Johan Cruyff, who has died aged 68 of cancer, once said his qualities as a footballer were undetectable by a computer. It was surely true that a computer might have recorded his playing stats – the goals, the assists, the distances covered – but would have been incapable of assessing the wonderment generated by his technique and vision, from the late 1960s to the early 80s, first with Ajax and later with Barcelona and his national team, Holland. With his anticipation and acceleration, Cruyff seemed to own the entire field of play. Only nominally a centre-forward, he was both orchestrator and predator, at one moment collecting a rolled ball from his keeper to start a move – one arm pointing as he barked orders to his team-mates – and the next materialising at the other end in front of goal for the coup de grace. For opponents it was like trying to pin down air. “Without Cruyff,” said Rinus Michels, his mentor and manager at Ajax, at Barcelona and with the Dutch international side, “I have no team.” The goals he scored were ones of which no other player was capable – from twisted, one-legged, neck-high karate kicks, and from… Read full this story
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