Cristiano’s flirtation with Atlético, which threatens to enter a sacrilege for supporters of both Madrid sides, has some precedents, these culminated. One happened in Spain in the early 1960s when Kubala, a Barça legend of the previous decade, signed for Espanyol, which had a huge impact that I have already touched on in this section. Cruyff’s jump to Feyenoord is less memorable.
After leaving Barça at the age of 32, Cruyff became an almost pathetic figure, raising money at the expense of his former immense fame, which was demeaning. He was the standard-bearer for the great Ajax, with whom he won the European Cup three seasons in a row, and for the Mechanical orange, the Dutch team that impressed at the World Cup in Germany 74 despite remaining untitled in the end. He had delighted Barcelona fans with his signing for the 73-74 season, in which Barça retook the league after 14 years without a win, and with the jewel set in stone of a 5-0 win at the Bernabéu. But from then on he seemed to calm down; His remaining four years at Barça were not so good and his decline began when he accepted Los Ángeles Aztecas’ offer to become “the Pelé of the Pacific” (Pelé played for the New York Cosmos). At just 32, he resigned from football’s highest peaks to rebuild finances that a bad partner had destroyed. From Los Angeles he went to the Washington Diplomats, then he tried his hand at a friendly tournament for Milan, but he didn’t stay, he played half a season at Levante, in the second division, he returned to the diplomats…
He returned to Ajax, his homeland, at the age of 35. He was born very close to the stadium, which he often visited as a child because his mother worked as a cleaning lady. There he had climbed the rungs two by two to become the best player in the world. Now he decided to regain the scenes of his origins and the sensibilities of serious football.
His comeback started with the best of omens: he scored in his first game against Haarlem. Ajax would reach this championship and the next, always with him as the axis of the attacking game. In this second season he scored one of his most famous goals, the indirect punishment: Instead of stepping straight on goal, he nudged the ball a little to the left for Jesper Olsen, with whom he previously agreed on the maneuver, to return it and hit the unsettled goalkeeper at will. A goal like that was scored by Rick Coppens in the Netherlands 25 years ago and Cruyff may have worked on that memory. That went around the world.
But at the end of this second course, an unexpected disappointment hit him: the President ajar, Tom Harmsen, does not renew it. And he keeps declaring that Cruyff is no longer here to play at the demanding level of the Eredivisie.
His reaction is spectacular: he signs with great rivals Feyenoord Rotterdam. Feyenoord had overtaken Ajax in winning the European Cup 69-70 (the Amsterdammers would win the next three thanks largely to Cruyff) but it had been 9 years since they had won the Liga, AZ and PSV on the domestic scene, and they turned to Cruyff to remedy their fate. With him came a very young Gullit who had excelled in Haarlem. Cruyff, Gullit and striker Houtman form a sensational partnership. Feyenoord arrive at Ajax on 18 September 1983 unbeaten with five wins and one draw amid barbaric anticipation. But he makes an incredible series of defensive mistakes and Ajax wins 8-2. Cruyff is very offended, but he doesn’t flinch: “We’re going to win the championship,” he declared after the match.
It sounds like bravery, but what follows is a streak of 12 wins and 3 draws, broken only by a defeat in Groningen…just on the Sunday before Ajax’s long-awaited visit to De Kuip (The Bathtub), as Feyenoord’s stadium is known becomes. . The expectation breaks records. Feyenoord wins 4-1 and Cruyff scores one of the goals. The Rotterdamers become champions, as Cruyff had predicted, with only two defeats. And they also win the cup after eliminating Ajax in the round of 16. A sensational double.
Revenge was complete. He has made 44 appearances and scored 13 goals, showing he wasn’t done for the Eredivisie. Well, as soon as the last word is said, he’ll hang up his boots and return to Ajax to join the coaching staff. It wouldn’t take long to repeat the Amsterdam-Barcelona trip, this time to create the unforgettable dream team.
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