For several reasons, it can be said that Cruyff had more influence on the latest edition of El Clasico than anyone that donned the crest of the Catalan club during the game
Despite the world-wide coverage of El Clasico, arguably the biggest match of the season for both Barcelona and Real Madrid, there was something far more important than football present in the minds of Barcelona players, staff, and fans alike. On March 24th, Barcelona legend Johan Cruyff sadly fell asleep in death and, deservedly, the Catalan club decided to honour the memory of their hero in style.
For several reasons, it can be said that Cruyff had more influence on the latest edition of El Clasico than anyone that donned the crest of the Catalan club during the game. Johan Cruyff was a catalyst for Barcelona’s current greatness. Back in the early 1970s, Barcelona were far less successful than the major club known today.
As long as there has been football, some clubs seem to be simply trapped in a rut of relative failure. Barcelona was one of those clubs and had been since its beginning. Meanwhile, Johan Cruyff was climbing the ranks in his native Netherlands. Spurred by disagreements with Ajax management, Cruyff insisted on being transferred to Barcelona.
At a time when El Clasico was a regular assured beating for the Catalan club, The Flying Dutchman literally changed the game forever. When Johan Cruyff found himself wearing the Barcelona kit in 1973, his skill and influential presence gave the club the hope and man-power necessary to finally be a competitive opponent for the dominant Real Madrid.
In the 1990s, Cruyff returned to Barcelona, this time as a coach, and led the club to European glory. Largely due to his leadership and clear attacking ethos, Barcelona became the indomitable club that strikes fear into the hearts of opponents today.
During Saturday's El Clasico, there were various efforts to pay homage to Johan Cruyff. Barcelona players had the brief yet powerful message Gracies Johan printed on the front of their shirts, and fans were given placards that, when held up in unison, displayed a breath-taking mosaic with the same message of tribute. A video of Cruyff’s greatest moments was played on the stadium screens. The mascots who accompanied the players out of the tunnel wore the logo of Johan Cruyff’s charity on their shirts. As a sportsmanly gesture, Real Madrid also obliged to have its mascots don the logo.
Within the Barcelona family, there is a strong movement to do even more to remember the important Dutch figure. In fact, some key figures of the Blaugrana community actually feel that Cruyff should have received more recognition for his former club while living. As Barca's outspoken right-back Dani Alves expressed: “I think that for a homage to a person as great as Cruyff, there’s no need to wait until they die…The Camp Nou homage felt short compared to how great he has been for this club.”
According to surveys, fans would support efforts to make the FC Barcelona stadium, currently called Camp Nou, Cruyff’s namesake. Unfortunately, sponsor agreements that include naming rights could make this gesture financially impossible. Some have speculated that the club could find a compromise by naming the Nou Miniestadi, the currently under construction stadium where Barcelona’s junior players will eventually play, after Cruyff.
Cruyff will inevitably remain a huge part of Barcelona’s history and, in some capacity, should become a permanent part of one of the club’s stadiums -- the absolute least the board should do in order to play tribute to the man that changed the club's destiny forever.
By Marissa Blackman, columnist at Barcablog.