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Cruyff, the man who saw everything first

SPORTYOU SPORTYOU 24/03/2016 Miguel Gutiérrez
Cruyff, el hombre que lo vio todo antes © Getty Images Cruyff, el hombre que lo vio todo antes

A few months back, here in the newsroom, one of the guys was trying to explain to another just why Johan Cruyff had been one of his idols in his youth. "Watch him! Look how he stops. Look at that change of pace! That's brilliant!", he shouted excitedly watching the video on his computer screen. The other one, a rookie, a couple of decades younger, couldn't quite get it. He was unable to feel the excitement. Those turns and changes of pace weren't that much, at least not for him. To be honest, these are things you can see just about every Wednesday and every Sunday nowadays. What the youngster was lacking was context in order to understand how, three decades before the invention of YouTube, no other player actually did stuff like that. And if he thought it was nothing out of the ordinary, that is because once Cruyff had done it, everybody else did it too. Or, maybe, those who had the sufficient talent. And they have always been few and far between.

As a coach, Cruyff was also a revolutionary. He changed the history of one of the biggest clubs in the world. Until he arrived, FC Barcelona's trophy collection was closer to that of Atlético's than it was to Real Madrid's. The younger generation of Culé fans, especially those outside of Spain, have embraced the Azulgrana faith with no hang-ups, and can confidently look the great historical rival in the eye. He conceived of football as a show to be enjoyed, and although he is on record as having boasted often (most memorably, just before the 4-0 thrashing Milan handed Barcelona in the 1994 Champions League final), he will not remembered as a man who had a superiority complex. Perhaps that is because his faux-pas were also legendary. Cruyff was divine, but human as well.

One of the words that is maybe used with the gayest abandon these days is "genius", and it is so over-used that it has become devalued. But Cruyff was a genius, without any caveats. He was ahead of his time, he did things that nobody else could even imagine, however normal they might appear to be now. If nowadays we say that Messi is like a PlayStation player, it was Cruyff who invented the video-game. He made football grander than it ever was. But he had one advantage over the rest: he saw everything first, long before anyone else did.

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