The legendary Johan Cruyff passed away in 2016, but through the work of Wim Jonk and others his legacy is alive and well.
Alongside Cruyff’s son, Jordi, and Ruben Jongkind, Jonk is still spreading the Cruyff philosophy around the world.
They are not doing it through a club or country, but instead via Cruyff Football. Through this company they are preaching the word of their master, acting as consultants for those who require their services.
Clubs and countries can call upon their expertise and in doing so they will help them play attractive football, produce home grown players and adopt sustainable football strategies.
Crucially, it also means that Cruyff’s way of football lives on across the globe.
“He is not there anymore and he did so many, many things for football,” says Jonk.
“He wants to bring something back to football again and that’s what he asked me to do.”
Football fans in England have naturally and understandably always been jealous of Cruyff’s style of football.
At its best, it is absolutely beautiful on the eye and also, as shown by Barcelona under Pep Guardiola only a few years ago, utterly unstoppable.
More recently in the Premier League, there is a tendency to think Cruyff’s philosophy has come and gone from these shores with the infamous tenure of Frank de Boer at Crystal Palace.
La Historia De Johan Cruyff by crisdarkone
The Dutchman lasted just 77 days at Selhurst Park before he was shown the door, but as Jonk explains he is not a pure disciple of Cruyff.
“I think if you look at what Cruyff’s vision is, he was always thinking two, three steps forward,” says Jonk.
“There is a difference between the Frank de Boer style and the Cruyff style. We had a discussion at Ajax as well because Frank was more of a Louis van Gaal style.
“That’s different when you compare that with Johan’s style.”
So what exactly is the Cruyff way of playing football compared to the ideas of De Boer and Van Gaal?
“There are similar things but in Johan’s game it is more about finding the pace in the game – to play with a certain rhythm,” explains Jonk.
“Van Gaal’s style was more organised and you look for your chances. That could be boring as well.
“With Cruyff it was never boring because he wants to do something different. When I discussed football with Johan, he always mentioned the rhythm of the game.
“You can dominate opponents with short passes, but then you have to find a way to win the 1v1s and create chances. You have to put the opponent under pressure to recover the ball quick.
“That is, in a nutshell, his mindset of the game.”
Hearing Jonk explain exactly what it means to play football in the Cruyff way, it is impossible not to think of the work Guardiola has done during his career.
The Spaniard is perhaps the closest we have to a modern day Cruyff and, as Jonk says, it is never boring.
People can moan about Manchester City’s suspect defence, but when it comes to attacking play and style no one comes close to matching them.
Prior to working with Cruyff Football, Jonk was responsible, along with his old mentor, for one of the most turbulent times in the history of Ajax.
Back in 2010 Cruyff, Jonk and Jongkind all teamed up to write Plan Cruyff as a way of reforming their former club.
It was initially met by hostility from those within Ajax, until one year later the club finally decided to adopt the proposal with Cruyff joining in an advisory role.
In 2012, Jonk was appointed head of the academy and slowly but surely Plan Cruyff was put into place.
It is now dubbed ‘the velvet revolution’, but crucially it brought about a huge reform of the Ajax youth academy, based on an individual approach to talent development.
Cruyff’s philosophy was back at its spiritual home.
“For me, Cruyff is, ‘how do you play football? How do you educate young kids?'” says Jonk.
“We (Cruyff, Jonk and Jongkind) had a lot of discussions when I was at the academy at Ajax and we were together for five years.
“Together with Johan and Ruben Jongkind, we wrote Plan Cruyff to revive Ajax at that time.
“If the money is not there with a club like Ajax, you have to do it in a different way. You have to think in a different way. That is what we did as well.
“Because if it is just money, it is easy to buy a player again, but with Ajax we had a different vision. We got young players and gave them a good education, a good talent programme. Then you build from there.
“In a new development, you have to make sure they are ready for it. Not just the skills they have, but mentally.
“How do you do it like a sportsman? It is not just playing your game. It is more around the football game. We have to learn that as well.
“It caused a lot of problems inside the club, it was a big revolution, but at the end it’s all about what do you want? What do you want to achieve?
“From Cruyff’s vision, he always thinks two steps ahead. The result of today is the result from 10 years ago. So you have to do it in that way.”
Ultimately, in 2015, following disagreements with the Ajax board, Cruyff and Jonk broke ties with the club.
The evidence of their work, however, can still be seen at the Dutch side as recently as last season when they reached the Europa League final with the youngest starting line-up in the competition’s history.
The positive of leaving Ajax for Jonk and Jongkind is that they have been able to spread the word of Cruyff Football.
The may not have a club or a country, but they have an idea and, as they are showing, that can be more powerful than anything.
The legacy of Cruyff is alive and well.