Johan Cruyff is a sporting pioneer of ethical leadership

Sunil Sharma
Jun 11 · 3 min read

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

Johan Cruyff was not only one of the greatest footballers of all time but he later became a revolutionary manager. He won world player of the year three times as well as winning numerous trophies at both Ajax and Barcelona as a manager. After retiring as a player in 1984, he became a manager who would innovate football in a way that would lay down the foundations of coaching and philosophy for future generations. To this day, some of the best leaders in the world cite Cruyff’s management style as their biggest inspiration.

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Cruyff will always be remembered for his role in “Total Football” which was first used by his mentor Rinus Michels. It is a system where no player has a set role, so if a player moves out of his position, he is replaced with another player to retain that organisation. It aims to promote a strong team ethic, attacking football and versatility. Cruyff as a player was able to demonstrate this playing from deep in midfield to all the way up front as a forward. As a coach he adopted this philosophy and raised the standards even higher as he conquered Europe with both Barcelona and Ajax.He regarded football as a beautiful game with a huge emphasis on keeping things simple.

“Choose the best player for every position, and you’ll end up not with a strong XI, but with 11 strong 1’s.”

Cruyff’s overall values in both football and life can be seen from his “14 rules,” which are shown in every one of the 200 Cruyff Courts that have been set up across the globe. These 14 rules are vital for the players to follow but it also offers guidance for values in life. It is clear that these rules can be applied in both personal and business principles. In particular, it can help in promoting integrity across a company.

Cruyff’s 14 rules -

  1. Team player — To accomplish things, you have to do them together.
  2. Responsibility — Take care of things as if they were your own.
  3. Respect — Respect one another.
  4. Integration — Involve others when possible.
  5. Initiative — Dare to try something new.
  6. Coaching — Always help each other within a team
  7. Personality — Be yourself.
  8. Social involvement — Interaction is crucial, both in sport and in life.
  9. Technique — Know the basics.
  10. Tactics — Know what to do.
  11. Development — Sport strengthens body and soul.
  12. Learning — Try to learn something new every day.
  13. Play together — An essential part of any game
  14. Creativity — Bring beauty to the sport.

Cruyff’s 14 rules are much more important than just football as these rules help to live morally with others whilst still seeking success. There are clear values centred around constant mental development, accountability and continuous learning. These values emphasise the importance of having strong integrity in every aspect of life. Cruyff is one of football’s greatest myths with his ideology being considered as radical as he believed sport should always be beautiful.

Although Johan Cruyff passed away in 2010, Cruyff will never truly be dead. His philosophy lives on with the likes of Guardiola, Koeman, Luis Enrique and many others continuing his work. The football played by Erik Ten Hag’s Ajax this season demonstrates that Johan Cruyff’s football very much lives on. Ajax have a budget considerably less than a lot of the superpower clubs in Europe, yet this season they were able to reach the Champions League semi-finals thus proving Cruyff’s philosophy can continue to succeed.

There will be many generations that will never have seen him as a player, manager or director but they will know of his existence. For as long as football exists, Johan Cruyff will never be dead.

“Johan Cruyff painted the chapel, and Barcelona coaches since merely restore or improve it” — Pep Guardiola

Sunil Sharma

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