No, I’m not referring to Appie Nouri, the brilliant young Ajax midfielder who hopes to get his first start for Ajax 1 soon. When he was 11 years old, the analists in Holland called him “the new Cruyff”. He might be, who knows. Like JC, he’s tiny and thin. But has wonderful vision and the same bravado. But, we said it many times about many players, so let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
I’ve got a brilliant piece here on the real Johan, thanks to the VI magazine.
But before that, prelim squad was announced (as was posted already) with an interesting return to the squad for Stijn Schaars.
Danny Blind: “I have kept the prelim squad limited to 22 players. We have many players returning from injuries and I want to check their progress before I can make definitive decisions. It wouldn’t make sense to get a 30 man prelim squad up, knowing some of them won’t be even on the radar for the Belgium/Luxembourg meetings.”
There are several question marks, with Jeroen Zoet, Jasper Cillesen, Jetro Willems, Daryl Janmaat, Leroy Fer, Steven Berghuis, Quincy Promes, Arjen Robben, Eljero Elia and Bart Ramselaar returning from injuries or just returned from injury.
Kevin Strootman is suspended and won’t be part of the squad. Blind has decided to replace the midfield leader with another seasoned player. We do have Daley Blind and Jordy Clasie for the role of course, but Daley hasn’t played there for ages and will most likely be needed in defence. Wijnaldum has played there, Ramselaar could play there but Blind will not through Ramselaar in that position untested, while Gini is doing well in a more box to box role. Bazoer might have been the ideal player for the role but he hasn’t seen action for many weeks.
Stijn Schaars is the perfect choice. When he left PSV, he decided to play “at a lower level” with Heerenveen, as he wanted to get more playing time. Well, the “lower level” is now with PSV, as Heerenveen is flying under new coach Jorgen Streppel and takes the 3rd position on the table, with PSV on 4th. Schaars is the conductor in midfield. Hardly misplacing a pass, directing the game, pacing the game and kicking off the pressing. One of the outstanding players in the Dutch league at the moment and a perfect Oranje player: experience, discipline, communication skills and flexible.
Schaar had to be texted by Blind, as he didn’t have Danny’s number in his mobile. Blind called him three times to invite him and three times Schaars decided not to pick up. Schaars: “I hardly pick up when I can’t recognise the number and let it go to voice mail. When the coach sent a text with “This is Danny Blind. Please call me” I realised I better make that call.
I’ll keep you posted on progress around Oranje, as will our fellow blog guests of course.
Also, Robin van Persie has been celebrated and honoured for his 100+ caps for Oranje. The KNVB has made another big blunder by sending the medal and the shield by mail. Fricking mail!! They could have gone to Istanbul and spend the evening over dinner. They could have invited Van Persie to the France home game! One of the biggest players of the last 10 years, and they fricking post him the presents for his benchmark. What a bunch of losers!
Now over to Johan Cruyff!
Seven months after his dad passed away, Jordi Cruyff was in the Netherlands. His Maccabi Tel Aviv won vs AZ in the Europa Leauge and he spent some time working on the Cruyff Foundation activities.
The interview takes place in Alkmaar, when Maccabi is doing their last training before the AZ game. Cruyff talks about his youth, growing up in Barcelona, while keeping one eye on his team. He has a keen eye, a quick tongue, a sharp mind and the ability to play chess on multiple boards. He didn’t get that from a stranger. It’s in the genes, went from father to son.
It is now seven months ago when his world famous dad died. Just before, he had visited Jordi in Israel. “I was so pleased with that. We have enjoyed being together and we discovered the wonderful city of Tel Aviv. I have been away from home more than 20 years. All those “normal” family gatherings were not normal for me. So I look back on this with a warm feeling. It sort of helped me to process all that happened.”
Johan Cruijff visited his son in Tel Aviv, mere weeks before he died. Maccabi ex-coach Peter Bosz is enjoying the banter.
So now, we have Johan Cruyff – My Turn. Interesting title, as it is Johan’s first autobiography (after many biographies) and it hints to the famous Cruyff move of course, the Cruyff Turn. Jordi read the Dutch version and is now reading the English edition. He will also read the book in Spanish. “I really like to see how the different translators worked with his words in different languages. His Cruyffian texts will be fun to read in an other language.”
Jordi also read things that are new for him. Like the details about the kidnap attempt on his dad in Barcelona, on September 19, 1977. This, so he learned, was the real reason why Johan decided to skip the 1978 World Cup in Argentina.
“My parents never spoke to us about that kidnap event. I think they wanted to keep it from us. He started to tell us only a year and a half ago. And the finer details, I had to read in this book. It clarified a lot! My mum was always blamed for my dad not going to the World Cup. But it wasn’t that at all. I now see things clearer. When I was young, I was never allowed to go on school trips and outings and if I wanted a sleepover my parents were always a bit cautious. They were probably afraid someone might try something. My parents were instructed by the police never to talk about this in public, as it might give other people ideas… I was also surprised to read a lot about his adventures in the US. That was quite impressive for him, apparently. I didn’t know this. This is why the book was very interesting for me. And of course, it’s brilliant that is ideas re: football have been made immortal for ever, haha.”
Pep Guardiola, Danny Cruyff and Jordi Cruijff at the presentation of the biography in London
The football part in the book has no secrets for Jordi. They discussed football all the time, in all fine details. And one word will be used a lot by Jordi, talking about his father: extreme! “A lot of coaches say they want to play dominant football, and attacking and attractive… These terms you hear a lot. But only a few can actually do it. You need big balls to push this through and some coaches will fold under pressure. You have to stick to your guns. Even if you lose four times in a row. My dad was extreme in that aspect. Nothing and no one could bring him off balance. You need a strong personality and guts. And you need some luck too.”Jordi thinks back to the insane season finale in 93/94 in Spain. Deportivo La Coruna was able to snatch the title up if they’d beat Valencia at home on the last match day. Barca did its job at home vs Sevilla. 5-2. It was 0-0 at Deportivo and they got a penalty kick in injury time. Dukic took it and choked. He missed and in Camp Nou, an explosion of joy erupted. “Quite incredible. And this you can’t practice. It’s luck. But, if you look for it, you’ll find it. If you don’t go for it, you won’t. And I saw it as a reward for my dad’s courage. He was extreme, if I check some of the line ups he used. How was that possible. He used a right winger as his left back, he had a midfielder who couldn’t run the 100 meters in 20 seconds and he used him as right back. And then Pep and Koeman together in the centre. But he got it to work.”With his gutsy football approach, Cruyff was able to bring a new identity to Barcelona three times. He did it as a player, from 1973 till 1978, as a coach, in the late 80s and in the naughties he did it as a consultant, strongly suggesting Rijkaard and then Guardiola to take the helm as a coach.
Jordi: “Don’t forget what the style was before my dad came here. Spanish football was defensive. Counter-style. Afraid not to lose. And then this Dutch guy comes along and says “Ok, we went from A to Z in the past, now we’ll go from Z to A!”. It is important to be able to change the mentality and get the belief from the players that they can do this. So he signed players from the North of Spain. Basque players are really disciplined team players. And he signed the ideal foreign players for the additional impetus and he picked youth players who wanted to believe in him. So you need a mix of iron discipline and frivolous talent. A lot of people claimed he was on a suicide mission, but he never ever doubted himself.”
“I have developed my own football vision. With strong influences of my dad of course. But I added my own ingredients. My dad was raised as a Dutch player and you saw that in his tactics: extreme possession, pressure high, using the wings for attacks. Typical Dutch. I grew up in Spain, so I have learned to play for results. Johan never cared if he lost, as long as the team gave what he want. I am more focused on the rest-defence, positioning and compact play and the 5 second ball recovery process. We had some good clashes over this.”
Barca coach Cruyff and future coach Pep instructing Popescu in 1995.
Jordi recognised a lot of his dad in former Tel Aviv coach Peter Bosz, now at Ajax. “Bosz is as extreme as my dad. Very ballsy and always looking for the positives. I loved working with him and I’m sad it was so brief. I am not surprised Ajax wanted him. Even more so, I knew when Frank de Boer would leave, Ajax would target Peter. So when De Boer left Amsterdam, I knew what was coming. And it was all done in a correct fashion. He’s doing well in Amsterdam, there was some criticism because of the results. A typical term I learned from Co Adriaanse, in Holland they are used to score-board journalism. If you lose, you’re wrong. If you win, you’re right. But that is not fair. Every coach needs time to go through the motions. And definitely with Peter Bosz: he wants to attack. Which requires extreme focus of his players as this playing style is tough. So, he needs time. Peter is the ideal Ajax coach, I have no doubts.”
Jordi is technical director at Maccabi since 2012 and they immediately ended their 10 year period of trophy-less football, with attractive play. Jordi likes coaches with guts, independent thinkers willing to take chances. “Barcelona has paved the way for many coaches and clubs to dare to play forward. You can play attractive and win trophies. My dad may have initiated that process, but coaches like Rijkaard and Guardiola added their qualities, like Tito and now Luis Enrique. Luis has improved the mental aspect of the game a lot at Barca. They are the benchmark for good football with results and funnily enough, with smaller players at the core. Xavi, Iniesta, Messi…those guys can do anything with the ball. They had a lot of impact on the way people think about football. If you have the ball, you don’t need to run too much. The opponent has to chase. That is logical, as my dad would say, but to be able to do this is another thing. And then stick to it.”