Five p.m. on that Sunday, Johan came in nicely dressed and changed Barça’s history. Short-sleeved shirt, the number 9 on his back, months waiting for the blessing to play, Barça in crisis, knocked out in the UEFA, second to last in La Liga, with four points and two negatives (negative points existed during that time) after six games. This Barça was a disaster. Cruyff arrived, took the reins and since that 28th of October in 1973, the team amassed 17 victories and six draws to conquer a Liga which eluded him for 14 years. Johan scored two goals in his debut against Granada and 14 more in the following games.

The Camp Nou regarded him as a miracle. Johan was a genius. Thirty years later, Ronaldinho produced a similar effect on the supporters, with his smile, his dribbles, his wonderful goal against Sevilla, his runs in the Bernabeu and his magic. But the one who changed history is Johan. Ronaldinho was a magician, Johan a genius. As a player, he never regained what he could do on his first year at Barça, but his best contribution wasn’t that, it was when he came back as a coach in 1988.

Few people acknowledge that Johan went through a deep change in his mentality. He was great as an artist, but his football philosophy was influenced by the English coaches he had been coached by in Netherlands (Vic Buckingham made him debut in Ajax in 1964). As a player, he believed that the English style was going to dominate the world. During his retirement, he questioned himself, came back to his origins (Jany Van der Veen was his maestro in the Ajax training center); he developed his knowledge and evolved. He came back to Barcelona with different ideas: domination of the ball, game organization around the ball, attack as a vocation and the foundation of the positional play. Johan developed it until it became the heart of the club: from the first team to the last one of the young teams. Cruyff brought a revolutionary idea in the world of football, in spite of the historical reticence of a club which didn’t have his own style and against the urgency of results.

His legacy as a technician enhanced the triumphs of the Dream Team. Although he never was able to intellectually express the concepts he was applying (others did it for him and with great results), his influence remained huge. Years later, Rijkaard and Guardiola in FC Barcelona (Luis Aragones and Vicente Del Bosque in the national team) sublimated that idea and reaped success that no one could have dreamt of. The influence of the genius was huge as a player but transcendent as a coach. A man with a thousand faults but without whom Barca wouldn’t be what it is today.

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Article translated from Spanish to English, originally published at the Perarnau Magazine. Martí Perarnau is one of Grup 14's partners.