Top 10 disciples of Johan Cruyff
1 Eusebio Sacristan
One of Johan Cruyff’s first signings at Barcelona, the Spain utility midfielder was the unsung stalwart of the ‘Dream Team’ who won the European Cup and four league titles under Cruyff. Appointed to succeed David Moyes at Real Sociedad last autumn, Eusebio said Cruyff was his ‘‘football father’’ who taught him how to live and how to win.
2 Hristo Stoichkov
The great Bulgaria forward (right) teamed up with Romario at the Nou Camp to form one of the finest forward lines. Cruyff treasured his tactical cleverness. ‘‘A friend, a coach, a mentor,’’ said Stoichkov.
3 Dennis Bergkamp
The Arsenal legend learnt his trade on the wing as a 17year-old for Cruyff at Ajax and played under him for two seasons. Cruyff backed his talent as a 12-year-old while still playing and two decades on from giving him his debut enticed him back to Amsterdam as part of another Ajax coaching revolution.
4 Danny Blind
Cruyff signed the defender from Sparta Rotterdam in 1986. In 1995, under Louis van Gaal, Blind captained Ajax to their first European Cup since Cruyff’s hat-trick and as a coach he worked at Ajax and with Holland before being appointed Holland manager last summer. “We all have a bond with Cruyff,” he said last week. “I owe him a lot.”
5 Michael Laudrup
Cruyff had been Laudrup’s boyhood hero and he leapt at a chance to join him at Barcelona. Twice elected Spain’s player of the year and won the European Cup and four titles at the Nou Camp. When he won the League Cup as Swansea manager in 2013, he said: “There are a lot of things I learnt from him in training that I am using now.”
6 Marco van Basten
Played alongside Cruyff at Ajax for two seasons and became a compellingly clinical centreforward. His swift, sleek elegance as a player was honed further when Cruyff returned as manager and ‘The Swan of Utrecht’ went on to enjoy a devastating, if too short, career up front for AC Milan and Holland.
7 Ruud Gullit
Gullit (right) was 21 when Cruyff joined Feyenoord determined to spite Ajax, who had let him go. They won the double and he polished Gullit’s positional awareness so that he applied himself on the field where he could be most destructive. “Thank you for being my teacher,” wrote Gullit, of the friend whose niece he married.
8 Frank Rijkaard
A wonderful defensive talent deployed in front of the back three by Cruyff at Ajax where he blossomed into one of the keys to Holland’s Euro 88 victory and AC Milan’s European Cups in 1989 and 1990. He won his own hat-trick back at Ajax in 1995 and emulated Cruyff again by winning it as a manager with Barcelona in 2006.
9 Ronald Koeman
Left after only a season of Cruyff’s management to move to PSV in 1986, much to Ajax’s chagrin, but his manager held no grudge, signing him for Barcelona where his vision, impeccable control and remarkable ball-striking power and precision found their perfect stage. The two were close and holidayed together.
10 Pep Guardiola
Guardiola enhanced the Cruyff principles at Barcelona by marrying an attacking philosophy and acute spatial awareness to hypnotising rotation of possession and ball retention. The former midfielder became a regular under Cruyff in the 1991-92 European Cupwinning season, and added two more as Barcelona manager.