Dutch Soccer Legend Johan Cruyff Leaves Role as Advisor at Ajax
From 1964 to 1983, Johan Cruyff played 369 matches with AFC Ajax and scored 271 goals. Players with the football club have notched more appearances (603, the remarkable tally attained by forward Sjaak Swart) and scored more goals (Piet van Reenen’s record of 273), but arguably no footballer has had quite the impact on Ajax that Cruyff has. After retiring from professional soccer, Cruyff managed Ajax for a time, from 1985 to 1988. He returned as an advisor in 2011 and has been a part of the football club, in some capacity, ever since, but last week the news broke that Johan Cruyff leaves role as advisor at Ajax.
It looks like the 68-year-old Dutchman’s long and impressive journey with the Lancers has officially come to a close. On Monday, November 16th, Cruyff announced that he was quitting his advisory role with AFC Ajax. The announcement came via his weekly column in the De Telegraaf newspaper, where Cruyff wrote, “For years and years now I see that the essential points of my vision are being ignored at Ajax.” He went on to criticize the executives and boardroom leadership at Ajax, implying that the business side of the soccer club has tarnished the sporting legacy of the team.
While there was a glimmer of hope in Johan’s column that the Ajax legend could one day return to the club once more. (“I hope that we can make Ajax like Ajax again. Maybe by buying all the shares or something,” he mused in one segment of the column.) However, it certainly sounds like Cruyff is done with the Lancers in their current state.
A Tough Season
It’s been a sad fall for fans of Johan Cruyff. In addition to his decision to step down at Ajax, the Dutch
football legend announced in late October that he had been diagnosed with lung cancer. Cruyff was known to be a heavy smoker throughout his youth and his entire professional soccer career, reportedly smoking 20 cigarettes a day on average. He gave up smoking in 1991, following a double heart bypass surgery. He was the coach at FC Barcelona at the time.
The good news is that, in his column announcing his departure from Ajax, Cruyff gave a positive update on his health condition. “In the meantime, I have finished the first treatment of my illness and I have not suffered any backlashes,” he wrote. “We are on the way and fortunately football keeps my mind off things.” It’s heartening to see that, even after being let down by the club that he so long called home, Johan remains an utmost fan of the game.
A Massive Legacy
Even if his days as player, manager, and advisor are over, Johan Cruyff has clearly left quite a mark on the soccer world. In their announcement about his lung cancer, CNN called Johan “arguably the greatest footballer to have hailed from Europe.”
He’s certainly worthy of the praise. Between his play and management careers, Cruyff has been behind many titles and memorable achievements. In his initial stint with the Lancers, from 1964 to 1973, the football club won six Eredivisie titles, including three consecutive victories from 1966 to 1968. Ajax also won three consecutive European Cups (now the Champions League) from 1971 to 1973. When Johan returned to Ajax for the 1981 – 1982 and 1982 – 1983 season, the Lancers won the national title two more times.
As a player, Cruyff was also a part of domestic title victories at Barcelona and Feyenoord. He led the Netherlands national team to a runner-up finish in the 1974 World Cup, winning the Golden Ball for his efforts. Throughout his career, Johan also picked up other individual awards, including three Ballon d’Or prizes and three Dutch Footballer of the Year awards.
As a manager, Johan didn’t win any Eredivisie titles with the Lancers but did help the soccer club to several national cup victories and one UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup title. Despite his deeper ties with the Lancers, Cruyff actually had more success coaching FC Barcelona, leading the soccer club to four consecutive La Liga victories.