Forty-five years ago today, at the 1974 World Cup, he pulled the Cruyff Turn out of his hat…
I actually suffered it many times while playing football with him in the garden! @JohanCruyff
Liverpool’s confidence and self-belief has been gathering ominous momentum throughout manager Jürgen Klopp’s remarkable rejuvenation, but Sunday’s victory over reigning Premier League champions Manchester City may just be the moment when they began to feel unstoppable.
When Liverpool last had the opportunity to overcome City, when victory at Etihad Stadium in January could have given them a 10-point lead at the top of the table, they slipped to a defeat which in the final reckoning cost them the title.
This was the day when Liverpool could make the statement loud and clear that they are in no mood to be denied, and that their wait for a title will not stretch beyond 30 years.
And this time, there was no mistake as a 3-1 win put them eight points clear of Leicester City and Chelsea and, perhaps more significantly, nine clear of Pep Guardiola’s side.
It was a game that lived up to its billing, full of quality, controversy and incident, with the champions playing their full part, but Liverpool will know this result may come to be seen at the decisive moment in their pursuit of that elusive crown.
Nothing will be taken for granted – but this is now Liverpool’s title to lose.
If the Reds do not win it this season, given their form, focus and current advantage, they will never forgive themselves. Yes, it is only November, but only one team can deny Liverpool from here: themselves.
Leicester will have a say. Chelsea will have a say. Manchester City will have a say – but everything we have seen from Liverpool this season, accompanied by an astounding sequence of only one loss in 51 league games, screams that Klopp and his players will have the final word.
City and their enraged manager Guardiola will have pulled out of Anfield nursing a sense of grievance that an early penalty claim against Trent Alexander-Arnold was ignored, an emotion exacerbated by Liverpool sweeping to the other end in seconds to score through Fabinho.
The Spaniard clearly felt City were on the wrong end of the key decisions and he was correct to outline how well his team played, but there is a ruthlessness, relentless and a surging energy about Liverpool that makes it difficult to see how it can possibly go wrong for them from here.
Liverpool benefited from their opponents being stripped of injured goalkeeper Ederson and midfield influence David Silva, but if you give Klopp and his team an inch, then a mile is the very least they will take.
For all City’s excellence and threat in possession, Liverpool knew where the soft underbelly lay and were able to probe – with inevitable results.
City, with the benefit of hindsight and without Aymeric Laporte, have been left under-manned in central defence after the failure to replace Vincent Kompany. The injury to Ederson could not have come at a worse time.
Ederson’s replacement Claudio Bravo was not to blame for Liverpool’s first two goals, although he was indecisive for Sadio Mané’s third. The 36-year-old Chilean, however, simply does not possess Ederson’s quality and authority, not just as a goalkeeper but as a key component in City’s playing style with the ball at his feet.
Anfield has also been nothing but a theatre of pain for Guardiola since he arrived in England – and for City themselves over a much longer period – so this was the wrong time and wrong place for them to reignite their faltering title prospects.
Liverpool are unbeaten in their past 17 home Premier League games against City, winning 12, since losing 2-1 in May 2003. Guardiola has lost eight matches in all competitions against Klopp, three more than he has against any other manager.
This was Liverpool’s day and there was a sense – despite all City’s efforts – that this was their victory from the moment Fabinho’s searing sixth-minute drive flew beyond Bravo’s outstretched right hand.
Klopp is perfectly right to warn against getting carried away. It is not, though, getting carried away when announcing it will take an uncharacteristic Liverpool collapse to deny them the title this time, even after only 12 games.
The Reds have won 11 of their first 12 Premier League games, and only Manchester United have had a bigger lead than eight points at this stage of the season, when they won the title in 1993-94.
Klopp’s side have won 24 and drawn two of their past 26 home games, with victories in 18 of their past 25 away from Anfield. They have won 42 and drawn eight of their past 51 league games, slipping up just once on that night at Etihad Stadium in January.
The Americans use the old phrase “The Big Mo” to colourfully describe the sort of run Liverpool are on – the time when a team or an individual picks up such momentum that nothing can derail them.
Liverpool have that look about them. They look energised despite their intense, physical style and they have game-changers in all areas.
They look like the complete team. There is no obvious weakness.
Pep Guardiola hailed David Silva as “one of the best players” he has seen after he contributed to all three of Manchester City’s goals in a convincing win at Bournemouth.
Eddie Howe’s side won just two of their 12 matches against top-six opponents last term and this was always going to be a particularly tough assignment for the Cherries who failed to register a shot in their 1-0 loss to Guardiola’s side in March.
The sweltering south coast conditions probably did not help, as the hosts chased shadows in the first 30 minutes with City dominating possession.
However, much of that could be attributed to Bournemouth’s own errant passing and Howe was heartened his side responded and did not capitulate against the champions.
The Cherries even had a measure of control in the 10 minutes either side of half-time, when Charlie Daniels’ knee injury prompted a reshuffle of personnel and the introduction of their scorer Wilson.
His effort that flew into the top-right corner was far from an isolated attempt at goal.
Nathan Ake miscued a volley after Steve Cook’s long throw, while Adam Smith blazed a glorious chance over the City bar from six yards, after being presented with the ball by visiting defender Nicolas Otamendi.
Callum Wilson also drew a save from Ederson as Bournemouth continued to press though, in the end, that proved scant consolation.
“We did have our chances and that’s the frustrating thing,” Howe said.
“Compare this game to our previous encounters against Manchester City, and that’s the most we’ve created by a long way. We were a constant menace to them physically, but it was a really tough afternoon – we really had to dig in for long spells.”
Bournemouth host Forest Green in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday 28 August (19:45 BST) before travelling to Leicester in the Premier League, on Saturday 31 August (15:00 BST).
Manchester City are next in action when they welcome Brighton to Etihad Stadium in the Premier League, on Saturday 31 August (15:00 BST).
As the son of one of football’s icons, a member of Manchester United’s Treble-winning squad, a sporting director in Israel and now a manager in China, life has rarely been dull for Jordi Cruyff.
This week, the 45-year-old son of Barcelona and Netherlands legend Johan returned to the Nou Camp as the Spanish giants named their new B team stadium after his father.
BBC Radio 5 Live’s Guillem Balague caught up with Jordi, who is now in charge of Chinese Super League side Chongqing Lifan, to discuss a varied life in football.
Johan Cruyff, who died in 2016, is considered the finest exponent of the ‘Total Football’ philosophy, a style of play pioneered by the Netherlands team of the 1970s. He managed Jordi during the formative years of his son’s playing career at Barcelona in the early 1990s.
When you see and hear the emotion people have when they talk about my father, I know he was a special man.
When he came to Barcelona it was a difficult time politically. He came with the chains and the long hair and a free spirit, not caring about the past. Many people remember that attitude he had. Others remember the courage he had to play how he wanted, no matter what. Even when he didn’t win trophies he still had that same way of playing.
It’s symbolic to have the mini-stadium at Barcelona named after him because it’s the last step before going to the first team and my father was well known as a coach who wanted to give opportunities to young players.
I find myself thinking about my dad a lot when I am thinking about certain decisions now I’m a manager. When I do that I usually go for the young player or the most offensive player!
A lot of things he did in his life are related to things of his past. He didn’t finish school but he was tough on us if we didn’t do well. He’d take you off football. He always knew that he’d been lucky in his career but he always understood he never had a plan B, so I think that is partly why he set up the educational aspect of Barcelona’s academy.
My father always had unbelievable strength, which I don’t think 99.9% of people in football have now. But when he came home he was completely disconnected from that. He would never bring negative voices from what happened in the game back home – he immediately switched his mind. It’s a very logical thought, but that’s easier said than done. I cannot do that – I need a few hours after a game to just clean my system.
He was demanding to me in front of others, absolutely. He would give me a shout and the hairs would stand up.
I’ve had a few of those tough moments – but I look back and I understand it.
Jordi moved to Manchester United from Barcelona in 1996 at the age of 22 and spent four years at the club, a period disrupted badly by injuries. United won three Premier League titles, one FA Cup and the Champions League during that time, but Cruyff only played enough games to be awarded one Premier League winners’ medal and contributed only 31 minutes during the triumphant European run in 1999.
When you take a step like going to Manchester United you need to be mature enough, and I was probably one year short of that.
You have to adapt. It was different, to have dinner at 5pm or 6pm – I’d never seen that.
I was probably the youngest person in the village where I lived and that was tough. Now it’s a different city, a different vibe – the city is alive.
I fell from one injury to another and I could never really get a run and show the manager he could count on me. When Ryan Giggs was injured, I was always injured – and that’s my fault. As a coach, you want players who are ready when you need them. I see that now myself.
Training-wise, I was always on the level that was necessary, but I didn’t play a lot and I probably didn’t bring what I could do in training to the games.
If you know you’re going to play 30 minutes every three weeks you make a decision – do I want to stand out by scoring a goal? You can see that in a few games – there was a time when I was just trying to score goals, and others when I was trying to participate in the game and enjoy it.
But with the injuries, I could never catch that train and have a stable season. When I look back at that team – Giggs, David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Roy Keane, Eric Cantona, and then the likes of Dwight Yorke, Teddy Sheringham and Andrew Cole – not to have played much is nothing to be ashamed of.
Cruyff was appointed Chongqing Lifan manager in August 2018. Under his management, they secured 15 points from the final nine games to move above the relegation zone on goal difference. This season they are eighth in the 16-team Chinese Super League, 12 points above the drop zone with seven games to play.
To play good football you need players who are comfortable on the ball. In China, there are differences between the big teams and the smaller ones.
We try to play as offensively as we can but we are the smallest team with the smallest budget in China, so you have to be realistic about what is possible.
We have seven games left this season. Historically, statistically we are three points from safety. We’ve had a good season but we are a team who had to sell two of our better players during the season.
It’s difficult to build something and it’s different to what my father experienced in coaching football teams.
You have to decide which zone of the pitch you want to have the ball. A lot of other opponents have some top-level attackers. To start passing the ball around the back against players like Hulk, Oscar or Marouane Fellaini is risky. It’s easier when we have the ball in certain areas, in others we have to be a bit more careful.
After retiring from playing and before going into management, Cruyff had spells as director of football at AEK Larnaca in Cyprus and sporting director of Israeli side Maccabi Tel Aviv.
I like difficult and strange projects. I like to be ready for the day that you do decide to go to one of the world’s A leagues – prepared for every possible situation because you have those experiences.
The sporting director role is something that’s inside you. Man management is not something you study – you either have that or you don’t have it. I feel comfortable with that – I like strategies, club strategies and thinking ahead.
It’s tough sometimes when you’re far away and it’s different to what you’re thinking, but Tel Aviv was a successful period.
At Maccabi, every season the manager would leave to go to a bigger league. That was part of the deal really.
In one season we had Slavisa Jokanovic and then Peter Bosz, and we sold both within four months to Fulham and Ajax respectively.
That was part of my job: to have a list of people who you could get and who could fit immediately.
I knew Jokanovic because he did a very good job at Watford and we had an opportunity to get him. We did that quick and he took us to the Champions League.
When Fulham came in he was gone, so I had to be prepared for who I could take in the January and Bosz is also one of the coaches who is close to my father’s philosophy. They accuse him sometimes of playing attacking football too much, but I like to see coaches who like to play to win.
Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola was at Barcelona at the same time as both Jordi and Johan. He spent six years – from 1990 to 1996 – being managed by Johan, and is considered a disciple of the Dutch legend’s philosophy as a manager.
When you are capable of putting your stamp on three different clubs in three different top-level football countries, then you have it. Pep has it.
He has the drive, the passion, the ideas. He’s probably a crazy workaholic. Football never stands still, so you always need to find the next step and you need to be creative to find new things all the time.
In his case, it’s always trying to find a way to be one step ahead. To create something takes a lot of hours of training.