Philippe Coutinho to Remain at Barcelona With PSG Reluctant to Authorise Neymar Swap Deal

?Barcelona have decided winger Philippe Coutinho will remain at the club for the upcoming season, now that Premier League sides are unable to sign him this summer.

The Brazilian had been linked to the likes of Arsenal and Tottenham, but a move to either side failed to materialise before the English transfer window slammed shut on Thursday.

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Now, according to ?Marca, ?Barcelona have concluded that Coutinho will not be sold, despite their best efforts to part ways with the high-earning Brazilian during the summer. They wanted to sell him to finance a move for ?Neymar, but that now appears unlikely.

It is said the only way Coutinho could leave Barcelona this summer would be in a swap deal for Neymar – something which the ?Blaugrana are said to be ?pushing for this summer – but they know Paris Saint-Germain will do everything they can to avoid selling the winger back to the ?La Liga champions.

Recently, ?Real Madrid appear to have stolen a march in the race for Neymar’s signature and PSG would certainly prefer to do business with Los Blancos, with Real believed to be prepared to lodge a ?huge player-plus-cash bid which could see ?Luka Modric head to Paris.

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Given a move for Neymar now looks incredibly unlikely, it is thought Barcelona’s transfer business is done for the upcoming season. However, things could change very quickly if a number of first-team players look to leave.

The likes of ?Ivan Rakitic, ?Rafinha, ?Arturo Vidal and young Riqui Puig are all believed to be seeking assurances over their futures at Camp Nou, and losing any number of them would likely force Barcelona to look for alternatives in the transfer market.

Ivan Rakitic,Tiemoue Bakayoko

With funds proving hard to come by following the expensive arrivals of Frenkie de Jong and Antoine Griezmann, Barcelona would likely demand sizeable fees for any departing player, so as to give them a chance to find an acceptable replacement.

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Barcelona ‘Accelerate’ Neymar Transfer Plans With Philippe Coutinho in Mix for PSG Switch

Barcelona’s bid to re-sign Neymar from Paris Saint-Germain could be back on track, after a report in France hinted that a deal involving Philippe Coutinho is now an ‘accepted’ idea.

The 27-year-old became the world’s most expensive player when he swapped La Liga for Ligue 1 two years ago, joining PSG for a gargantuan fee of €222m.

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But reports of unrest have dominated the headlines in recent months, with Barça, as well as heavyweight rivals ?Real Madrid, linked with rescuing Neymar from his Parisian nightmare, albeit at huge financial cost.

Earlier in the day, ?reports claimed that Barcelona were unwilling to stump up the cash for Neymar, leaving Real Madrid in the clear to submit an offer, potentially involving Luka Modric. But now, French publication ?RMC Sport claim that talks with sporting director Leonardo have concluded that a deal can be done if a player from Barça were to be involved.

Said player in RMC’s report is former Liverpool midfielder ?Philippe Coutinho, who is enduring a nightmare of his own out in Spain after his own mega-money move from Anfield little over 18 months ago.

It’s claimed that Barça ‘accelerated’ talks over the past few days, with directors from the two club’s hierarchies discussing the possibility of thrashing out a deal.

Until now, PSG have been unwavering in their stance on ?Neymar, insisting they want to recoup the full amount they paid in 2017, in cash. The idea that players could be included as a makeweight in any deal as been banded about several times, but has never really had much substance to it – despite coming from reputable sources.

But with Coutinho, things are entirely different. The Brazilian playmaker has been unable to earn a regular starting role at Camp Nou, often becoming a scapegoat for the club’s impetuous fanbase despite La Liga success last year.

Neymar da Silva

An official offer could now be made next week, if RMC’s report is anything to go by, with Barcelona hopeful a large chunk of cash, plus Coutinho, is enough to tempt PSG into selling their troublesome poster boy.

Additional funding in the hunt for Juventus’ Paulo Dybala could prove useful to Thomas Tuchel’s side, with interest in the Argentine understood to be growing following the collapse of his proposed moves to Manchester United and Tottenham last week.

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Inter Renew Ivan Rakitic Interest as Antonio Conte ‘Expresses Desire’ to Sign Barcelona Star

The closure of the English transfer window may have killed the rumours linking Ivan Rakitic with a Premier League switch, but his future is still far from certain, as reports in Spain cite renewed interest from Inter in the Barcelona man. 

The 31-year-old has been touted for an exit all summer, with the arrival of Frenkie de Jong rumoured to have squeezed him out of the first team picture at Camp Nou, with Inter one of the sides linked earlier in the window before interest seemingly died down. 

Ivan Rakitic,Dani Parejo

He has expressed a desire to stay and fight for his place, seemingly content to stay out the duration of his contract which expires in 2021, but that hasn’t stopped talk of ?Barça offering him up as a makeweight in a deal to secure the return of Neymar from PSG. 

?Sport say that this is still the plan, with the Catalan giants only prepared to sanction the Croatian’s departure if it facilitates the signing of the PSG star, but note that Inter have revived their interest in recent days and feel like a deal can be struck.

Antonio Conte is the driving force of the prospective move, having ‘expressed a desire’ to bring the midfielder to San Siro, with the feeling being that the wage boost and first team football on offer may be enough to lure him to Italy.

Ivan Rakitic,Sergi Enrich

A fee of €50m is mentioned as a sticking point for ?Inter, who would prefer to get a deal done for cheaper if possible after spending exorbitantly on the likes of ?Romelu Lukaku and Valentino Lazaro already. 

As the window ticks down and the possibility of Rakitic moving elsewhere increases, however, their hand may be forced if they are to stand any chance of landing the man who now looks like their main target. 

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Real Madrid ‘Close’ to Neymar Deal With Barcelona Unwilling to Pay Cash for Wantaway Superstar

?The summer transfer window may have slammed shut for English sides but that won’t stop news about Neymar flooding the headlines for the next few weeks.

Up until recently, Barcelona had been the only reasonable exit route for the wantaway Paris Saint-Germain forward, with the club exploring every possible avenue to bring the prodigal Brazilian back to Camp Nou and end his Parisian hell.

Naturally, developments are continuing to emerge on a daily basis, and if the reports are to be believed then the most likely way out for ?Neymar at present appears to be Barça’s great rivals ?Real Madrid. Having entered the party late, they too have now begun their own negotiations over recent weeks with swap deals continuing to be rumoured – given PSG’s astronomical cash only demands.


Firstly, Madrid went in with a sensational swap deal with Zinedine Zidane’s nemesis Garth Bale. The French boss is desperate to be rid of the Welshman and, according to ?Mundo Deportivo, Bale’s name has been mentioned in discussions as a potential makeweight in bringing Neymar back to Spanish football.

However, with Bale rejected some time ago, Los Blancos have since tried different methods to secure Neymar, who is long considered an obsession for president Florentino Perez, with ?The Times now suggesting that Luka Modric could be the key to securing a deal.

That report sensationally suggests that PSG are ‘close to accepting’ a cash-plus Modric deal, a move which would appease the French club’s hierarchy as they want to offload the disruptive Brazilian but do not want to see him return to Catalonia.

As ?previously reported, a similar offer was already made by Real Madrid. However, whereas Real’s first bid comprised of £112m plus Modric, if they up that to £149m plus the Croatian it should be deemed acceptable.

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Despite Madrid’s increasing confidence in securing a deal, the player himself still has his heart set on returning to the ?Blaugrana. 

Furthermore, Catalan daily ?Sport state that a strong contingent of the Barça squad would also like to reunite with him, as daily calls from Lionel Messi and Gerard Pique attempt to persuade the hierarchy to up their offer.

However, Neymar simply won’t return to his former side unless PSG are willing to soften their stance on his valuation. Moreover, it seems they are unwilling to part with any money whatsoever, as ?Marca claim a deal will only be done if the French side accept just players, with the club standing firm on their reluctance to break the bank.

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7 Expensive Transfer Signings Who Flopped & Were Soon Shipped Out

?Having joined Zenit St. Petersburg this summer, Malcom’s tenure as a Barcelona player lasted just the one season. Ouch. 

Signed from Bordeaux for a reported £36m, the 22-year-old was deemed to have much promise, having scored 12 goals and assisted a further seven in 32 starts in Ligue 1, all from a wide position. 

However, the Brazilian failed to make an impact in Spain, scoring just once for the club before being shipped off to Russia. 

Inspired by the move – as well as Philippe Coutinho’s potential departure, albeit a loan – here’s a list of seven expensive signings who flopped and were swiftly moved on elsewhere.


Alvaro Morata

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A £60m signing from ?Real Madrid in 2017, Alvaro Morata was expected to replace the goals of the departed ?Diego Costa, who returned to Atletico Madrid having just helped ?Chelsea win their fifth Premier League title, scoring 20 league goals in the process. 

Instead, the Spaniard scored just 16 goals over 18 months as the Blues failed to secure Champions League football. Having not settled in England, ?Morata was loaned – made permanent this summer – to ?Atletico, joining Costa in escaping Stamford Bridge. 


Angel Di Maria

Angel Di Maria

Back in 2014, ?Manchester United paid Real Madrid £68m for Angel Di Maria, who had just enjoyed a fine campaign with Los Blancos, starring as the club won the UEFA Champions League.

United had just sacked David Moyes, appointed Louis van Gaal, and believed that splashing the cash for star players would return them to the summit of the Premier League. 

Alas, the Argentine failed to endear himself to the Old Trafford faithful, struggled to adapt to English football and was subsequently sold to Paris Saint-Germain the following season. Au revoir!


?Christian Benteke

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?Liverpool decided to pay ?Aston Villa £42m for Christian Benteke in 2015, having witnessed the powerful Belgian score 42 goals in 82 starts in the Premier League since his arrival three seasons prior. 

However, the target man struggled to adapt to Liverpool’s style of play, which involved the ball on the floor and pressing while out of possession. Jurgen Klopp’s arrival in October was the beginning of the end for ?Benteke, who scored just nine goals for the Reds. 


Jackson Martinez

Jackson Arley Martinez

Having been a prolific goal scorer for Porto – 67 in 90 games – Atletico paid £37m for Jackson Martinez in 2015, hoping that they had found another incredible marksman set to follow in the footsteps of Fernando Torres, ?Sergio Aguero, Diego Forlan and Radamel Falcao. 

Rather, the Colombian scored just twice before being shipped off to China the following February, with Atletico somehow making a profit on their misfiring striker. 


Andy Carroll

Andrew Carroll

With only six months of regular top-flight football under his belt, Liverpool paid £36m for then-21 year-old ?Andy Carroll, who had bagged 11 goals in 18 starts for ?Newcastle at the start of the 2010/11 season. 

With the mere six goals in the following 18 months, Carroll departed for ?West Ham, initially on loan and then permanent the next summer. 

Fortunately for Liverpool, the England international was acquired to replace the outgoing Torres alongside another man who fared just a bit better – a certain ?Luis Suarez. 


Gaizka Mendieta 

Lazio v Piacenza

Known in England for his spell at ?Middlesbrough, Gaizka Mendieta set Lazio back £43m when he arrived from Valencia in 2001 – a staggering fee at the time.

In Italy, however, the Spaniard struggled to capture his best form, failing to score a single goal for the club. He was loaned to ?Barcelona the following season before heading to Middlesbrough in 2003, initially on loan and then on a free transfer in 2004, in what was a massive financial loss for Lazio. 


Zlatan Ibrahimovic 

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

A controversial selection, certainly, given Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s pedigree, as well as his respectable goal record at Barcelona, which stands at 19 goals in 31 games. 

However, not only did Barcelona pay £42m for the Swedish international, they also gave ?Inter legendary forward Samuel Eto’o, who proceeded to win the treble the next season under Jose Mourinho. 

Zlatan was gradually replaced by ?Lionel Messi, who increasingly preferred to play central, and was loaned out to ?Milan the very next season, before joining the Italian giants permanently. 


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Philippe Coutinho: 5 Reasons Liverpool Should Have Pursued a Loan Move for Their Former Star

?The Premier League transfer window shut on Thursday and now each set of fans can assess their club’s summer business. 

For Liverpool, it was a quiet few months. None of their star players departed, or came remotely close to doing so, but equally they did not make any big-name additions themselves. They were rarely linked with many players over the summer, but one name kept cropping up: Philippe Coutinho.

The Brazilian playmaker was outstanding for Liverpool during his five year spell at the club, which ended when he departed for Barcelona in January 2018. However, it has not gone to plan for him in Spain, and he has been the subject of transfer speculation in recent weeks, with Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham all rumoured to be considering a loan bid for the 27-year-old.

Yet Coutinho remains at Barcelona for now. 

Was it a missed opportunity for Liverpool? That remains to be seen, but here are the reasons why a return to Anfield could have been an excellent piece of business for the Merseyside club.


He Knows the Club

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Bringing a player in who is already familiar with his surroundings is a factor that cannot be underestimated. Fans are impatient, they want to see players performing straight away when they arrive, and it would be a safe bet that Coutinho would have settled back in swiftly.

While Liverpool have altered their goalkeeper and defence since Coutinho left, the front three and midfield remains largely unchanged. That means that he could have picked back up where he left off, having already established an understanding with those around him.

One of Coutinho’s issues at Barcelona appears to have been his role in the team. Is he a central midfielder or a winger? At Liverpool he would have no such issues. His role was clear when he left, and with the same manager and teammates in place, there is no reason to believe that he would have not slotted back in seamlessly had he returned.?


Fans Love a Big Signing

Philippe Coutinho

When reflecting on Liverpool’s summer business, it is hard to argue that they did poorly. They have managed to retain the same set of players that won the Champions League back in June.

Yet just one big signing could have given them a little more momentum heading in to the season. The side stuttered through pre-season, leaving some concerned that they would struggle to replicate the form that they showed throughout their 2018/19 campaign. 

Bringing in Coutinho could have changed that. Suddenly the slightly disappointing pre-season would have been a thing of the past, and the fans would have had something to look forward to: the return of one of their best players in recent years. ?


Adding Strength in Depth

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?On Friday night, Liverpool began their Premier League campaign in style, romping past Norwich 4-1. However, the victory came at a cost, with goalkeeper Alisson going off shortly before half time with a calf problem. It was a harsh reminder of how important squad depth is.

Liverpool have an exceptional front three, but the back-up options see a sharp drop-off in quality. If Sadio Mane gets injured, Liverpool would look to Divock Origi, Xherdan Shaqiri or Adam Lallana to replace him. All proven performers, but not up to Mane’s standard. 

Then in the attacking midfield role, Liverpool will be looking towards Naby Keita and Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain to produce driving runs and create opportunities in the final third. Both players have struggled with fitness issues over the past 12 months, so expecting so much of them is perhaps a little unfair.

This is where Coutinho comes in. Able to operate from the left wing or just behind the front three, his creativity would add an extra dimension to a Liverpool midfield that is well-oiled but lacks a little dynamism. ?As Liverpool look to overtake Manchester City this season, it is the defending champions who clearly hold the upper hand in midfield. Bringing in Coutinho would have gone some way to addressing that.


Getting One Over on Barcelona

Lionel Messi

When Coutinho left, it was deemed as good business for both parties. He had performed excellently for Liverpool over the years, helping them to the next level, which they have built on since his exit. Meanwhile, Barcelona were getting themselves a great talent at the peak of his powers. Liverpool wished him well, they understood his position. When Barcelona come calling, it is difficult to turn them down.

Indeed that has been the way for a number of years now. When either Barcelona or Real Madrid are interested in a player, invariably they get their man. Yet Coutinho returning to Liverpool could have been a signal of a change in power.

Last season, English sides dominated in Europe, ending the dominant spell that Spanish clubs have enjoyed over the past few years. Having three of the four semi-finalists in the Champions League showed that the Premier League was ready to compete with La Liga for European supremacy once more.

Tempting Coutinho back could have been a masterstroke for Liverpool. They seemingly ended up getting the better side of the deal the first time around, and in re-signing the Brazilian they ?would have brought in a player with a point to prove, whilst also sending a message that they were able to get the better of Barcelona both on and off the pitch.


His Form for Brazil Shows his Class

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There may be some wondering if Coutinho has simply lost his way, and will not be able to find the spark that he had at Liverpool. Yet his form at international level suggests that he is far from a spent force.

He was arguably Brazil’s best player at last year’s World Cup, and then starred again for them when they won the Copa America earlier this summer. 

For one reason or another it has not worked out for him at Barcelona. To write Coutinho off would be foolish though. He remains one of the best talents in European football, one that Liverpool could have done with for this season.?


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The Next Moves for 6 Players Who Didn’t Seal a Deadline Day Transfer to the Premier League

?For Premier League sides, the transfer window is closed, and that means the rumour mill is too.

English sides were linked with a number of high-profile moves which failed to materialise, so what’s next for those players who didn’t find themselves changing clubs?

Here’s what the future holds for six of the top targets who didn’t earn a deadline day transfer.


Bruno Fernandes

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How is it even possible that Bruno Fernandes is still a Sporting CP player? The midfielder had been linked to both ?Manchester United and ?Tottenham Hotspur for what felt like an eternity, and it was all for nothing.

He could seal a move to another European side, but it seems increasingly likely that Fernandes will remain with Sporting for at least another six months. Fortunately, he didn’t burn his bridges with club officials or the fans, so it’ll likely be business as usual for Fernandes – at least until January.

If he can continue his impressive form, expect the Portuguese international to be linked with a move in the January window. Spurs won’t make a bid, having already signed Giovani Lo Celso, but whether United will reignite their interest will likely come down to money. If Sporting drop their asking price, or United increase their offer, then Fernandes could soon be on the move.


Wilfried Zaha

Wilfried Zaha

?Wilfried Zaha faces a tricky situation at ?Crystal Palace. Having handed in a transfer request, he failed to seal a deadline day move to ?Everton, with the Eagles standing firm on their £80m asking price.

Both ?Napoli and ?Bayern Munich are believed to be keen, but they will almost certainly be reluctant to spend heavily on the Ivorian, which means he will probably have to stay at Selhurst Park.

He is thought to have been left devastated by the situation, whilst manager Roy Hodgson even admitted that ?Zaha has ‘beef’ with the clu?b chairman.? Even if he does return to the team, a January move seems almost certain, with ?Chelsea thought to be lurking if they can overturn their transfer ban.


Paulo Dybala

Paulo Dybala

You’ve got to give it to ?Paulo Dybala. It seems like Maurizio Sarri was adamant that the Argentine has no future at ?Juventus, yet he opted to snub interest from United and Spurs to fight for his place in Italy. Could he be made to rue that decision??

As Sarri proved at Chelsea, squad rotation isn’t exactly his favourite thing. If there isn’t a place for Dybala now, chances are there never will be – just ask ?Cesc Fabregas or ?Gary CahillA move to another European side certainly seems possible, and his £65m price tag is surprisingly reasonable in today’s market.

However, the interest just doesn’t seem to be there. Dybala may be forced to stay in Turin and try force his way into Sarri’s plans, but that is definitely not as easy as it sounds.


Mario Mandzukic

Mario Mandzukic

Similar to Dybala, Mario Mandzukic also appeared to be close to a move to the Premier League, but a move to United ultimately failed to materialise.

As it stands, he is set for a frustrating season on the bench. There’s no way he moves ahead of ?Cristiano Ronaldo in the pecking order, whilst he doesn’t have the agility to make it as a winger under Sarri. First-team opportunities appear very, very hard to come by.?

Given he could be available for cheap, it seems likely that Mandzukic will leave the club in the coming weeks, but a January move certainly seems on the cards.


Christian Eriksen

Christian Eriksen

?Christian Eriksen kicked off the summer by ??admitting his desire to leave Spurs, but then literally nothing happened. ?Real Madrid said no and so did United, so now Eriksen looks set to stay.

However, given he has just one year on his current contract, Spurs chairman Daniel Levy is thought to be ?determined to sell the Dane before the European transfer window closes in September, which certainly makes sense.

Real could return after missing out on ?Paul Pogba, whilst cross-town rivals ?Atletico Madrid might even make a push after failing to capture ?James Rodriguez. Spurs surely won’t let him run his contract down, so a move away seems the only option.?


Philippe Coutinho

Philippe Coutinho

Chelsea, ?Arsenal, ?Liverpool and Spurs were all thought to have been keen on Philippe Coutinho, but he ended up staying with ?Barcelona, where his nightmare looks set to continue.

His form saw him tumble down the pecking order last season, and Antoine Griezmann’s arrival will only have made things worse for the Brazilian.? He needs a change of scenery, but it doesn’t look like he’s going to get one.

Paris Saint-Germain could surprise us all with a late bid, but that would only be to replace Neymar. Such a deal would be incredibly difficult, so it looks like Coutinho might be in for a tough year. However,Don’t rule out a January loan move if Barcelona get too fed up with him.


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Johan Cruyff: The Visionary Who Became the Most Important Man in the History of Football

Johan Cruyff is number 6 in 90min’s Top 50 Great Managers of All Time series. Follow the rest of the series over the course of the next week.


?If you were looking to describe the late great Johan Cruyff in a single word…’legend’, ‘icon’, ‘pioneer’, ‘master’ are all good options. But perhaps ‘visionary’ would be the one that best illustrates the career of one of the greatest minds ever to grace the sport of football.

As a player, Cruyff is the among the ?very best of all time.

At Ajax he won 17 major trophies, including three consecutive European Cups. Individually, he collected three Ballon d’Or awards, the last in 1974 as he starred for the Netherlands at summer’s World Cup when the ‘Total Football’ born in Amsterdam went global.

Dutch midfielder Johann Cruyff dribbles

His 1973 transfer to Barcelona was for a world record fee and he continued to win trophies in Spain. A glitzy spell in the United States followed, before a second spell at Ajax in the early 1980s, and a final season with rivals Feyenoord, whom he inspired to domestic glory.

He became Ajax coach in 1985 and moved on to Barcelona in 1988, overseeing the ‘Dream Team’ era that yielded four consecutive La Liga titles in the early 1990s and the club’s first ever European Cup.

Cruyff was a contemporary of both Pele and Diego Maradona during his playing career, while he managed at a time when Arrigo Sacchi, Fabio Capello and Franz Beckenbauer enjoyed great success. Yet his overall reach extends far further than any of them.

For Cruyff’s lasting legacy that will continue to influence countless future generations is arguably more important than the great successes he achieved himself as a player or manager alone.


Care?er Honours
?KNVB Cup (1985/86, 1986/87)
?UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup (1986/87, 1988/89)
?Copa del Rey (1989/90)
?La Liga (1990/91, 1991/92, 1992/93, 1993/94)
?Supercopa de España (1991, 1992, 1994)
?European Cup/Champions League (1991/92); runner-up (1993/94)
?UEFA Super Cup (1992)

Cruyff was guided throughout his playing career by the great Rinus Michels, working together at Ajax, Barcelona, Los Angeles Aztecs and at the 1974 World Cup. It was Michels who is credited with developing the ‘Total Football’ model that focused on fluidity and built on the success of the Austrian ‘Wunderteam’ of the 1930s and Hungary’s ‘Magical Magyars’ of the 1950s, with Cruyff and ‘Total Football’ in turn influencing the eventual establishment of ‘Tiki-taka’ at Barcelona.

Upon taking over as Ajax coach in 1985, Cruyff was immediately a success. He didn’t claim an Eredivise title, but two KNVB Cups in two years were also accompanied by the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup in 1986/87, the club’s first European trophy since Cruyff himself was a player.

Evolving ‘Total Football’, the system Cruyff implemented at Ajax remained in place, while he also had a major influence reenergising the club’s academy training and youth recruitment. Several years later, Louis van Gaal guided a new golden generation to Champions League glory in 1995. Ajax still continue to be a world leader in youth development.

Johan Cruyff

When he arrived back at Barcelona in 1988, a decade after leaving as a player, Cruyff was tasked with an enormous rebuilding job. The club was at its lowest ebb, beset by debt, poor results, worse performances and a toxic atmosphere. But the Dutch master, by this point still just 41 years of age, was able to completely transform Barça within a few years and create lasting change that serves the club to this day and will continue to do for generations to come.

Returning to what he had known as a player and as a continuation of his work at Ajax, Cruyff overhauled Barcelona’s whole tactical system. But his changes went far beyond simply coaching the first team, implementing a club-wide model that ensured players at every level were drilled in the same skills, techniques and way of playing.

The young talents were there to be moulded because of Cruyff himself. He is credited as the father of the club’s famed La Masia academy, first pitching the idea of a copy of the Ajax youth setup he had known back home to then president Josep Nunez in 1979. By the time Cruyff returned in 1988, the fruits of the system were emerging and he could further develop the talent.

Pep Guardiola is the most famous of the local players he nurtured. Legend has it that Cruyff saw a 17-year-old Guardiola playing on the right side of midfield for the youth team in his very week as coach in 1988 and instantly insisted the youngster move into a central role. Four years later in 1992, a 21-year-old Guardiola played there as Barcelona won a first ever European Cup.

Albert Ferrer was another home grown European Cup winner and a firm part of the ‘Dream Team’ that Cruyff built, while Sergi Barjuan came a little later. The academy that Cruyff established and perfected would later yield Lionel Messi, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique, Carles Puyol, Sergio Busquets, Cesc Fabregas, Victor Valdes, all legends of their generation.

In addition to moulding Barcelona’s own talent, Cruyff assembled a side of domestic and international stars. Txiki Begiristain, Jose Mari Bakero, Julio Salinas, Eusebio Sacristan, Miguel Angel Nadal and Andoni Goikoetxea were among the Spaniards brought in. Cruyff also plucked Ronald Koeman from his old Ajax team and added Hristo Stoichkov and Michael Laudrup.

By the time Barcelona were crowned European champions in 1992, goalkeeper Andoni Zubizarreta and veteran defender Jose Ramon Alexanko were the only survivors pre-1988.

Early success had come in the form of UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup in 1989 and a Copa del Rey in 1990. Barcelona dominated Spanish football in the early 1990s, winning four straight La Liga titles between 1990 and 1994. The ‘Dream Team’ also returned to Europe’s showpiece event in 1994 when they faced AC Milan in the newly rebranded UEFA Champions League final. The 4-0 loss that night Athens remains one of the all-time great shocks in European club football.

Johan Cruyff of Barcelona

“Without him I wouldn’t be here,” Guardiola, himself now one of the all-time great managers, said of Cruyff in an interview with The Guardian in 2016.

“Before he came we didn’t have a cathedral of football, this beautiful church, at Barcelona. We needed something new. And now it is something that has lasted. It was built by one man, by Johan Cruyff, stone by stone. That’s why he was special.”


?Teams Managed Years?
?Ajax 1985 – 1988?
?Barcelona 1988 – 1996?
?Catalonia 2009 – 2013?

Cruyff’s one regret was that he was never able to manage at international, considering it the only thing missing. He did lead the Catalan national team for its exhibition games between 2009 and 2013, but he missed out on the opportunity to lead the Netherlands at the 1990 World Cup.

The Dutch were reigning European champions at the time and Cruyff himself acknowledged in his 2016 book ‘My Turn’ that he ‘expected’ to be appointed. He had even nurtured star players Ronald Koeman, Marco van Basten, Frank Rijkaard as Ajax coach and was a teammate of a young Ruud Gullit at Feyenoord. But Michels, then serving on the technical board, inexplicably overlooked him.

With Barcelona’s ‘Dream Team’ era at an end, Cruyff was only 49 years of age when he permanently left full time management in 1996. yet his influence was not over. He went on to create the ‘Johan Cruyff Institute’ to educate athletes and business professionals in sports management, while, his ‘Cruyff Courts’ have provided invaluable opportunities for young players from all over the world to play the game they love.

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In ‘Barcelona: The Making of the Greatest Team in the World’, Spanish football writer Graham Hunter stated Cruyff is “…pound for pound, the most important man in the history of football.”

There isn’t really a better final sentence to describe the visionary that was Johan Cruyff.


Number 50: Marcelo Bielsa – El Loco’s Journey From Argentina to Footballing Immortality in Europe

Number 49: Vic Buckingham – How an Englishman Discovered Johan Cruyff & Pioneered Total Football

Number 48: Claudio Ranieri: A Ridiculed Tinkerman Who Masterminded One of Football’s Greatest Ever Achievements

Number 47: Bill Nicholson: Mr Tottenham Hotspur, the First Double Winning Manager of the 20th Century

Number 46: Sven-Goran Eriksson: The Scudetto Winning Shagger Who Never Solved the Lampard-Gerrard Conundrum

Number 45: Sir Alf Ramsey: The Man Behind the ‘Wingless Wonders’ & England’s Sole World Cup Triumph

Number 44: Antonio Conte: An Astute Tactician Whose Perfectionist Philosophy Reinvented the 3-5-2 Wheel

Number 43: Kenny Dalglish: The Beacon of Light in Liverpool’s Darkest Hour

Number 42: Massimiliano Allegri: The Masterful Tactician Who Won Serie A Five Times in a Row

Number 41: Sir Bobby Robson: A Footballing Colossus Whose Fighting Spirit Ensured an Immortal Legacy

Number 40: Luis Aragones: Spain’s Most Important Manager, the Atleti Rock and the Modern Father of Tiki-Taka

Number 39: Herbert Chapman: One of Football’s Great Innovators & Mastermind Behind the ‘W-M’ Formation

Number 38: Carlos Alberto Parreira: The International Specialist Who Never Shied Away From a Challenge

Number 37: Franz Beckenbauer: The German Giant Whose Playing Career Overshadowed His Managerial Genius

Number 36: Viktor Maslov: Soviet Pioneer of the 4-4-2 & the Innovator of Pressing

Number 35: Rafa Benitez: The Conquerer of La Liga Who Masterminded That Comeback in Istanbul

Number 34: Zinedine Zidane: Cataloguing the Frenchman’s Transition From Midfield Magician to Managerial Maestro

Number 33: Luiz Felipe Scolari: How the Enigmatic ‘Big Phil’ Succeeded as Much as He Failed on the Big Stage

Number 32: Jupp Heynckes: The Legendary Manager Who Masterminded ‘the Greatest Bayern Side Ever’

Number 31: Vicente del Bosque: The Unluckiest Manager in the World Who Led Spain to Immortality

Number 30: Arsene Wenger: A Pioneering Who Became Invincible at Arsenal

Number 29: Udo Lattek: The Bundesliga Icon Who Shattered European Records

Number 28: Jock Stein: The Man Who Guided Celtic to Historic Heights & Mentored Sir Alex Ferguson

Number 27: Vittorio Pozzo: Metodo, Mussolini, Meazza & the Difficult Memory of a Two-Time World Cup Winner

Number 26: Jurgen Klopp: The Early Years at Mainz 05 Where He Sealed His ‘Greatest Achievement’

Number 25:Mario Zagallo: Habitual World Cup Winner & Sculptor of Brazil’s Joga Bonito Era

Number 24: Bela Guttmann: The Dance Instructor Who Changed Football Forever (and Managed…Just Everyone)

Number 23: Valeriy Lobanovskyi: The Scientist Who Dominated Football in the Soviet Union

Number 22: Louis van Gaal: The Stubborn Master Who Won 15 Major Trophies at 4 of the World’s Greatest Clubs

Number 21: Otto Rehhagel: The ‘King’ Who Turned 150/1 Greek Outsiders into Champions of Europe

Number 20: Tele Santana: The ‘Joga Bonito’ Icon Who Helped Brazil Rediscover Their Love of Football

Number 19: Bill Shankly: The Innovative Motivator Who Rebuilt Liverpool From the Ground Up

Number 18: Ottmar Hitzfeld: The Manager Who Won Absolutely Everything at Germany’s 2 Biggest Clubs

Number 17: Miguel Muñoz: The Man Who Told Alfredo Di Stefano to F*ck Off & Led the Ye-Ye’s to European Glory

Number 16: Fabio Capello: Italy’s Cosmopolitan Disciplinarian Who Built on a Generation-Defining AC Milan

Number 15: Brian Clough: He Wasn’t the Best Manager in the Business, But He Was in the Top 1

Number 14: Nereo Rocco: ‘El Paron’, the Pioneer of Catenaccio & Forgotten Great of Italian Football

Number 13: Carlo Ancelotti: Football’s Most Loveable Eyebrow in the Words of His Players

Number 12: Sir Matt Busby: The Man Who Built the Modern Manchester United

Number 11: Marcello Lippi: Montecristo Cigars, Neapolitan Dreams, Scudetti in Turin & Gli Azzurri’s World Cup

Number 10: Bob Paisley: The Understated Tactician Who Conquered All of Europe With Liverpool

Number 9: Jose Mourinho: The ‘Special One’ Who Shattered Records All Over Europe

Number 8: Helenio Herrera: The Innovator Who Single-Handedly Changed the Beautiful Game

Number 7: ?Ernst Happel: The ‘Weird Man’ Who Conquered European Football and Helped Shape the Modern Game


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Johan Cruyff: The Creator of the Barcelona Dream Team’s All-Time Best XI

Johan Cruyff is number 6 in 90min’s Top 50 Great Managers of All Time series. Follow the rest of the series over the course of the next week.


?Having retired from a legendary playing career, Johan Cruyff began an equally legendary managerial career in 1985 when he patched up his differences with Ajax to take charge at his former club.

But the Dutch master is most revered for his time at Barcelona from 1988 and 1996, another of his former clubs where his legacy as player and coach remains enormous to this day.

It was an era that produced Barça’s iconic ‘Dream Team’, yielded four La Liga titles, the Copa del Rey the Cup Winners’ Cup and the club’s first ever European Cup. They were also heavy favourites to win the Champions League in 1994, only to lose to AC Milan in a famous final.

Here’s a look at his best XI…


Goalkeepers & Defenders

BRAZIL V HOLLAND

Andoni Zubizarreta (GK) – Cruyff inherited a team that included Zubizarreta on his return to Catalonia in 1988. By that time, the Spaniard was already an established international player and would play virtually every game for Barcelona until Cruyff considered him surplus to requirements in 1994. He played in all three major European finals of Cruyff’s tenure.

Albert Ferrer – A product of the Barcelona youth setup that Cruyff was so passionate about, Ferrer emerged as a first team player in 1990 at the age of just 20. Two years later, he helped Barcelona win the European Cup for the first time two weeks before his 22nd birthday. Ferrer won nine trophies in his six years under Cruyff.

Ronald Koeman – The Dutch sweeper, a master of free-kicks and penalties, famously scored the only goal of the 1992 European Cup final as Cruyff’s ‘Dream Team’ beat Sampdoria. Cruyff had previously coached Koeman at Ajax and took him to Barcelona in 1989, where he enjoyed six incredible seasons and established himself as one of the best players in the world.

Miguel Angel Nadal – The Mallorca-born defender was an unused substitute in the 1992 European Cup final but went on to become a crucial part of the Barcelona side that continued to dominate Spanish football in the early 1990s. He won three La Liga titles with Cruyff in total.

Sergi Barjuan – The left-back won two of his three career La Liga titles with Barcelona after Cruyff’s departure in 1996. But, like Ferrer, Sergi was also a product of the club’s own youth ranks and became a first team regular under Cruyff’s guidance in 1993. By the time of his departure in 2002 he had played close to 400 games for the club and over 50 times for Spain.


Midfielders

Michael Laudrup

Jose Mari Bakero – Joining Barcelona in 1988 and leaving in 1996, Bakero’s Camp Nou career perfectly coincided with Cruyff’s time as manager. The midfielder was a crucial part of the domestic dominance enjoyed by the ‘Dream Team’, winning four consecutive La Liga titles from. He too was a European Cup winner in 1992 and a Champions League finalist in 1994.

Pep Guardiola – “I knew nothing about football before knowing Cruyff,” were the words of Guardiola in 2016, explaining in an interview with The Guardian just how deep an impact the legendary Dutch master has had on his life and career. Legend dictates Cruyff transformed a teenage Guardiola from a winger to a central midfielder in his first week as coach in 1988.

Michael Laudrup – He famously missed Denmark’s triumph at Euro ’92, but Laudrup was undoubtedly one of the best players in the world in the early 1990s. He was revered for his skill and enjoyed the single best season of his whole illustrious career as Barcelona completed a La Liga and European Cup double in the 1991/92 campaign.


Forwards

Romario

Txiki Begiristain – Barcelona signed Begiristain, Bakero and Luis Lopez Rekarte all from Real Sociedad in the summer of 1988 to coincide with Cruyff’s arrival as coach. Although an unused substitute in the 1992 European Cup final, Begiristain was a part of all the successes of the ‘Dream Team’ era.

Romario – The 1994 World Cup winner spent little more than a year at Barcelona yet enjoyed arguably the best season of his career at Camp Nou. Romario scored 30 La Liga goals in 1993/94, his best ever in a single national league campaign, and played in the Champions League final before later winning the World Cup with Brazil that summer.

Hristo Stoichkov – Brought to Barcelona in 1990, Stoichkov offered consistent goals as the Catalans dominated La Liga for four straight years and were crowned champions of Europe in 1992. He was twice runner-up in the FIFA World Player of the Year rankings in 1992 and 1994, but did scoop the 1994 Ballon d’Or after also winning the World Cup Golden Boot.


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Number 14: Nereo Rocco: The Milan Legend’s All-Time Best XI

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Number 12: Sir Matt Busby: The Legendary Scot Who Built Modern Man Utd’s All-Time Best XI

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Number 7: ?Ernst Happel: The Austrian Mastermind’s All-Time Best XI


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