Visionary, philosopher and mathematician on the pitch, Johann Cruyff was one of the greatest footballers Europe produced.

Not only was he a balletic genius on the pitch, Cruyff also had a knack for moulding simple statements into outstanding quotes. With the tragic news of him passing away coming through, here is a look at some of his wittiest quotes and an attempt to unravel their meaning.

“If I wanted you to understand it, I would have explained it better.” 

This line alone justifies dedicating an entire blog to the Dutch maestro’s quotes. Cruyff had a sometimes insufferable know-it-all personality which was evident both on and off the pitch. Even after retiring, Cruyff retained his tendency to make outspoken comments. He was also cocky and perhaps busy enough to not care to explain them for the benefit of an audience.

“People who are not of my level can’t affect my integrity.”

Cruyff was one of the all-time greats. And he knew it. Self-belief played a significant role in his outstanding career that made him into an immortal figure in Dutch football and Barcelona, as is evident from this quote where his confidence may seem to be bordering on arrogance.

But perhaps this is also a life lesson on how to deal with rampant and non-constructive criticism. He knew how good he was, and did not let himself get affected by what people ‘lesser’ than him had to say. A lion does not lose sleep over a sheep’s opinion.

“The most difficult thing about an easy match is to make a weak opponent play bad football.”

Modern football is littered with examples of technically inferior opponents dropping deep and lining up near their box, minimising the chances for error, and urging their superior opponents to break them down. As Jose Mourinho puts it, the more your opponents have the ball, the more are the chances of them making a mistake. Taking such an opposition for granted has often come to haunt technically superior sides.

Cruyff, offers the mantra to break down such opponents in the above lines. Relentless attack with total focus, he prescribes.

“What is speed? The sports press often confuses speed with insight. See, if I start running slightly earlier than someone else, I seem faster.”

Cruyff was like a mathematician on the pitch. And when he made an observation, it was usually hard to dispute it. Here, what he probably means is that insight on the pitch can make up for a lack of speed, but speed can never make up for lack of insight.

He was not the quickest of the lot, but was definitely technically and intellectually head and shoulder above his competitors, which ultimately made him go down in history as the best attacker of his generation.

 “Every disadvantage has its advantage.”

How many times have we seen teams go down to 10 men and coming back to win, playing better than they were with 11 on the pitch? The opponents take them for granted, which often results in a surge in their confidence instead of a dip.

The old adage in football “1 goal is a dangerous lead” rings true.

A classic quote that can be used for motivation in any circumstance, Cruyff could play with words just as well as he did with the ball on the pitch.

“I barely ever make mistakes because I have trouble with being mistaken.”

Cruyff rarely made mistakes. His attention to detail and analytic ability combined with his technical skills made him one of the greatest footballers of all time. But, statements like the one above show just how driven he was to attain and maintain excellence.

“Before I make a mistake, I don’t make that mistake.”

This quote simply means that Cruyff was cautious not to make the same mistake twice.

Cruyff probably bamboozled his audience with this quote like the Swedish defender that was on the receiving end of the very first ‘Cruyff turn.’

“Playing football is very simple, but playing simple football is the hardest thing there is.”

“Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains,” Steve Jobs seems to be echoing Cryuff’s words.

Cruyff’s Barcelona taught us that the hardest thing to do is to master a complex thing and then make it look simple. It was this philosophy that gave birth to the tiki-taka on display at the Camp Nou since the 90s.

“Quality without results is pointless. Results without quality is boring.”

Cruyff’s philosophy, as it comes through in this quote, was a beautiful marriage between pragmatism and idealism. Cruyff was never one to settle, and perhaps that was why he managed to leave behind an indelible mark.

“In a way I’m probably immortal.”

He truly is. Thank you and rest in peace, Johann.

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