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Highlights on Off The Ball


'He had to invent his own game' | Johan Cruyff's genius | Auke Kok

Legendary Dutch footballer Johan Cruyff created his own style of football, and that is what made him so good, according to his biographer Auke Kok.

Legendary Dutch footballer Johan Cruyff created his own style of football, and that is what made him so good, according to his biographer and football writer Auke Kok.

Cruyff is widely regarded as one of the greatest players in the history of the sport. He was one of the minds behind the introduction of Total Football in Holland, along with his manager Rinus Michels, and eventually became one of the world's greatest managers after his retirement.

However, in his youth there was speculation that he was not meant to be a professional footballer. As detailed in Kok's biography of the Dutch legend, Johan Cruyff: Always on the Attack, Cruyff was not built like the footballers of the time.

It was this different build, as well as his eye for football, that made him such a unique and wonderful footballer, according to Kok.

'He had to invent his own game'

Speaking on Tuesday's Football Show, Kok explained what drew him to write about the legendary Dutch forward.

"What struck me was that, first of all, he had to invent his own game," Kok said. "As a youth player he was too small, and too thin.

"He had a strange foot. A specialist had to come to Amsterdam to make a special shoe for him. He was nervous, tense and not disciplined enough etc.

"If you were to compare him to Ruud Gullit, he was big and smiling all the time and feeling easy and strong all the time. That was the opposite of Cruyff."

Kok felt that what made Cruyff so special was that he took his weaknesses and made them into positives.

"Cruyff had to overcome his incapacity almost," Kok said. "First he had to conquer himself before he could conquer the opponents.

"That's really what struck me. His weaker points made him or forced him to be a genius. He would jump around defenders, he had some kind of extra sense where the danger would come from.

"Like a deer in the woods, he would jump around. This development of using all the parts of his feet, and his thinking all came down from, in fact, seemingly not being shaped for pro sports. Out of that grew one of the most important sports people ever!"

'The solution is being smarter'

Cruyff was a different type of footballer to the opponents and teammates he came across in his day. He was not as physical nor was he as imposing as the other footballers in the 1960s-1980s.

However, Kok believes if it weren't for his need to outthink the more physical footballers around him, he may not have become the legendary player and manager that he became.

"That influenced his overall thinking about the game," Kok said. "He said, 'football is a game you play with your mind'. For Cruyff, it was always mind over body, mind over matter.

"That is how he looked at younger players. It was always his own character. He hardly ever talked about playing more passionate or having to run harder.

"It was always: 'We have to be smarter'. The solution is being smarter."

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