Death is inevitable. Sooner or later it catches up with everyone. On the 24th of March 2016, the Godfather of modern Barcelona, Hendrik Johannes Cruijff passed away after a battle with cancer. There was a massive outpouring of grief from all over the world at the demise of the Dutch master who revolutionised the game and footballers both past and present hailed his contributions towards the development of the game.
Cules will miss the three time Ballon d'Or winner who led Ajax to three European Cups and played a pivotal part in the Oranje's run to the World Cup final. Despite losing to West Germany in the final, the No.14 was awarded the "Player of the Tournament" for his heroic displays.
Cruyff decided to follow in the footsteps of former coach Rinus Michels and switched to Barcelona at a time when the club had been without a La Liga trophy for 14 years. In his very first season, he led the team to a domestic double and in the meanwhile thrashed rivals Real Madrid 0-5 at the Bernabeu. The Flying Dutch played for Barça for five excellent seasons before moving to the USA to end his career.
It was during a group-stage match against Sweden at the 1974 World Cup in Germany that
Cruyff would unveil the move that would come to bear his name. It was one of the finest moments of his career and is still remembered to this day. The "Ghost Goal" he scored against Atlético Madrid is also considered to be among the finest goals ever scored by any footballer.
His biggest achievement for the Catalans would, however, come as a manager. With a team filled with world-class stars and young academy products led by Pep Guardiola, Barça would go on to win their first ever European Cup and the team came to be known as the "Dream Team" -- changing the club's destiny forever.
One of his famous quotes goes like this: "Quality without results is pointless. Results without quality is boring." And he would strictly adhere to this policy throughout his managerial reign. The Dream Team was known for being an exponent of "Total Football", something which Cruyff himself had revolutionised as a player under Michels. Also, his determination to keep possession of the ball became vital, something even the current Barça team is known for.
"There is only one ball, so you need to have it." This quote highlights the importance of what controlling the game meant for the Dutchman. His slightly tweaked version of the Total Football of the 1970's would later be perfected by Guardiola and this Tiki Taka philosophy, the foundation of the greatest club side ever to grace the game.
Just remembering Cruyff as a player or manager won't do justice to his legacy. He was a visionary whose contributions to the game of football cannot be highlighted in an article or two. At the age of just 32, he proposed the idea of setting up a footballing academy which came to be known as La Masia. This is where the likes of Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi would receive their footballing education.
In an interview with RAC1 after the demise of his former mentor, Guardiola reiterated that the countless titles Cruyff won was not his legacy. Instead, the No.14 should be remembered for making Ajax and Barcelona footballing superpowers which also culminated in the rise of Netherland and Spain on the world stage -- a lasting legacy to be proud of.
Barcelona took to social media to convey their grief and opened a memorial space in the Camp Nou. Former President Joan Laporta was in tears during his time there, while Madrid president Florentino Perez also paid his respects. Not many people ever manage to make Cules and
Merengues agree on anything, but El Flaco obviously became one of the very few exceptions.
Fans from around the globe have proposed a number of ideas to honour their hero. Some have started a petition to rename the new Camp Nou as Estadi Johan Cruyff, which would be very fitting. Other suggestion includes retiring the No.14 shirt, erecting a statue of Cruyff at Camp Nou or perhaps erecting a Gate 14 in honour of Cruyff. It will be seen in the coming days what the club management decides to honour the figure who changed their history.
Although there is another way in which to immortalise the legacy of Cruyff. He was an ardent fan of playing football the beautiful way. "Playing football is very simple, but playing simple football is the hardest thing there is," he once said. And what better way to honour him then to continue playing football the simple, beautiful way. Barça must ensure not to deviate from the path shown by Cruyff if they are serious about honouring their hero.
Cruyff was a giant among legends. His contribution to football is unparalleled. Physically, he may not be with us anymore, but his memories will be with us forever.
Barça will be eternally indebted to the great Dutch master.