history | 2016-11-12
How Johan Cruyff influenced Juventus
Revealing how the legendary Dutchman made his mark on the Italian club and one of their greatest players
May 30th, 1973.
Juventus reaches the final of a UEFA Competition for the first time in their history. La Madama had previously reached the final of a continental competition on only two occasions. They had lost their two finals in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup to Ferencvaros in 1965 and Leeds United in 1971. In 1971, Juve’s iconic owner, Gianni Agnelli appointed club legend Giampiero Boniperti as the President. Two years later they would encounter the greatest team of their generation in the European Cup final. The most coveted Italian team were beaten by Johan Cruyff’s Ajax 1-0 in Belgrade.
It would take four more years for Juve to reach another final of a UEFA Competition. By this time, they had parted ways with two coaches and had sought the services of Giovanni Trapattoni. Il Trap, one of the only seven men in footballing history to have won the European Cup as a player and coach, left Milan for Turin after having guided the Rossoneri to a third placed finish behind Torino and Juve. The Milanese tactician had himself faced off against Cruyff in the 1969 European Cup final and annulled him to help the Diavoli win 4-1 over Ajax.
If there were ever two people that were so similar and yet so different, it would be Trap and Cruyff. The Italian like the Dutchman was fiery, outspoken and inflexible. Trap also stressed on work rate, discipline and always liked to be in control of things in and off the pitch. However, as a player the Lombardy native adopted the role of destroying the source of creativity from the likes of Johan. Trap would also never compromise results to style, which is the polar opposite of Cruyff’s philosophy. But in 1976, it would be one of Cruyff’s creations that would pay dividends to Trapattoni’s 10 year triumphant spell in Piedmont.
Despite Rinus Michels coaching Ajax, Total Football is believed to be the creation of Cruyff. According to Dutch journalist Jaap de Groot, Cruyff’s teammates and opponents recognized Total Football as the Dutchman’s creation. Cruyff is believed to have developed it in order to get his teammates more involved in play by constantly changing positions with them and guarding himself from regularly being kicked by his markers. It is this creation that Trap would employ to win 13 trophies in a decade and become the coach to win most silverware at a single Italian team in a single spell.
And so in 1976, Trap would need to build a team around players that would adopt Cruyff’s philosophy. With Claudio Gentile and Antonello Cuccureddu, he found two fullbacks that were technically good on the ball and were capable to join the attack when going forward. He also signed Antonio Cabrini from Atalanta in order to slowly develop him to take up the role of the aging Cuccureddu. The three of them would be instrumental in attacking, especially Cabrini. Cabrini regularly notched assists and became the club’s all-time goal scoring defender with 52 goals.
One of the most pivotal players for Trap would be a certain libero called Gaetano Scirea. Cruyff needed Ruud Krol in his team to bring the ball out of defence. Cruyff later needed Ronald Koeman to be a ball playing defender, one that is technically superior, able to launch attacks and find himself in goal scoring positions. With Scirea, Trap had his secret weapon to control the tempo of the game without having to play further forward. Scirea’s intelligence, calmness and elegance saw him take risks from the back but exceed regularly with such ease to devastating effect for his opponents. France Football would publish an article upon his retirement, claiming that he was better than Alfredo Di Stefano, Pelé and Cruyff himself.
The fundamentals were laid and in his first season at Juve, Trap would become their first ever coach to win a European trophy. Despite a struggle in a two legged UEFA Cup final in 1977 against Athletic Bilbao, La Madama cruised to glory in the competition after dispatching both the clubs from Manchester, Shakhtar Donetsk, Magdeburg and AEK Athens comfortably. They would also add their 17th Scudetto a few days later after winning the UEFA Cup and subsequently win the domestic double. They would add three more Scudetti and a Coppa in five years. However, they were underperforming in continental competition. They had reached the semifinals of European Cup only once in addition to one semis in the Cup Winners’ Cup, in five years. Trap lacked his very own Cruyff to take his team to another level. Trap needed a genius, a superstar and a magician that can decide any game on his own at any point.
Towards the end of the 1981/1982 season, the triad of Agnelli, Boniperti and Trapattoni would secretly accomplish a tough task of signing Michel Platini from St. Etienne by merely paying a compensation fee. Platini himself, was a huge Cruyff fan and he idolized the Dutchman when he was still donning the colours of Ajax. Cruyff had made an everlasting impression on the Frenchman that would later develop a strong bond for life between the two of them. Platini was a believer in Cruyff’s principles, and Johan was his hero. From smoking at halftime to emphasizing on an attacking brand of football, Le Roi looked to emulate his idol in any way.
Perhaps, Platini represented the best of Cruyff and Trap. He wanted to play an entertaining style of football but also had an incredible hunger to win. This would reap benefits for Juve as Platini would score 104 goals and assist 100 in just 224 games winning two Scudetti and one Coppa. It is in the continental stage where Platini truly made a difference for Juve. Juve finally ended their long elusive search for the European Cup, albeit in tragic circumstances in the final. In addition to the European Cup, the Bianconeri also won the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, Super Cup and Intercontinental Cup, all in the space of just 2 years.
Trapattoni had become the first and to date, the only coach ever to win all UEFA competitions at club level. Platini won 3 successive Ballon d’Or and became the first ever player to do so. Juve received the an award from UEFA for winning all its competitions at club level. Juve had dominated Europe and become the greatest team of its era. Trapattoni would leave Juve in 1986 after adding another Scudetto and losing out to Barcelona in the European Cup, with a young Pep Guardiola witnessing it as a ball boy. Juve enchanted Guardiola and Pep admired Platini in the same way as Michel adored Cruyff. Platini would retire a year later and for eight more years, La Madama would endure its darkest phase of the 20th century post 1950s.
As destiny would have it, Trap did return to Juve in 1991 for three more years and worked with the same Cruyff principles. He added another UEFA Cup and almost took a largely inferior Juve side to a near Scudetto victory against Milan’s greatest ever era. But, he had laid the foundations for Marcello Lippi to work with. Lippi would also use the same principles and dominate Europe in the club’s second most successful cycle. From one Tuscan to another, Massimiliano Allegri would succeed Lippi in becoming their first coach to guide Juve to the Champions League final, since the 2006 World Cup winner.
Allegri crossed paths repeatedly to be on the receiving side of another Cruyff’s creation, emphasis on La Masia. The 2015 Champions League final was his most recent loss to products of Barca’s youth system that was put in motion over a decade back. Cruyff’s focus on Barca’s B team led the Blaugrana president, Joan Laporta to put more focus on youth development. From Lionel Messi to Sergio Busquets, Guardiola and others coaches would directly benefit from Cruyff’s ideology.
It is this ideology that has pushed Juve to create a La Masia of their own. Juve CEO, Giuseppe Marotta promised upon his arrival, that La Vecchia Signora will adopt the Barca way of developing youth. It has taken 6 years amid difficult circumstances, but it seems to be finally showing fruition. The likes of Fabrizio Caligara and Moises Kean are all ready to make the big jump. The two of them have recently been called up on multiple occasions to the senior squad for game days. With the club enduring it’s best ever domestic cycle, these two jewels and a few more could take the Torinese club to even greater heights.
From Trapattoni to Lippi, Platini to Marotta, Cruyff’s principles have directly been influential to Juve. As a Juventino myself, I can only thank JC for blessing the world with his ideology. Cruyff’s legacy will always go on, at least at Juve.
Gracies Johan, rest in peace.
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