Wembley has paid an emotional tribute to Johan Cruyff with England and Holland fans rising as one to remember the Dutch legend in the 14th minute of Tuesday’s international friendly.
In the hours leading up to kick-off at the home of English football, an image of the Barcelona icon was beamed on two big screens on either side of a tribute stating: ‘Johan Cruyff 1947-2016’.
Cruyff, who represented Holland 48 times as well as starring for Ajax and Barcelona during a glittering career, passed away last Thursday after his battle with cancer.
The creator of ‘Total Football’ achieved some of his greatest feats at Wembley. Cruyff won the first of his three European Cups at the hallowed London venue when Ajax defeated Panathinaikos in the 1971 final.
It was also at Wembley where Cruyff, as manager, led Barcelona to their first-ever European Cup in 1992.
There was also a minute’s silence before the game following last Tuesday’s terror attacks in Brussels in which at least 32 people were killed and 270 injured in suicide bombings at the airport and a Metro station. Roy Hodgson’s side wore black armbands for the match.
Southampton boss Ronald Koeman penned a personal tribute to Cruyff in the match-day programme, which was written before the 68-year-old’s death last week.
‘When I was a boy in the ’70s, Johan Cruyff was always on my mirror, you could say,’ wrote Koeman. ‘With Ajax he won the European Cup three years in a row and was never really out of view. In 1974 we went to the World Cup to see the Dutch team in West Germany where he was the captain and best player.
His intelligence was plain to see and as a player he was already a manager on the pitch. He was a very technically skilful player and he was strong tactically.
‘He was clever, he organised the team, opponents could not anticipate his attacking movements and he also scored goals. Normally attackers are selfish, focused on scoring goals, but he was looking after everything, deciding things on the pitch and giving instructions to the rest of the players.
‘He played for Barcelona and then went to America. When he finally came back to Holland and Ajax at the age of 34, his first game was against Haarlem and he scored a great goal, chipping the keeper from 20 metres. What a fantastic memory that is. All the expectation on him coming home and he rises to it and scores a wonderful goal.
We can celebrate his skill and cleverness but the most significant quality all the best players have is the ability to win big titles.
‘He won in Amsterdam and he won in Barcelona. It was a great pity Holland did not win against the Germans but we played attacking football and became famous for it. That was a legacy that became the tradition of the Dutch game.
‘His influence is alive at Ajax, throughout Dutch football and at Barcelona. He was the man who started Barcelona’s great football, that style they still have. Later on other coaches did the job even better than him but he was the man who started it all.’