Cruyff legacy will live on at Barcelona

Barca to hon­our for­mer man­ager Jo­han, and they could find a role for his son too, writes Andy Mit­ten

The National - News - Sport - - LEADING OFF -

Club plan to erect statue in hon­our of leg­endary for­mer player and man­ager. Per­haps there is a fu­ture role for his son at the club too?

Jordi is in­tel­li­gent and thought­ful in in­ter­views and thinks deeply about the game, like his fa­ther

Jordi Cruyff re­turned home to Barcelona on Fri­day, the first an­niver­sary of his fa­ther Jo­han’s death. The for­mer Barcelona, Manch­ester United, Celta Vigo, Alaves and Es­panyol player ex­pressed his de­light that Barcelona’s new re­serve team sta­dium, which will be built by the train­ing ground on the out­skirts of the city, will take his fa­ther’s name.

He is also pleased that a statue of the leg­endary Dutch­man, who played for and man­aged Barca, win­ning 13 tro­phies, will be erected at Camp Nou.

“If my fa­ther was to be in any place he would want to be in the academy, in that last step be­fore the first team, so he would have been very happy about this,” Jordi said.

Jordi has rep­re­sented his fam­ily with dig­nity when talk­ing about his fa­ther, but has also im­pressed when talk­ing about foot­ball in gen­eral. He is in­tel­li­gent and thought­ful in in­ter­views and thinks deeply about the game, like his fa­ther.

A pure foot­ball man, he has clear ideas and prin­ci­ples about how the game should be played and has not been afraid to stand up for those.

He has played for man­agers he be­lieved in, even if it took him to un­con­ven­tional clubs in­clud­ing Alaves and Me­talurh Donetsk.

Jordi was a tal­ented player who al­ways stood out in train­ing, even at Manch­ester United. He of­ten out­shone his peers in pre-sea­son, start­ing the sea­son well be­fore pick­ing up an in­jury or fad­ing.

“I’m like a bear,” he told this writer. “I sleep in the win­ter and I’m wide-awake and hun­gry in the sum­mer. I al­ways got in­jured in Novem­ber. The win­ter months were al­ways dif­fi­cult in a phys­i­cal and strong league like Eng­land and that’s when things would go wrong.”

Home­sick for Barcelona, he was put in hous­ing “sur­rounded by older peo­ple a long way from the city cen­tre” when he lived in Manch­ester.

Then he wanted to live in its city cen­tre when no foot­ballers did. Now, many, in­clud­ing Pep Guardi­ola, do just that.

Jordi was also think­ing about his fu­ture and en­rolled on a post­grad­u­ate mar­ket­ing course in Manch­ester to fol­low up the busi­ness mar­ket­ing man­age­ment course he had com­pleted while a first-teamer at Barca.

His in­ten­tion was to work in the Pre­mier League as a sport­ing di­rec­tor.

In­stead, he has filled that role for Mac­cabi Tel Aviv in Is­rael for the past four years. Mac­cabi have won three of the past four league ti­tles and qual­i­fied for the Uefa Cham­pi­ons League group stage last sea­son.

With his fam­ily an­chored in Barcelona, he has worked in seven coun­tries and speaks five lan­guages.

Be­ing Jo­han’s son has been a bless­ing and a curse for Jordi. He once walked into the show­ers at Camp Nou to over­hear two big-name play­ers talk­ing.

“I saw one give the sig­nal to the other to be quiet,” he re­called. “Even­tu­ally, I said, ‘Look, if you have a prob­lem go and speak to him [Jo­han], it’s noth­ing to do with me’.

“I had to be ul­tra care­ful. If I was mates with a player then we couldn’t be seen so­cial­is­ing in public, be­cause the me­dia would have thought that the player was try­ing to get in my – and there­fore my dad’s – good books.

“It wasn’t an easy po­si­tion be­cause if a player is not play­ing, they will search for any ex­cuse.”

Jordi claims he learnt a lot from the ex­pe­ri­ence.

“It ac­tu­ally changed my per­son­al­ity,” he said “I used to be very ex­tro­vert, but I be­came quiet, se­ri­ous and I would re­treat in­side my­self.

“There’s not a lot of things that can get to me nowa­days, I can over­come things quickly.” His life ex­pe­ri­ences have served him well as a sport­ing di­rec­tor, where he is the con­duit be­tween the club owner and the first-team man­ager, with re­spon­si­bil­ity for which play­ers are signed.

Early this sea­son, he put him­self in charge of a strug­gling team. Eight wins and a draw later, he sacked him­self to re­turn to be­ing sport­ing di­rec­tor.

The first Cata­lan to legally be reg­is­tered with the name Jordi dur­ing the Franco era, when Cata­lan names were banned, Cruyff’s stock in Cat­alo­nia is ris­ing. Af­ter his fa­ther stopped coach­ing in 1996, he held power with­out a po­si­tion and all prospec­tive club pres­i­dents would court Jo­han.

Jordi does not wield the same power, but when Barcelona are next look­ing for a sport­ing di­rec­tor, they could do worse than look at a man with Jordi’s con­tacts, ex­pe­ri­ence, prin­ci­ples and pedi­gree.

Su­sanna Saez / EPA

Jordi Cruyff is fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of Dutch player and man­ager Jo­han, in whose mem­ory Barcelona will name a new sta­dium for their B team.

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