In our latest Skill Academy lesson, Danny Owen takes a detailed look at the Cruyff turn, made famous by the legendary player himself.
“I never get tired of seeing it, no way. He could have done it to anyone and I feel lucky it was me that day, lucky that I got to meet and play against the great man.”
On June 19 1974, set against a cavernous Westfalenstadion backdrop, Jan Olssen’s life changed forever.
The 32-year-old left-back, his career played out in the Scandinavian sticks, suddenly found himself on the cover of every newspaper, the talk of every radio station, and the centre of one of the most iconic images in sporting history.
Squaring up against his opponent, a rangy, long-limbed, individual with the number 14 printed upon a luminous orange, Olssen thrusts his shoulder and swung his leg, the emblematic pose of the crude clatter.
Only, the ball has gone. So, too, has the man. Olssen spins, off-balance and stumbling, overcoming the dizziness just long enough to witness that number 14 dancing into the distance.
Some time later, the game ended in a dire stalemate. Holland 0-0 Sweden. But that didn’t matter. Not to Olssen. He knew instantly that he’d been part of something far greater than a simple game of football.
So he congratulated the number 14 with no hint of malice, jealousy or desire for revenge. He simply marvelled at his brilliance, as did the watching world. And, in the 42 years that followed, we never stopped marvelling. Because Jan Olssen was not deceived by a simple shoulder swerve or subtle shimmy. This was Cruyff’s turn.
What do Pele, Diego Maradona, Sir Bobby Charlton, Franz Beckenbauer, Pep Guardiola, Ronald Koeman, Romario, Ruud Gullit, Lionel Messi, Jurgen Klinsmann, Luis Figo, Patrick Kluivert, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Luis Suarez, Michel Platini, Fernando Torres, Ronaldinho, Alessandro Del Piero and Gary Linekar all have in common?
Well, each of these footballing legends, whether adorning their respective era with never-seen-before feats of goalscoring or inspiring countless generations with their immortal brilliance, are all devoted disciples of the Lord Cruyff.
On the day of his death, the 24th of March this very year, every single one provided their own, unique tribute to the number 14. And they were no basic, PR-written, copy-and-paste job. They were personal, from the heart.
“Football has lost a man who did more to make the beautiful game beautiful than anyone in history” – Lineker.
“Johan Cruyff painted the chapel, and Barcelona coaches since merely restore or improve it” – Guardiola.
“We will never forget you, skinny” – Maradona.
But, perhaps the best way to honour one of the most influential sportsmen in history is not with words, but actions. Harry Kane, just two days after Cruyff’s passing, proved that his legacy will always live on, etched forever into that brilliant swivel.
However, it’s not just the game’s best that were touched by the Dutchman’s genius, as Nicklas Bendtner proves. Yes, this is actually Nicklas Bendtner. We’re 64% sure.
After all, Cruyff represented more than football. He stood for bravery, inspiration, character. Manuel Neuer, then, is more than worthy of following in his footsteps.
Artur Boruc, however, is most certainly not.
From Cruyff’s blessed first victim to his legion of learned pupils, there’s one man we haven’t heard from. The man himself. Over to you Johan.
Feeling inspired yet? Follow these tips and you can keep Johan Cruyff’s legacy alive.
By Danny Owen, @danny8195 on Twitter.