Thursday, December 31, 2009

31 December 1973 - Cruyff Returns To The Top

On 31 December 1973, Dutch international Johan Cruyff won the European footballer of the year award, the Ballon d'Or. It was the second such award for Cruyff, who first won it it 1971.

Cruyff began the year in his ninth season with Ajax and, by the end of the 1972-73 season, had led the Amsterdam side to a treble consisting of the 1973 European Super Cup, their sixth Eredivisie title, and their third consecutive European Cup. In the summer of 1973, he moved to Barcelona.

Internationally, Cruyff's Netherlands team had qualified for the 1974 World Cup, edging Belgium out at the top of the group on goal differential.

The award catapulted Cruyff into another successsful year in 1974, with Barcelona winning their first La Liga title in 14 seasons and the Dutch advancing to the World Cup Final, eliminating Brazil, East Germany, and Argentina along the way. Although the Oranje lost to West Germany in the Final, Cruyff was named Player of the Tournament and went on the win his third Ballon d'Or, the first player in history to win the award three times.

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