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Johann Cryuff: Extraordinary quotes from an extraordinary player

Johann Cryuff passed away yesterday—aged 68—of lung cancer.

One of the pioneers of Total Football, the Dutchman was part of the side that played the 1974 World Cup final.

The Netherlands were unfortunately  edged out by Franz Beckenbaeur’s West Germany.

They reached the finals once again in 1978—without Cryuff—losing out to Argentina.

Holland made the finals only one more time—in 2010—succumbing to Spain.

Here are some astounding quotes from Cryuff—Player, Philosopher, Manager:

On technique:

“Technique is not being able to juggle a ball 1000 times. Anyone can do that by practicing. 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.”

“Someone who has juggled the ball in the air during a game, after which four defenders of the opponent get the time to run back, that’s the player people think is great. I say he has to go to a circus.”

On teamwork:

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

“In my teams, the goalie is the first attacker, and the striker the first defender.”

On rich clubs:

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

On leadership:

“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 speed and timing:

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

“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.”

“When you play a match, it is statistically proven that players actually have the ball 3 minutes on average … So, the most important thing is: what do you do during those 87 minutes when you do not have the ball. That is what determines whether you’re a good player or not.”

On mistakes:

“Before I make a mistake, I don’t make that mistake.”

On winning:

“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.”

“If you can’t win, make sure you don’t lose.”

On team tactics:

“We must make sure their worst players get the ball the most. You’ll get it back in no time.”

“If you have the ball you must make the field as big as possible, and if you don’t have the ball you must make it as small as possible.”

“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.”

“Every disadvantage has its advantage.”

“There is only one ball, so you need to have it.”

On tough first rounds:

“Surviving the first round is never my aim. Ideally, I’d be in one group with Brazil, Argentina and Germany. Then I’d have lost two rivals after the first round. That’s how I think. Idealistic.”

On results, quality and integrity:

“Quality without results is pointless. Results without quality is boring.”

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

On using computers:

“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 meters with my left and maybe 20 with my right. My qualities technique and vision, are not detectable by a computer.”

On keeping it simple:

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

On being understood:

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


“In a way I’m probably immortal.”


I have been an IT professional with over 12 years professional experience. I'm an B.Sc. in Statistics, M.Sc in Computer Science (University of Mumbai) and an MBA from the Cyprus International Institute of Management. I'm also a finance student and have completed levels I and II of the CFA course. Blogging is a part-time vocation until I land a full-time position. I am also the author of three books, Those Glory Days: Cricket World Cup 2011, IPL Vignettes and Poems: An Anthology, all available on Amazon Worldwide.


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