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
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.
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.