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A football legends dies, and it is worth to take note of his wise words

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

35 comments to A football legends dies, and it is worth to take note of his wise words

  • February 9 1977, England 0 Netherlands 2; and I was there. I can still remember little bits of the game, and there is now a scratchy Youtube of it at

    But most I remember how on the whistle the crowd rose to applaud the Dutch players as they walked off – and Cruyff looked up at us in seeming surprise that the home support could so applaud when their own team was beaten. He waved back at us… and I remember thinking then that this was the the moment I was just a short distance away from a god.

  • PS the YouTube mentioned above is really poor quality, and ignore the statement below saying “last game of Cruyff in Holland” – it isn’t, it is the game at Wembley.

  • Jerry

    Walter, excellent touching tribute to a true football legend!

  • Ken1945

    If only those so called pundits mentioned in the above article would read the article on Arsene.
    As you say, these pundits either: never managed a top team (Paul Scholes) or failed trying to do it (Paul Merson).
    Add to that the likes of Piers Morgan and Adrian Durham who have no idea what they are talking about regarding the Professor.
    Johan Cruyff was a footballing legend and Arsene Wenger deserves the praise from this man who so succently summed up Arsene’s time as a real Gooner. Long may it continue!!!!
    Thanks for the memories Johan, you will be missed.

  • Rosicky@Arsenal

    I think Cruyff was the best play maker ever born.
    Maybe Pele and Maradona are the greatest players in the history of the game but if one talk about the most creative one it has to be cruyff.

  • Menace

    Why is Cruyff the greatest player ever? Because he was able to evade foul tacklers unlike Pele. He skipped over them like a ballerina. Because he never cheated unlike Maradonna & Messi.

    His was so special it was truly football ballet. His balance, his poise & his team work a true joy to watch.

    RIP master of the beautiful game – Johan Cruyff.

  • Al

    A great loss indeed. Cryuff is one of the very best footballers ever. And he seemed to even surpass his brilliance on the pitch with his managerial skills. How many brilliant footballers became brilliant coaches, even maradona tried and failed. I don’t think many people who see Barcelona dismantling teams with ease today are even aware that that’s due to Cryuff.

    Not surprising to hear he said that of Wenger. The legacy Cryuff left at Barcelona (& Ajax) will last forever, and Wenger is firmly on the path to do the same too, if they give him the chance (and it’s a big IF). Two great managers. These are the sort of people who should have been heading football bodies such as Fifa or Uefa. People who gave/give their very best to football. They joined the sport to give, not to take.

  • St Totteringham

    The last (and only) time I saw the great man in the flesh

  • Josif

    Walter, thank you for sharing this post about arguably the greatest football person ever.

    Read his quotes and watch him play – you will get a wrong idea that everyone can become a football legend. The way he was explaining the art of defending using examples of Guardiola and Koeman (no wonder they are successful managers) or why pressing high up the pitch is a logical thing to do (“Attacker has just 30 meters to the goal if he takes the ball high up the pitch” – so simple and so logical!) made me think about him as a Leonardo da Vinci of football, a multitalented inventor decades ahead of his time.

    Remember that cheeky penalty that Pires and Henry tried to pull off? Well, the referee actually asked Cruyff if that was legal! 🙂

    It would be incorrect to call him a football father of Arsene Wenger but perhaps we can say Cruyff was that a genius uncle that only few could understand and Wenger was his favourite nephew that liked to spend summer holidays with Cruyff.

    @Menace – Messi is not a cheater. There is no player in the world who gets more beaten and still remains on his feet than him.

  • Josif

    Here is his verdict on Messi in 2007.

    (Cruyff said Messi is the greatest of all times.)

  • Menace

    Josif – Messi may get kicked but a hand assisted goal has no excuse.

  • Al

    The Spanish football team’s success is due in no small part to the foundations laid down by Cryuff – the core of the side that won the world cup in 2010 (9 in total) were la masia graduates.

    Wenger revolutionised football in England, and maybe, just maybe, if he’d been more accepted here who knows what could have happened. Instead the graduates he produces, like Wilshere, never realise their full potential as their careers are cut short by these thugs. His sides are not allowed to play, what with this ‘get up in their faces’ approach teams adopt every time they face Arsenal, abetted by the pgmol & a complicit media. Is it any wonder football remains in the dark ages here.

  • Chrissie

    Thank you Walter for sharing the wise words of Cruyff about our manager Wenger with us.

    RIP Cruyff, you will be missed.

  • Cruyff was a true master and rightly called a legend both as a footballer and a manager but I have to say and I’m a bit bias as I rate George Best as gifted as Johan. Now if Cruyff could see what we can see in Arsene Wenger why are their still idiots both in football, media and sadly Arsenal supporters who will not admit what is right in front of eyes and realise how blessed we really are to have him. Johan Cruyff lived and breathed football both on and of the pitch and if his words are not good enough about AW then those who scorn him need a lobotomy ASAP.

  • Fishpie

    My dad was Dutch. He came to England when the southern half of Holland was liberated towards the end of the World War II. He met an English girl, fell in love, stayed, and married her. Instead of joining his 4 brother-in-laws and become a Spurs fan, he decided to support Arsenal instead because we were the most famous English club (having dominated most of the 1930’s before the war). At the time and for some time after, football in Holland had been an amateur game and Holland had absolutely no reputation in the sport. My Dad just could not believe it when at the end of the 60’s, seemingly out of nowhere, Ajax and Feyenoord started to build a reputation as strong European teams. I never saw my Dad more happy or proud when Holland, with their Total Football, swept the world aside. 1974, and again in 1978, saw Holland exhibit a brand of brilliant brilliant football that lifted the spirit. And Cruyff was his hero. Thank you Johan for making my Dad proud and so overjoyed to be a Dutchman. I can see his face now, all those years ago, brimming. RIP.

  • Pat

    Harsh but true, Linda!

  • Brickfields Gunners

    A fitting tribute to a great player and was a real joy to watch when in full flight.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    @ Linda March 24, 2016 at 11:22 pm – George Best to me was the greatest player ever . That in some ways he never really fulfilled his god given talents. He remains the only player who brings a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes when I view any clip of him. There always will be an invoking of a ” What if ..”
    or an ” Only if he …” feeling of it all being somewhat incomplete or unfinished.

    The only other clip which would come close would be that Dennis Bergkamp goal against Newcastle .

  • ARSENAL 13

    I was just watching videos of Cruyff on youtube. In black and white also. For once I just thought, Bergkamp. The style of play….

    He has attained immortality, in true sense. A true legend.

  • Josif


    Arsene said at one press conference last season that he would make a good national team for them (English). In order to prevent that, FA closed both of their eyes at McNair’s assault on Wilshere. You see, Wilshere is a guy who should have been English Iniesta/Xavi, a deep-lying playmaker with drive that is second to none. And, that’s not a breed that Ingerland want (and, given all that Untold has published regarding grass-root football and refereeing preferencs, it’s not what Ingerland deserve either). Why nurture players like Wilshere when you can have Drinkwater?

    And, for favouring the Drinkwaters over the Wilsheres, Ingerland deserve to be thirsty of trophies.

  • WalterBroeckx

    Nice story fishpie. Really loved it.

    One thing I want to mention however about Holland and the world cup in 1974: Holland never should have been at that world cup!
    Just look at this short clip around 1.25

    In this clip you can see that Belgium got a goal disallowed late in the match for offside that wasn’t. If that goal would have been given it would have been Belgium that went to the WC in Germany and the world wouldn’t have witnessed the Dutch football team nearly winning the world cup.

    Thank goodness the ref and his assistant made a big blunder and allowed the Dutch team to show how wonderful football can be played as Belgium played in those days the most appalling defending football that makes the park the bus tactics from Mourinho and other fat Sams look very attacking. 🙂

  • Kenneth Widmerpool

    This vid was posted on PA by A5 there. Check out the sheer skill and breath-taking goal at 5.25/26 etc.
    Somehow its a really sad vid too,showing how quickly life slips away before us.RIP JC.A truly great player.

  • ClockEndRider

    Best Cruyff quote I saw yesterday : “if I’d wanted you to understand, I’d have explained better.” Genius.
    Going to school in Islington in the early 70’s there were only 2 players in these 20 a side playground football matches. It was 20 Charlie Georges and 20 Johan Cruyffs. He transported us from our dull, orange and brown, socially confined working class world to another, brighter, gleaming place. Always remembered.

  • Jambug

    Firstly I would like to add my own deepest sympathies to all that knew and loved the great man.

    Secondly I would like to say what a great piece Walter and some lovely comments.

    Thirdly, the fawning media make me sick.

    They eulogise over this fantastic footballer, proclaiming there love of his skills and extoling his genius.

    And yet everything he stood for is the exact opposite of what these raging hypocrites really admire.

    It’s all false platitudes. All this Country ever wants to do is destroy artistry.

    To claim they love and admire what Cruyff stands for is hypocrisy of the highest order.

    Al sums it up brilliantly:

    “Wenger revolutionised football in England, and maybe, just maybe, if he’d been more accepted here who knows what could have happened. Instead the graduates he produces, like Wilshere, never realise their full potential as their careers are cut short by these thugs. His sides are not allowed to play, what with this ‘get up in their faces’ approach teams adopt every time they face Arsenal, abetted by the pgmol & a complicit media. Is it any wonder football remains in the dark ages here.”

    Listening to SKY sports yesterday all I could think was, what a load of HYPOCHRITICAL BULLSHIT.

    Wenger’s vision of football and what it should be, as expressed in his famous quote that in part inspired Untold Arsenal in the first place:

    “I believe the target of anything in life should be to do it so well that it becomes an art.”

    most closely mirrors the footballing ideology to which Cruyff aspired, yet he is almost universally despised throughout the English media.

    If our media truly believed all there gushing tributes to Cruyff then surely they would of embraced Wenger and everything he stands for.

    Alas we know the exact opposite to be true.

  • Gord

    Sorry, not about Cruyff.

    We’ve had great players come to Arsenal. We’ve had players become great at Arsenal. We have an endless supply of “fans” becoming great pains in the ass (PITA) at Arsenal; that Piers shithead leads the pack.

    For some, coming to Arsenal see them leave a better player and/or a better person. The converse is also true and that Robson comes to mind. Stewed Tart I think is his first name.

    The idea that referees, or an association, can arbitrarily change the rules that are laid out is dumb. That they can claim “We are 96% correct in our decisions” is equally dumb. Especially in light of the consequences; that players of true class and skill, see that magic removed by the actions of an idiot like Shawcross. Who is later thanked by _The FA_ for doing this by calling him up to the national team. Reinforcing the message of the Nevilles and Scholes: Thou Shalt Not Play Skilled Football in England!

    Who the hell wants to watch skilled football, when you can see legs being broken? And spend tens of minutes waiting for the ambulance to arrive; to take the player to the glue factory because he will never play again?

    That we should all live in Stoke. Or up Sir Rednose’s ass in Manchester.

    I see in the news, that Ospina had a good game against Bolivia. It’s been mentioned about Ospina and Szczesny, that they cannot play for their national team if they are not playing consistently in the EPL.

    I am hoping that at some point, it will become part of the record that Ospina and Szczesny (and all the other goalkeepers in the system) benefited from having Cech here at Arsenal. No, Ospina isn’t getting the number of games that some people had hoped for. But it would seem that Columbia at least believes that what Ospina gets in training (under the best manager Arsenal has had, and possibly the best manager the world has known) is “good enough”.

    Being a goalkeeper is really thankless. You are the person at fault in every goal that is scored against your team. People come into football, and if they can’t run and pass; they can play goal. In large part, they end up as goalkeepers by default.

    Every player as a youth wants to be successful. Some want to play professionally. We see youth players sometimes making appearances in the first team. A few go on to making many appearances for the first team while still a youth. Very seldom does this happen for the youth goalkeeper. It takes another 3-6 years after leaving the youth system, before they have a reasonable chance at consistent first team play. If they do break in to consistent first team play, it is likely that they can play longer than most outfield players.

    I would hope that clubs recognize this, and spend additional effort on the other aspects of a young player’s life. I want to start hearing the muppets say: “Savage, did you know that XYZ (goalkeeper for Arsenal) has a Ph.D. in Engineering Physics?”.

  • Menace

    Jambu – spot on.

    Gord – totally with you on Goal keepers (tenders).

  • Mandy Dodd

    A sad loss, and some very wise words on Wenger.
    Reportedly, Cruyff said a while back he would did manage in England…..basically as he was not a fan of kick and rush.
    Good to see things have changed so much on that front in England then.

  • Florian

    Another good summary of Cruyff’s legacy was the one summarized in Soccernomics. Great footballers are mostly remembered for their skill and their passion. Pele, Messi, and Maradona come to mind. Cruyff went one farther because he changed the whole game with his ideas. And, as with all the revolutionary ideas, many of them encounter the resistance of the status-quo-by-default-keepers, whose limited minds refuse to accept there is a better way, despite the reality giving proof, no less with the trophies the Cruyff legacy teams won on the national and international stage. We will likely never see another player and personality like him in our lifetimes. But his ideas will live on far beyond that. To me, he came closest to eternity.

  • Fishpie

    Got to say Walter, that was a legitimate goal. Robbed, you was. Of course, Anderlecht were emerging during that period in the early 70’s too so the low-countries were on a roll at the time. As for the Belgian style of play, well Arsenal weren’t exactly a free-wheeling team either at that point. Bertie, Don and Peter Storey meant we played a percentage game most of the time. Perhaps Belgium were a little more Leeds like?

    Anyway, our lad Dennis, was a direct successor of the Cruyff revolution so Total Football eventually found its way to Highbury in time. Here’s to the Dutch and the noisy neighbours.

  • Brickfield Gunners

    It was my Honor to met George Best when he came home for awhile with his then wife Alexis to try once again to get of the drink and get healthy. He was living in Portavogie on the Antrim Costline and happened to be their for a few weeks. Not a nicer man when sober and I will tell you this I asked him if he had to do it all over again would he have left Man Utd so early and he said it was a huge mistake and if he had the time again he would have stayed. Unfortunately after been sober for awhile he then started to drink again and he and his wife went back to England to get him treatment. I saw him play for NIreland and the love he got from the crowd was so strong that you could feel it. He is buried beside his mum and not far from where my mum and dad are buried so when my brother and I go to visit my parents grave we also leave some flowers for Gxeorge and his mum. I loved him to bits and what a joy to watch when he was in full flow, poetry in motion.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    @ Linda – March 25, 2016 at 11:43 pm – Thanks for that lovely snippet .He used to write articles in SHOOT ! magazine in the early and mid seventies and I remember reading about the numerous run ins with fans of opposition clubs and of ‘macho’ men who would confront him in pubs and other public places .
    There was also an unpleasant episode when the mother of another ManUtd winger at that time , accosted him at the training ground and as well as berated him for his fame and lifestyle and also claimed that her son was a better player than Best.
    Another was also the numerous death threats that he would receive , notably one before an away game at Newcastle . This was shortly before he went off the boil.
    He did keep writing after he left United , but one could sense that his heart was not in it .

  • Brickfields Gunners

    @ Kenneth Widmerpool -March 25, 2016 at 7:45 am – Nice link . Football as an art. I think I’ve heard it mentioned before !

  • porter

    The legacy of Cruyff is that one morning in 1974 , every kid in every playground was trying to master that turn. It took away the breath of the whole footballing world.

  • porter

    He was heavily linked to us to replace Rioch as mananger , can’t help wondering how that might have turned out.

  • ob1977

    One thing I have thought about with all the touching words from ex pro’s, pundits, and managers, is about how gifted he was, and not one of them has come out and said teams should have just “smashed him”, or “got in his face”…