People do not realise the achievement of this manager (Arsène Wenger) at Arsenal. I find it incredible that Arsenal have stayed at the highest level of European competition and England under his management without ever ending up in debt.
“I cannot remember red figures at Arsenal over the last 15 years. How many clubs in Europe can say they have qualified for the Champions League for 16 consecutive seasons under the same management?
“Arsène Wenger has put his life and soul in to Arsenal. In 15 years, I have not seen him make any irresponsible purchases in the transfer market. That is why the work of Arsène Wenger at Arsenal is the prime example for every club in Europe. I cannot even imagine the board or the fans would ever think for a moment of putting Arsène’s position in doubt.”
Amazing words from one of the greats in world football about a fellow manager.
Here is one that has done it all, just as has Wenger. A former player (a more successful one) but also a former manager. And it is because of that that he more than anyone else can admire what Wenger had done at Arsenal.
It is with sadness that I realise that I will never be able to hear Cruyff again handing out his wisdom on TV. But I am grateful for what he brought to football with his attacking play. I am grateful for what he brought to management as he also was a manager that only played his own style and always went out on the field in order to win the match.
But I feel happy that I have seen him a lot and learned a lot from him from a distance.
And I feel proud that we share the same admiration for our manager, Arsène Wenger.
A great loss for Dutch football and for the football world. May we remember him for his skill, his management and for his wisdom over all things in football.
RIP Johan Cruyff