Johan Cruyff: The man who reinvented football and made it possible for Messi to shine

The tears shed in Barcelona, where Cruyff lived as he lost his five month battle with lung cancer, were for the genius who changed an institution that has since changed the game itself with its possession-based philosophy.

Put simply: without Cruyff there would not be Guardiola and the list goes on. Xavi, Iniesta, Messi … all players who were touched and inspired not only by his footballing brain and the deftness of touch that set him apart, but his vision and values.

“Both as a player and as a manager, you changed the history of our club. Thank you Johan,” wrote Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu on Twitter.

At Wembley next week when Holland face England in a friendly match, images of Cruyff will be displayed on the big screens inside and outside the stadium.

“Sometimes the word legend is used a little bit loosely, sometimes even flippantly,” said England coach Roy Hodgson. “But there are one or two greats, and one or two legends, and Johan Cruyff is one of those.”

It rings ridiculous to think Cruyff once queried whether he would have even made it in the game had been born in the modern era.

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