The following is a translation of Johan Cruyff’s weekly article in ‘El Periodico’. The original can be found here.
Johan Cruyff’s key points.
This group of players can continue on fighting for everything, but if you let people on the outside interfere there will be problems
These Barca players are worthy champions. The victory in itself is a cause for celebration, but for them to do it in the way they did it is something to be proud of. And more so that they didn’t realise what they had done themselves [Ed. their gestures]. On the way back from London I had the time to browse [a sample of] the English press. Not even an excuse was made for Manchester United’s defeat. Not one. It is quite the contrary. Compliment after compliment was given to the victors, acknowledging they are a step above their rivals. It was not only about Manchester losing and Barca winning but also that ‘football’ was also the winner. And how Barca’s game, dynamic and offensive touches everyone, regardless of colour or backgrounds.
Beyond the football, which was a great final in itself – if not the best, it certainly was one of the best that I have seen – there are small details in the character of this group of winners that make them strong. And this strength is fed by the small gestures they give each other that turn itself into a positive dynamic [within the team]. I’m referring to the introduction of Puyol [who is unfit to play] late in the match so as to give him the opportunity to wear his captain’s armband, and who in turn gave it to Abidal so it was he who raised the cup.
But in this piece, I also want to mention the gesture in giving Mascherano his start and the minutes that Afellay had. Both are new to the squad but both were rewarded for their performance and the effort they put in so as to be able to adapt to a football language that is wonderful to watch but very difficult to implement. Crucial to Barca, Mascherano has turned himself into a true master [in defence], and like-wise Afellay [up front]. He was given his small reward for the contribution he made that helped the team get to Wembley. I’m referring to the part he played in Messi’s first goal in the semi-finals’ first leg at the Bernabeu. With eleven players so perfect, so talented, that on paper they are Barca’s first eleven, it is so difficult to get into the team and fit in without being out of tune. The two of them, that’s two more joining the cause.
The new Wembley victory is Barca’s fourth European Cup in 19 years, its third in the last five. I don’t know when Guardiola will leave. [The other day] I was asked by some Italian journalists about his passion [for his current job], about what he had said recently. I’m referring to part where he said he felt he was closer to the end [of his time here] because of the pressure, and that he did not wish to continue doing this for a long time, saying his future here depended on the willingness and attitude of his players. Barca fans need not be alarmed by this [statement], but the truth is he, and only he alone, knows whether he still has what it takes [to continue on doing his job] regardless of the staggering number of titles and records that he has won. We need to respect his decision. Yes I do realise that when he leaves we do have to find a replacement, a decision, so important, that it could have a bearing on whether or not we can continue to make history for the next 20 years.
And even with Guardiola at the helm next year – if he still wants to and feels strong enough to continue – it will be crucial that he receives unconditional support from the people around him. It is not his players nor will it be his staffs but the club’s board of directors. A winning cycle seldom ends due to a team’s fault (players or coaches), but usually it is for reasons outside of it. This team still has plenty in them keep on fighting for everything but when those on the outside starts interfering [in the running of the team] that’s when problems usually arises.
Seeing what I saw live at Wembley – be it the new or the old one – I remembered, of course, our first European Cup in ’92, a victory that pushed forward, a little, the idea [within the club] to give coaches the trust and complete freedom to work. First it was Rijkaard, and later, Guardiola, and with them, their team of coaches. Seeing their successes, and how they are getting it right, at least for me, I still remembers the president who is willing to take a chance on them back then, considering where they came from [Ed. lack of experience]. The same [former] president that this current board has been at loggerheads with for several reasons, and it is these kinds of attitudes and actions that I fear the most [regarding Pep’s future].
I’m not the least bit concerned that Madrid could be strengthened with this or that player, or that it is getting itself into a sticky situation, for no matter how many players they sign it is still only eleven that will play [at one time]. If this Barca team continues as it is now they won’t be posing any problem, except [that is] when someone in charge [of the club] decides to be smarter and wiser than his subordinates, his team of coaches.