We’re getting to the end of the football-less season… We have had Germany start already and the Italians, Spanish and English will start soon as well… And at some stage, our Oranje will come back as well… Here is part 2 of the KNVB-Cruyff debable. We read in Part 1 how the WC1990 was sabotaged by Michels and the KNVB. Four years later, the call for Cruyff as coach was heard loudly, yet again…
“The KNVB thinks that anyone can win at a World Cup? First, in 1990 they select a different coach than the one the players asked for. And now this…”, as said by Johan Cruyff.
After the 1990 World Cup debacle, Rinus Michels takes the reigns again for the EC1992 in Sweden, with Dick Advocaat as his assistant. A new generation of talent emerges (Witschge brothers, De Boer brothers, Roy, Winter, Bergkamp, Jonk) while the 1988 champs slowly disappear. Van Basten wouldn’t make it to the World Cup 1994, due to injuries, but Koeman, Wouters, Rijkaard and Gullit are still keen.
When Oranje gets closer to qualifying for the World Cup in the US, in 1994, the KNVB feels pushed to talk to Cruyff and use everything they can to be able to cut Cruyff loose again. When the KNVB wants to talk to Cruyff for the role, they plan to do this in the run up to the Clasico, the big match vs Madrid. Cruyff declines the meeting invite. On another suggested date, Johan had already plans to do something with his daughter and again, declines.
Chairman Jos Staatsen finally gets the time to see JC and returns to the Netherlands with a sobering statement. “I don’t think Johan wants the job. He wants to be paid the same wage as Barcelona pays him now, which is way out of budget and he also wants his own staff, which is non-negotiable to us.”
Yes, you read it right. In a time when coaches bring multiple staff members in their entourage (assistants, scouts, physios, video-analysts, specialised coaches) it is weird to see that the KNVB strongly objected to Cruyff wanting to bring two assistants and 1 scout (Tonny Bruins Slot). The KNVB had cushion jobs for the likes of Bert van Lingen and others and they protected their in-house staff to the death. As for the salary situation: JC was on 1 million guilders per annum at Barca and said: “If I have to invest time and energy into this, I want the equivalent per month (and it would be two months in total – JR) as I will not be receiving that from my club in those two months.”
In December 1993, the KNVB decided to give Dick Advocaat the job. The end result, we all know. Ruud Gullit and Advocaat clashed and Gullit walked away. The clash was about tactics. Gullit knew (as almost everyone did, except for the Dutch federation) that there would be a very hot summer in the US. Oranje would play its games partly in Florida. Hot and humid. Gullit had his entourage of medical experts who all told him: it would be tough to play a high-paced, dominant game of football. And: they suggested a training period at height. Gullit wanted to discuss tactics with Advocaat and play the AC Milan style of football (compact 4-4-2) instead of the typical 4-3-3. Gullit didn’t get his way and realised Advocaat would not have a spot for him in his 4-3-3.
Advocaat returned home with Oranje after losing the knock out game vs Brazil, 2-3, in a mediocre campaign. Advocaat claimed to be proud of his accomplishments…
KNVB chair Staatsen
This is the interview from 1994 with Cruyff…
On December 19, both you and Pele were shifted to the side lines by the respective football federations….
“Can you believe it? This was for different reasons, but it’s weird. He really did all he could to put football on the map in the US and if I have to believe the letters I receive at Barcelona, people are on the edge of their seat when we play…”
You think you play the best football on the planet, right?
“Well no, I wouldn’t claim that, but if I look at the 1000 letters I receive per week, at least 50 of these are about the Orange Machine of 1974. The Maquina Naranja is still a thing in Spain and people relive this with Barca now. We may not have won in 1974, but we made an impression alright!”
So why was it that the federation seems to fight you?
“I don’t know how they think. They say that I ask for too much money. I heard that 914 sponsors have said: we will help pay his fee! But it doesn’t have anything to do with money, of course. My fee would be 75,000 guilders. That is 2% of the total budget. The second problem was the sponsor for the kits. The KNVB has Adidas, I wear my own brand, and I will never not wear my own brand. Simple. I’ve been wearing my brand for 20 years now. That is contractual on my end as well. I can’t imagine Adidas trying to change that, because they know me too. I wouldn’t wear a trainings kit along side the pitch anyway, so what are we talking about? And they want me to win the World Cup with a team of people I never worked with… How does that work?”
Wasn’t there another issue, with sponsoring?
“Oh yes, I told the KNVB I don’t want any money or additional payments for sponsoring activities and as a result, I will also not be part of any commercial activities around this circus. I won’t be doing photo shoots for sausages or toilet paper.”
JC with on the far left Tonny Bruins Slot, master scout
Was this the big clincher, at the end of the day?
“No idea. I had a very good understanding with Staatsen initially. He was open to all I brought in. And the sponsoring stuff… Listen, the Federation might see this World Cup as a perfect commercial opportunity to get new sponsors or do PR. Brilliant. But not with me. I am not going there as a business guy! I am there to win the tournament and my job needs to be completely separated from the ones who go there for a party of a business event! They need that outside world, to exist. I don’t. I need my team. I also told them that I don’t want any official and / or sponsor in the players hotel. That would result in chaos.”
And Jos Staatsen was ok with all of this?
“Sure. He is an organisational design professional. He got it. But he is not the boss. You see, in Spain, when you deal with the President, you know you get what he tells you you’ll get. But in Holland, Staatsen was the chairman, but not the man in charge.”
So the power behind the throne blocked you?
“I think some people had a fright. They worked four years for this and now the new coach might decide to not take them. But I never said I don’t want any one of them. In particular Dick Advocaat would be welcome. I respect him and I think he did an amazing job so far. He could have had any role he wanted. Scout, field coach, whatever. Up to him. He would not have been in my way.”
Maybe the KNVB felt they could do it without you?
“Sure. And why not. But you need to have a certain mentality. They were all talking about “lets hope we survive the group stages…” And I’m totally different. I say: I want Argentina, Brazil and Germany in the group. So we can get rid of two major forces. Listen, I would have many reasons not to want this. The pressure, the ridicule when I don’t make it past the group, the impact on my health, a lot of people in my circle told me: “Don’t do it!” But I would have gone for the gold. I think this team has it in them. For 10 players it is their last chance. Most players have trophies, have money in the bank and are now keen to get this ultimate prize… Like Gullit.”
Winning the double with Feyenoord (and Gullit and Joop Hiele)
So Gullit would have been part of your squad?
“For sure. And Van Basten. Everyone says: He can’t play at the World Cup. I say he can! The KNVB thinks differently to me. They want two friendlies in March, versus Scotland… I am not sure why? I don’t need it. Why do I need to practice. These are all top players, who know how to play. All I need to do is find the right system, pick the right players for that system and then get in their heads.”
Wouldn’t it be tough to build this in 6 weeks?
“No? Why? I have worked with about 16 of these lads. They know what I want. I was not in a hurry. 6 weeks would be enough. It’s a bit sad. I did have my dreams about this World Cup you know. The first game Oranje plays in Washington is in the stadium where I played my last march and Oranje’s final game (the finals) is in the stadium where I made my debut in the US. I would have gone full circle…”
Your first response on Studio Sport seemed quite relaxed and complacent. “Whatever”.
“Well, yes. I said, if they want another, they should appoint another. It’s that simple. I don’t care. I am all for the result. I don’t care about politics or whatever. I have a strong relationship with people on the basis of mutual respect. People like Wim Jansen, Frank Rijkaard, Van Basten… I had so many conflicts with them. Dozens of clashes. But we respect each other’s qualities. I feel blessed with their friendship and respect, that is all I need. I don’t need the reverence of some official at a sponsor or a football association.”
Cruyff with two of his prodigal sons, Ronald Koeman and Michael Laudrup
So now you will never get the biggest prize of all…
“Hmmm, it’s not though. I won so many prizes but the biggest one is the claim that this Barcelona plays the best football on the planet. That is my biggest prize.”
Would Oranje have won the title with you?
“You can never claim this. But it was a possibility, yes. But you can always lose a match…”