At the Johan Cruyff Foundation, Jordi Cruyff wait for Jorge Valdano. He wants to talk with the Argentinian, a talk that evokes what his father had with the columnist of EL PAÍS in July 2000. “Those boots were your father’s?” Valdano asks. Jordi Cruyff, also today a columnist in this newspaper, takes them and sees if they are broken inside. “We fit the same, but he had a bone bone.” Valdano and Cruyff, always with the mentor of Dream team present, remember the past and think about the future.
Jorge Valdano 20 years ago I interviewed your father in Santander and, as always, he anticipated the times. One of the things he told me was that there were too many intruders in the world of football. Since then, the number of intruders has grown exponentially, as has the industry. Your experience is more itinerant: you were in England, in Israel and now in China. Do you have a vision of where we are going?
Jordi Cruyff. My father had very clear ideas and explained them in his own way and with his vocabulary. He, with respect to those of the intruders, thought that the soccer decisions have to be taken by soccer people. Today, an entrepreneur who has been successful in business, buys a computer and is believed to be the same. And it is not. My father always said that the important thing was not the managers, but the soccer players and the coaches. And that decisions about these have to be made by people who know a wardrobe.
J. V. Now there are other types of intruders: technology and big data. Before, to have authority you had to go to watch the games. There came a time when laziness led us to watch videos instead of watching games. Currently, we are going directly to the algorithms to analyze a soccer player.
J. C. My father, for example, made decisions on the fly, according to what was smelled. I am convinced that there will have changed alignments at the last moment. And, for example, he could have the training plan written on a piece of paper and, on the way from the locker room to the field, in those 100 or 200 meters, he smelled what was on the template and told Charly [Rexach, su segundo]: “We are going to change this.” And they disassembled everything on the fly. Today, doing that is impossible.
J. V. Guardiola put method to the enormous intuition of your father?
J. C. I think so. Sometimes I look at some of my father’s alignments and think he was crazy. How brave! There is no explanation. He played with an extreme like Goikoetxea from the left back, a midfielder like Eusebio from the right back, Koeman and Pep … He was the least defensive in the world.
J. V. How do you do to be his son?
J. C. Since childhood I understood that it was impossible to compare. People like to think that the son may be better than the father, but I never cheated. I realized that he was one of 99% of the players. It was a comparison that I couldn’t win, neither I nor the majority. There was also a stage in Barça where it cost me and I preferred to have a peaceful growth, without those wars that always existed because my father was not easy, especially for a manager.
J. V. He had friends and enemies.
J. C. Yes. And it was a battle in which I was involved without really caring.
J. V. Are you optimistic about football?
J. C. Not as much as my father. I remember, for example, that there was a player from Atlético de Madrid that stood out well [MANOLO]. And he said: “Then we don’t mark it. He won’t know what to do with the ball. ” These are very logical things, but it seems crazy to put them into practice.
J. V. Why do you say you are less optimistic than your father?
J. C. When I faced a match I only looked at a part. That of how to attack, did not care so much to defend. He thought that if his team had the ball, he was going to dictate what would happen in the match. But there are many teams that do not have a template to do so and then they have to think a little about how to avoid being harmed. My father was lucky to be able to choose. And he was smart: Ajax and Barcelona are two clubs where he could do what he wanted.
J. V. Would you enjoy football and technological invasion today?
J. C. Less, but there are many teams that play from behind and are brave. He was also among the first to do this: in Ajax he put a goalkeeper who was better with his feet than with his hands and played 40 meters from the goal.
J. V. Your father talked about the fact that football in Spain was very federal, that there were too many autonomies and that it hurt the national team because too many styles coexisted and it was difficult to create something homogeneous. Time showed that this background favored the Spanish player precisely to lose the fear of different styles. And they ended up adapting very well to globalization. Not only did they win a World Cup, but they have also left Spain to go to other leagues where they are great referents.
J. C. There was a time when the Spanish player stayed in Spain. To go abroad you have to learn the language. As a Dutchman it is easier, because Holland is never a final season. The Dutch league is a platform while the Spanish is where you want to get, stay and finish. Spain has had to make this change and Holland has always had coaches and traveling players. No one speaks Dutch. So either you learn or nobody understands you. My father carried him inside. He didn’t speak any language perfectly, but he had his logic for everyone.
J. V. The Dutch football revolution, which started with your father as a player, started from an idea. In Spain we owe it more to a generation of players: to the complicity around Xavi, Iniesta, Xabi Alonso, Busquets … A good number of high-level players who ended up creating a school.
J. C. The Spanish footballer was technically good, but there was always more talk about character and fury. Today, the Spanish player is one of the most comfortable with the ball in the world. With an advantage, it maintains character. They have mixed the two things. A Dutch team has to be fit to win; a Spanish one, however, when he has a bad day also gets results. That is football character and ability.
J. V. I am interested in your vision of the famous European Super League, which will make the rich much richer, but we already know what the consequence will be.
J. C. My father was a romantic. And I think that some matches in a local league are much more interesting than others in the Champions League. I understand the idea of big clubs because, when compared to any American sport, they observe that the United States business level is not reached. But breaking the traditional, which is what people like, is very risky. The moment you take that step you can not go back. In England people prefer a City-United derby than to see an Inter-United. Large teams want to have their presence assured, but the beauty of sport in general – and also of football – is to see that small teams can sneak in. Soccer also needs cases like Leicester’s [increíble campeón de la Premier en 2016].
J. V. The money is winning by thrashing in his pulse with romanticism. Already in the Champions League, three qualifiers are forced to play the Czech champion.
J. C. Ajax, semifinalist, has had to play two previous ones.
J. V. But the fourth ranked in Spain or England is planted in the group stage.
J. C. There are leagues that are better than others.
J. V. The problem is that better means richer. The five richest leagues are those that all their representatives have in eighths. And I wonder: when China is very rich, will it also have to be integrated into the business?
J. C. It is risky to lose romanticism. You have to keep your balance. In the end, good teams will always qualify. But it is more important to take care of the champion of Holland, Belgium or the Czech Republic, than number four of Spain. It’s called the Champions League and the champions don’t always participate.
J. V. Soccer is unpredictable. How do you think the common fan will receive such a resounding change? To move from a national league, in which it is very exciting to beat the people next door, to an international league in which we are going to have to get used to seeing great parties with great actors.
J. C. I am not sure. Europe was made to unite, but more and more people want to leave. I am not clear about the general feeling. The stadiums in England and Germany fill up and that means they are happy with what they have.
J. V. Do not you think that romanticism is a thing of previous generations? Young people who have a love relationship with technology, who want impact and who love great players and stellar names, will they start asking for different things? I remember some statements by Pablo Aimar in which he assured that he belonged to the last generation that will see entire parties. It scared me, but it seemed real. I don’t know how soccer is going to have to be done to adapt.
J. C. I agree that the new generation wants quick information. He doesn’t want to see 90 minutes, but a clip of three with the best actions of the game. Everything changes. Many years ago it was expected until the next day to read something of a great event. Today, at 20 seconds you already have 20 different places where you can read it. There is no time to reflect. But it is in everything, not only in sport. Technology generates this, or we follow or fall behind. There is no brake.
J. V. I have always said that in man there is an animal backroom and that it must be satisfied. You have to feed him with great emotions. And football serves to content through a fiction, very emotional, to that primitivism and savagery, which helps us to let off steam in a civilized place. But if we civilize football too much it will do something else, but not for that.
J. C. It is robotizing. Maybe, in 20 years, there will be no referee. We laugh thinking it’s impossible, but everything can happen. I like to collect t-shirts from the 80s. Sometimes, I take them and I almost fall out of my hands. When it rained you couldn’t run with them. Today, they are plastic. I am part of a generation that has had to adapt to new developments, especially technology and information. But in one part of the heart the boy who liked the stickers has remained.
J. V. We are still waiting for you to return to Spain …
J. C. The time will come. I am increasingly looking forward to returning. I left with 21 years and, except for the Alavés stage and the year of Espanyol, I have always been out. Twenty years …
J. V. Do you feel of Barcelona?
J. C. Yes, when I say home I think of Barcelona. I am 45 years old and in Holland I have lived only five or six. My father dragged us all over the world. When I had to leave I saw a mountain in having to leave friends and changing schools. In the end, I thank you because having experiences all over the world and knowing different places is the most enriching thing there is.
J. V. As we have returned you home, it is time to end the conversation. Waiting for your next decisions. Thank you for bringing us to your home.
J. C. And there he is [señala una fotografía de su padre marcando un golazo de espuela al Atlético]… Always above us.
J. V. Always vigilant He is in profile, but he looks at us.
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