Review: Ajax, Barcelona, Cruyff

Ajax, Barcelona, Cruyff
Ajax, Barcelona, Cruyff by Frits Barend
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An unusual format, a mix primarily of comments directly from Cruyff with some brief biographical context, Ajax, Barcelona, Cruyff is a fascinating window into one of the greatest player/managers in world soccer. journalists turned media hosts Barend and van Dorp show their relationship with the enigmatic star as much as Cruyff reveals himself.

The book is essentially a series of chronological interviews that the two conducted with the Dutch master over the course of his playing and managerial career. It is essentially curated conversations between the authors and subject. The majority of the text is right from Cruyff’s mouth, although it is not an autobiography or ghost written. In that way, it makes for an interesting book.

Clearly, Barend and van Dorp selected what was included in the volume, although I wonder how much actual editing was involved. Each chapter is a different moment in Cruyff’s career with some preliminary background information to provide context, capturing pivotal turning points and fundamental philosophy. The interviews also illuminate some of Cruyff’s prickliness and petulance, in addition to all insightful commentary. While overwhelmingly favorable, it certainly is not a warts and all portrait but highlights a wider spectrum of colors in Cruyff’s personality.

For any fan of Cruyff as player, manager, or era in which he shined this is unquestionably one of the best books. In fact, since reading it I have seen it repeatedly referenced in multiple volumes. More than anything it is one of the few primary accounts in English about the Dutch zenith of totaalvoetbal, which reverberates through the game to this day. After all, Cruyff’s first Barcelona acolyte from his retooled La Masia was Pep Guardiola.

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