Johan Cruyff was so powerful he was allowed to wear two stripes instead of the three adidas brands on the Netherlands shirt due to his allegiance to sportswear rivals Puma

There’s a lot of debate over who the GOAT of world football actually is, but Johan Cruyff is definitely a contender.

It’s been six years today since the sport lost one of its greatest pioneers, on and off the pitch.

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Cruyff is a true contender for football’s GOAT title

The Dutch supremo was undoubtedly a legend of the game as he dominated the sport in the 60s and 70s with scintillating performances for Ajax – where he won nine league titles and three consecutive European Cups during his spell in his native country – and Barcelona.

He wasn’t too bad at international level either.

Scored 33 goals in 48 appearances for the Netherlands, Cruyff was one of the game’s most marketable players in his day, leading to one of the most memorable trade disputes in football history.

As part of his success, Cruyff enjoyed a fruitful partnership with sports manufacturer Puma, but trouble arose during the 1974 World Cup when the Dutch national team partnered with adidas to display their famous three stripes on the shoulders and sleeves of the jersey.

Most gamers would have little to say after being stuck between the proverbial rock and the anvil, but Cruyff – always the maverick – was a little different.

Such was his status and gravity in the sporting and business world, a special exception was made for the striker with the Dutch FA allowing him to play the tournament with just two stripes on his kit, instead of the traditional three – stripping effectively its… branding tape.

Cruyff's player power was so enormous that he asked adidas to remove their branding from his Dutch shirts - while his teammates all wore the three-stripe branding

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Cruyff’s player power was so enormous that he asked adidas to remove their branding from his Dutch shirts – while his teammates all wore the three-stripe branding


“These two tapes belong to me,” Cruyff later wrote in a column for Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf. “No one thinks this jersey is an adidas jersey.”

Unfortunately for Cruyff, his status as one of world football’s top stars was not enough to help the Netherlands, who made it to the 1974 World Cup final, only to be narrowly beaten by the hosts, West Germany.

It may not have been the kind of tournament the greats would have wanted, but there’s no doubt that this special example of a player forcing one of the most powerful sports brands in the world to bend in this way was a signal how revered was the Dutch genius.

As well as winning numerous honors at club level, Cruyff was also named European Footballer of the Year in 1971, 1973 and 1974.

Cruyff even had his pre-game jacket altered to show his dedication to sportswear and to startup partner Puma - adidas' German rival owned by one of the Dassler brothers.

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Cruyff even had his pre-game jacket altered to show his dedication to sportswear and to startup partner Puma – adidas’ German rival owned by one of the Dassler brothers.

Creating the now famous ‘Cruyff-turn’, he unexpectedly retired from international football ahead of the 1978 World Cup final in Argentina, although it emerged three decades later that he had done after his family was the victim of an attempted kidnapping and he did not want to travel to South America.

He then spent spells in America with the Los Angeles Aztecs and Washington Diplomats, before returning to Europe with Levante, Ajax and Feyenoord.

Cruyff then moved on to management where he led Ajax and then Barcelona, ​​where he built the ‘dream team’ of players including Pep Guardiola, Ronald Koeman, Michael Laudrup, Romario, Gheorghe Hagi and Hristo Stoichkov.

Cruyff is known as one of football's great innovators and biggest star names

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Cruyff is known as one of football’s great innovators and biggest star names

As well as winning four league titles and a European Cup at Camp Nou, Cruyff left a lasting legacy as the man who would have set the pattern for the club’s resounding success in the years that followed.

Guardiola said: “Johan Cruyff has painted the chapel and the coaches of Barcelona since he was content to restore or improve it.”

The years keep ticking away since the Dutchman’s tragic passing in 2016, but if you ask anyone of football notable, it’s clear that the legend of Johan Cruyff lives on.

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