As a continuation of our Legendary Rivalries series, let’s talk about the biggest one from the ’70s between Johan Cruyff and Franz Beckenbauer.
The Netherlands’ vs Germany rivalry is one of the biggest in the world, two very different football styles that are represented perfectly through their two biggest legends in history.
The Germans have always been known for having a dominant physical prowess, a tactical ability that is unrivaled, and defensive skills that surpass pretty much all other countries except for the Italians.
The Dutch started their offensive football revolution during that ’70s decade, they were the ones that always looked for the creative side of football and they found it through Johan Cruyff as manager Rinus Michels was commanding him.
It all started at Ajax from Amsterdam with those two figures, Johan Cruyff was the ultimate offensive playmaker and he took the Dutch squad to win a consecutive three European Cups between 1971 and 1973 with Cruyff as the top player.
The first year of success for Johan brought him his first Ballon d’Or award, but his contest against the best defender in football history was about to begin.
Franz Beckenbauer was the soul of that powerful Bayern Munich from the ’70s that also had striker Gerd Muller in the squad, but the defender was the true star between the two because he was the one who managed to stop Johan Cruyff from taking over the world of football during that era.
The duels between both players soon translated from their respective clubs to their national teams, Beckenbauer won the 1972 Ballon d’Or and became the first defender to win this prestigious award in history.
Cruyff won his third consecutive European Cup with Ajax and his second Ballon d’Or in 1973, but the rivalry between these two legends was about to enter the most critical and exciting stage.
The World Cup was about to happen in Germany, it was 1974 and the two best national teams in the world were the hosts and the Netherlands because they had these two players as their main attractions.
Cruyff played a mesmerizing tournament in Germany, but he did lose the final against Franz Beckenbauer in one of the most legendary World Cup games in history.
The Dutchman ended up winning the Ballon d’Or that year, but he would’ve traded all three if his awards for that World Cup without question.
Franz clearly had the upper hand against Johan, he was the biggest headache of the FC Barcelona player’s career and the biggest foe he ever faced.
During that same year of 1974, Beckenbauer had the perfect season with his club and country as he won the first of three consecutive European Cups.
With Johan Cruyff completely out of the picture after trading Barcelona for Ajax, the Bavarian squad was finally free to impose its dominance until 1976.
On that final year in which Bayern won a third continental championship, Franz became the only defender who has won two Ballon d’Or trophies to this day.
This is possibly the only rivalry that can be compared to the one we experience today between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, the only difference is that the one from that era was between a forward and a defender.
After such a memorable decade, both players decided to try fortune at the NASL from the United States, Cruyff signed a one-year contract with Los Angeles Aztecs and Franz spent three full seasons at New York Cosmos.
Their rivalry was always purely inside the pitch, both players regarded each other as brothers and deeply respected the other.
Una imagen para enmarcar. Sepp Maier; Franz Beckenbauer y Johan Cruyff en la final del Mundial de 1974 pic.twitter.com/U4rlxIBspk
— Fútbol (@11Dioses) February 21, 2017
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