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.
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
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.
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.
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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