Cruyff was regarded, throughout his career, as one of the world's most gifted footballers. He became a legend long before his retirement as a player in 1982. At 17 he made his debut for Ajax
, and at 19 a goalscoring debut for his country.
onto the world soccer scene at the dawn of 'Total Football' in the early 1970's. Playing as a center forward, he re-defined the requirements expected from a modern day frontman. He could be found dropping back into midfield, or just as easily would appear on the wings using his pace and speed of thought to torment
approach to the game helped Ajax become the major European footballing force. They lifted the European Cup
in 1971 and retained the trophy a year later, with Cruyff scoring both goals against Italian giants Inter Milan in a 2-0 Final victory. He completed a hat-trick of triumphs in 1973. They were inspired by Cruyff, whose overall performances were acknowledged with the European Footballer of the Year Award on no less than three occasions.
He was the most sought after player of his generation, a host of top clubs begged for his signature. He moved to Barcelona
during the 1973-74 season for a world record transfer fee of £922,000 and immediately helped them lift the Spanish Championship.
Later that year, he captained Holland to the World Cup
Final. Despite going ahead, it ended in disappointment with defeat at the hands of West Germany
, but victories in previous rounds against Uruguay
had signalled a new era in modern football.
Holland reached the Final again in 1978, by which time Cruyff had announced his retirement from International football and headed across the Atlantic
to the United States
. He appeared for the Los Angeles Aztecs of the North American Soccer League
, picking up the Most Valuable Player
Award, before heading East to play for the Washington Diplomats in 1980. He returned home to Holland in 1981, winning Championship medals with Ajax
and by 1984 had embarked on a blossoming career as a coach.