After having appeared for the club as a player, “El Flaco (The Skinny One)” returned to FC Barcelona for the 1988-89 season, this time to take up his new role as coach of the first team
Before returning to the Catalan capital, Cruyff had already built up plenty of experience as a coach. His first job as coach was with Ajax, a club where he had starred as a player. He led the team to a Dutch Cup title in 1986, followed by Cup Winners' Cup success a year later. In Holland, he was strongly praised for the attacking flair he imposed on his sides and also for his commendable work as talent spotter, discovering, for example Marco Van Basten and Dennis Bergkamp.
With Barça, Cruyff started work with a completely remodelled side after the previous season's scandal, known as the 'Hespereria Mutiny'. His second in command was Charly Rexach, who had already been at the Club in the role for a year. Cruyff immediately had his Barça charges playing his attractive brand of football and the results did not take long in coming. But, this didn't just happen with the first team, the youth teams also displayed that same attacking style, something that made it easier for reserve players to make the switch to first team football. Without a doubt, such in-depth strengthening of the squad was one of the areas that best explains why Cruyff was such a huge success.
With the Dutchman as coach, the Club began one of the most successful stages of its history, winning four LaLiga titles in a row between 1990 and 1994, something never achieved before. In May 1992, at the famous Wembley Stadium, Barça won their first ever European Cup with the so-called 'Dream Team' thrilling the world with their extraordinary football. The team had a smattering of international talent Stoichkov, Laudrup, Koeman and later Romario) as well as a solid base of mainly Catalan and Basque players (Bakero, Txiqui, Salinas, Guardiola, Ferrer, Sergi...) who blended brilliantly with other members of the squad such as Nadal, Amor and Eusebio.
But the eight years that he was in charge at the Club did not come without their difficulties for Johan. It should not be forgotten that on January 27, 1991, he was subjected to open heart surgery, which was directly related to his many years of tobacco consumption. The operation marked a moment of reflection.
However, the Dutchman's two last seasons at the Club were less successful, and during that time, Barça failed to capture a single title. As a result of his very public disagreements with the president, Josep Lluís Núñez, in 1996 Cruyff left the club via the back door. Later, the Club and the Dutchman came to the agreement to stage two emotional testimonials at the Camp Nou and Amsterdam Arena.
Cruyff passed away on 24 March 2016 in Barcelona after losing his battle with lung cancer.