Strange to hear Johan Cruyff full of praise for Real Madrid, concern for Barcelona
Johan Cruyff is as Barcelona as anybody born outside Cataluyna could be. He played and coached the club, saw his son come up through their system, and even coached the Catalan national team. His family has lived in Barcelona off-and-on for the last 40 years. The man’s had his oranje blood replaced with blaugrana.
So it must take a special set of circumstances for the Dutch icon to speak kindly about Real Madrid and against Barcelona within the span of a couple of days. Perhaps, with the legend’s tendency toward contrarian opinions, it’s not as rare as I’m implying, but it’s still noteworthy when a Barça icon’s willing to heap so much praise on the club’s arch rivals.
The praise starts with the acquisition of Carlo Ancelotti, a coach for whom Cruyff clearly has a high regard:
There’s a bit of a back-hand in there. The “play like a team” comment can be read as ‘Barcelona play the right way, which is as a team, so Real Madrid need to play more like us.’ Then again, with Real Madrid fans so disillusioned about their play in the wake of José Mourinho, Cruyff might not get an argument from the capital.
But style and coaching were not the only areas where Cruyff had praise. While Cruyff shares concerns about Isco’s potential fit at Real Madrid, he’s full of plaudits for the player:
Contrast that with what Cruyff’s said about Barcelona in the wake of the Neymar addition, comments which may hint at a bit of a generational issue in how he sees world soccer:
Cruyff’s logic seems pretty clear, thoughts which lean on a type of Alpha Dog philosophy. Messi’s and alpha. Neymar’s assumed to be an alpha. They can’t work together, the thinking goes.
Given the way the modern game’s going, clubs can’t abide by that philosophy. Whether you like it or not (most don’t), all the alphas are congregating onto a handful of teams - the eight or 10 clubs that can afford to pay top dollar in both transfer fees and wages. And while the Alpha Dog philosophy is strong, financial incentives are stronger, as are competitive desires. With those eight to 10 team monopolizing titles in the biggest competitions, a lot of players are going to Alexei Sanchez/Luka Modric it, moving into a crowded setup for chance to win big things.
If you’re a club like Barcelona, you just can’t be turning down one Alpha because of the presence of another. These days, you either make it work or fall by the wayside, and given there’s very little about Neymar and Messi’s games that conflict, odds are they’ll make it work.