Johan Cruyff was a big fan of kids playing football on the street.
He owned a lot of street football playgrounds in Holland, which aim to encourage children to keep enjoying football and stay fit.
Cruyff played for another of Holland’s big clubs, Feijnoord, but most people only talk about Ajax because he is such a tall figure in the club’s history, and they suited his playing style more. Since his playing days he was heavily involved at Ajax, the Holland national team and Barcelona.
There was always some friction at the teams he played for because he was a man that stood up for his beliefs and he loved to get his way.
He’s a real hero in Holland and the whole country is going crazy about him passing away. The Ajax board of directors have even spoke about plans to rename the Ajax Arena after the late great.
He will always be known as the man that loved tiki taka – the philosophy in football that involves keeping the ball in the team until your opponent gets tired, so you can capitalise and finish them off. A style that Barcelona and Bayern Munich have become known for under Pep Guardiola.
In France there are many similarities to Holland’s style, especially with the way PSG play. That’s the reason I wanted to play in France, and also the reason why PSG outperformed Chelsea in the Champions League.
Today the Holland national team want to play nice football, but we don’t have the balance in the team to do that. The teams of Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup were the best we have had in some time, but the players are now past their peak and they need to rebuild again.
I first encountered Cruyff when I was 11 years old at Ajax youth academy, when he was the coach of Ajax. During one of my games he told my coach to take me off.
Having this iconic player request that I be taken off the field was of course upsetting, and I started to cry at half time. He came up to me and put his arm around me as I asked, “why did you ask my coach to take me off?”
He told me that he’d seen me play many times and that he knew I’d still be there next season, and that he wasn’t sure about the rest. “If you keep working hard you’ll be here for along time coming,” he said – and those words always stuck with me. I remained at Ajax until I was 21 and made the move to Chelsea.