It was in the aftermath of a stunning individual performance against Benfica that the Portuguese media christened George Best as ‘O Quinto Beatle‘ – ‘the fifth Beatle’. If anything it was a surprise that no-one had linked these icons earlier than this particular 1966 European Cup tie. George Best had the looks, the sex appeal, the talent and the innate sense of stagecraft that was the envy of many a pop star of the day.
If Best was the symbol of some sort of convergence of football and popular culture during the 1960s, by the following decade that mantle had passed firmly to Johan Cruyff. If Best had represented the straightforward and good-natured values of moptop-era Beatles, Cruyff’s allure was something quite different indeed. An intelligent, confrontational and complex chameleon; Cruyff was a footballing alien in the conservative world of European football and, in sporting terms, closest in spirit to Thin White Duke-era David Bowie. Their respective worlds of football and popular music had seen nothing like them before.
Both Best and Cruyff were loved by the lens and featured in many an iconic football photograph during their careers. The Dutchman might have preferred playing in an Ajax strip because its colours made it easier to find teammates with passes, but BTLM believes there are few sights in football as beautiful as Hendrik Johannes Cruijff resplendent in the colours of a 70s Barcelona strip – unsullied by sponsor and kit manufacturer logos of course. This gallery is dedicated to football’s Thin White Duke – The Catalan Years 1973-78.