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Feyenoord Salutes.

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Johan Cruyff will be remembered as one of football’s all-time greats for his genius and for the indelible mark he left on the world of football.

The two clubs synonymous with the Dutch great, Ajax and Barcelona, continue to shape themselves in his image.

But the Total Football icon could also strike with vengeance - as the Amsterdam club learned to their cost.

At the age of 36, Cruyff was cast aside from De Meer. The club whom he had first represented in 1957 had decided 26 years later to cast him aside.

At the end of a two-year deal, where despite some injuries the three-time Ballon d’Or winner had still played his part in de Godenzonen's back-to-back Eredivisie successes, the powers that be decided to go in a new direction.

The face of Total Football wasn’t to their liking no more. A new contract wasn’t forthcoming. He was cast onto the scrapheap.

Only he wasn’t ready to be jettisoned. Immensely proud, this wasn’t how he wanted to leave, especially after the success he had taken to Amsterdam, the most glistening period in the club’s history.

So when bitter rivals Feyenoord came calling, offering the four-time Dutch footballer of the year a one-year deal, Cruyff decided to accept. It was an act akin to footballing treason, parallels with swapping Barcelona for Real Madrid, Liverpool for Manchester United or Celtic for Rangers.

But this was about single-bloody mindedness and pride. Feyenoord had struggled for much of the past nine years, since a league and UEFA Cup double in 1974. Cruyff set to change that, heading to De Kuip with the sole aim of sticking it to the club of his heart.

It wouldn’t be easy. Ajax were champions, PSV Eindhoven, backed by Phillips, had come on strong and AZ Alkmaar had won a first league title at the beginning of the 1980s.

But while Rotterdammers may have initially been cool towards their new signing, questioning why their club had taken an apparent punt on a player from their most bitter rival - and one who was at the very tail-end of his career - de Trots van Zuid soon warmed to their new leader as they won five of their first six Eredivisie fixtures.

Then, calamity. In his first meeting with Ajax since being dumped, the Olympic Stadium witnessed Feyenoord suffer one of their heaviest ever defeats in De Klassieker: 8-2.

Lesser men may have wavered. Not Cruyff. “We are still going to win the championship,” he told his teammates afterwards.

And rather than fall away, Feyenoord rose to the occasion. They didn’t lose again for five months, going 15 games unbeaten as they lost just once again all season. 96 goals were scored across their 34 league games, only 31 goals conceded.

Cruyff helped himself to 11 goals - including one in the return at De Kuip, as Feyenoord gained revenge over Ajax with a 4-1 win. But as throughout his career, he was more than goals.

His brain was pivotal to Feyenoord’s success. He directed traffic with his intelligence, but the body still worked too. The poise and balance remained and even in the winter of his career, he sliced through opposing defences with the same slaloming runs which had been a feature throughout his career.

And as had been typical throughout, he drew more from those around him; most notably an all-action young midfielder named Ruud Gullit, who scored 15 goals and the powerful striker Peter Houtman (21 in 32).

Feyenoord had a strong side, but Cruyff was their conductor - something which has never been lost on Ajax supporters in the years since.

Three days after clinching the league title, Feyenoord defeated Fortuna Sittard in the KNVB Cup final, and Cruyff was named player of the year by the country’s football writers.

Cruyff soon announced his retirement, ending his playing days on his own terms as he had always wanted. In 1985, he returned to Ajax as head coach. They called him.

For a man who thought for himself like few footballers ever had before and ever have since, his year in Rotterdam was the perfect response for Hendrik Johannes Cruijff.

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