Cruyff and the poetics of space

Johan Cruyff, who died last week, was the most influential figure in the history of modern football. Nobody has had a comparable impact as both a player and manager.

During his long playing career from the mid-1960s to the early 1980s Cruyff was recognised as one of the all-time greats, in the elite company of PelĂ©, Maradona and (later) Messi, a midfielder combining outstanding technical skills with a supreme ability to read the game. Cruyff could change the course of a match in an instant through an acute pass, a sudden change of pace or a ghost-like shift in position. Rudolf Nureyev was among the many fascinated by Cruyff’s balletic atheleticism, his ability to wrongfoot opponents by lightning changes in direction executed with speed and perfect balance.

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