Why Cruyff never coached the NT, part 2

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…”

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  1. It was around this time that I had my first glimpse of the dutch team. Other wise the only word on everybodys lips at that time used to be brazil.Romario, bebeto were the two names that used to be buzzing in the streets. Really didnt know much about the the team as epl was the only football that we knew existed on tv at that time and plus serie A in newspapers because of Milan. it was later on when bergkamp arrived at Arsenal that I become orange fan favorite.

    Im not sure about how it would have turned out in 94 if crujff had been the coach but van basten was a big miss for the Dutch until kluivert popped up latter on. Not sure how good van vossen was at that time but he never looked like a killer striker like to that of baggio,Ramerio etc

    1990 could have been different like you said in part 1.

    1. These are two really good articles Jan, thank you for posting them.

      I remember 1994 pretty well. The qualifying was harrowing…Norway was a surprise and giving everyone fits; the NT fell behind 2-0 at Wembley, but managed to scramble back to a draw. It all came down to that huge win in Rotterdam, where Koeman opened the scoring with the deftest free kick from just outside the penalty area you’ll ever see, England missed a huge chance to tie moments later (and they only needed a draw), and Bergkamp finished it off with a typical class goal.

      In looking back, ’94 was a big miss, too.
      Even though the talent wasn’t what it was There weren’t any great, dominant teams at that WC, and it was there for the taking.

      The big disappointment was Gullit leaving the team. They had been doing well in the warmups, and he and Bergkamp could have been a great partnership…but, as pointed out in the article, it really was a team in transition; wasn’t close to the ’90 team in talent.

      Advocaat was changing the lineups from game to game. The mf was combative, but lacked pace and creativity. Rijkaard was older and carrying an injury; same with Wouters, who was given alot of defensive responsibility. Stan Valcx was playing with Koeman in the middle of defense, not the fastest pairing. Winter was actually playing right back. But Bergkamp was terrific and Overmars was dangerous, and the mf would dig in, and not give too much away. So even given their flaws, had they beaten Brazil they easily could have won that year.

      …and that Brazil game was something…they fell behind 2-0,(the second goal,huge controversy because the interpretation of a new offsides rule), but Bergkamp, of course, got them back into it, and then Winter tied it on a header off a corner kick, after a period of sustained Dutch pressure. Then they lost it late when Branco, after more controversy, scored on free kick.

      So, yes, I think Cruyff could have made a difference. Gullit would never have walked out, tactics would have been better, and he would have had the defense and mf more sorted out. Another missed opportunity. (Sigh)

  2. @Jan,

    Jan, you are the resident expert on Feyenoord. What do you know abut Lutsharel Geertruida? He is one of the nominees for the Golden Boy award.

    1. Sorry mate, for the late reply.

      Geertruida indeed is on the list as he was the replacement for the injured Karsdorp at RB at Feyenoord. i wouldn’t call him a terribly huge talent (like Dest is, and the Canadian lad at Bayern and Rick Karsdorp when he was younger). He’s on the list because he is young and shows promise.

      I think he could become a really good back but I don’t think he’ll be world class or NT material, in all honesty.

  3. Guys, do you know when Eredivisie will start? Based on my understanding there is no a definitive start date. However, I might be wrong.

  4. Looking at all other leagues which has commenced and with serie A also expected to return in Itlay who were the worst hit by COVID19, I must say KNVB made a hasty decision to end the eredivisie prematurely and themselves are on the losing end. Again the focus being on the player development especially those who were searching for more minutes to conslidate their status in their respective teams. ending the league also would have benefited the homegrown players supposedly if AZ would have gone to win the eredivisie and qualified directly for CL. With Ajax qualifying now directly with foreigners dominating the team shows the KNVB were happy to give them the free ticket without considering other avenues which could have been in the best interest of potential thriving players and teams like feyenoord who were closing the gap fast on both AZ and Ajax.

    I read somewhere sept 1 is date for restart of the league.but depending on the situation at hand for COVID.

  5. Setback for bosz as they were stunned by hertha berlin in a must win game for CL qualification. The fouth place decider will now go to last match day with Monchengladbach vs Hertha and leverkusan vs Mainz.

    Weghorst also scored twice for wolfburg taking is tally to 16 goals for the season and also booking their spot in europa league.klaassen and weder Bremen hanging second last on the table after the defeat.

    Im epl bergwijn scored for Tottenham. Ake and Groeneveld featured for bournemouth but lost to crystal palace and are in danger of relegation.van annholt with a assist. Riedewald was also a late sub to wind down the closing minutes. Feel sorry for this guy.

    El ghazi and villa also played out to 0-0 draw with Sheffield United. Zivkovic did not make the team. Goal line technology at its controversy again.

    Guus Til also came of the bench for Spartak Moscow.

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