The World Cup in West Germany
Winning La Liga with Barcelona
Cruyff left Ajax for Barcelona in 1973. He became a favourite with the fans before he kicked a ball when he revealed that he had turned down Real Madrid to join Barcelona.
Cruyff said he would never play for a club that was linked to Francisco Franco, the Spanish dictator, so he chose Barcelona.
Cruyff helped Barcelona win their first title for 14 years and was named European Footballer of the Year two years running in 1973 and 1974. Shortly after joining Barcelona, Cruyff’s son was born. Cruyff gave him a Catalan name, Jordi, which further strengthened his bond with the club and the fans.
It was four years before Cruyff won another trophy, lifting the Copa del Rey with Barcelona in 1978. Cruyff scored 48 goals in 143 games during five years at Barcelona.
World Cup 1974 in West Germany
The Netherlands brought their total football style to the World Cup in 1974 in West Germany. They won their first group with victories over Uruguay and Bulgaria, and a draw against Sweden.
The second round also consisted of a group and they finished top again thanks to victories over Argentina, East Germany and Brazil.
This took them to the final against hosts, West Germany. The Netherlands got a perfect start to the game, going 1-0 up in the second minute thanks to a Johan Neeskens penalty. However, the efficient Germans were able to overcome the total football of the Dutch and turned the game around to win 2-1.
Playing in the United States
Cruyff spent a couple of years playing in the United States. He spent a year with Los Angeles Aztecs where he scored 14 goals in 27 games. He was voted NASL Player of the Year.
He then moved to Washington Diplomats where he scored 12 times in 32 matches. His time in the USA had been financially rewarding, but Cruyff wanted to go back to Europe to play at a higher level. He joined Spanish second division side Levante when he was 34.
He suffered a lot of injuries that season and only played ten games. He scored twice but his team failed to win promotion. He left the club at the end of the season after an argument about money.
Returning to Holland
When Cruyff left Levante, he rejoined his first club, Ajax. He was initially a technical advisor but before long he put his boots back on and took to the field. Despite being in his mid-thirties, Cruyff was still able to reach a respectable goal tally, with 14 goals in 36 games during his second spell with Ajax.
One of those goals came from a penalty against Helmond Sport in 1982. It is still shown on TV to this day. Cruyff took the penalty but rather than shoot, he passed the ball forward to his left. His teammate, Jesper Olsen, ran on to the pass and squared it past the keeper, back to Cruyff. Cruyff completed the move by side footing the ball into an empty net.
Ajax won the Dutch title and KNVB-Becker Cup in 1983. Cruyff spent his final season as a player with Ajax’s rivals Feyenoord. He had wanted to stay at Ajax, but they didn’t offer him a new contract.
Cruyff scored 11 goals in 33 games for Feyenoord and they won the Dutch league and cup double. It was the first time Feyenoord had won the league in 10 years and Cruyff was named Dutch Player of the Year.