Johan Cruyff, Barcelona Vintage 1973-78

NetherlandsIt 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 a potent symbol of the 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. This Vintage gallery is dedicated to football’s Thin White Duke – The Catalan Years 1973-78.

4 thoughts on “Johan Cruyff, Barcelona Vintage 1973-78

  1. A quite brilliant and exceptional talent. i was lucky enough to see him play twice. First in 1972 while on a school trip to the Netherlands and then against Leeds at Elland road in the European cup semi final. I have no doubt that he was far better than George Best and would have loved to have seen him play in the English first division, although back then, some of the old school defenders, Smith, Hunter etc. would have kicked lumps out of him.

    1. Surely Cruyff was a more accomplished professional and a more disciplined athlete (in all his geniality), but can we say that anyone in football was ever “far better” than George Best? Honestly, I don’t think so. Best was the quintessential example of genius in football. He is incomparable!

      1. Best was NOT a genius. There where more than a handful of defenders he could never get the better of, and I saw them play against him. Brilliant, yes, but he never won games single handed. To say he is incomparable is a complete insult to others, before or since. Had Eddie Gray not been so injury prone then Best would have never held a candle to him. Amongst the greatest players of all time, then Best would not make the top 10.

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