Liam Brady on Cruyff: 'If he was playing now he'd be there with Messi and Ronaldo but better'
There is something particularly weighty when one great player extols the virtues of another, so it was fitting that Liam Brady was asked to sum up Johan Cruyff on the day that the Dutch football legend lost his battle with lung cancer.
The mercurial three-time Ballon d'Or winner passed away today at age 68 after leaving a distinctive mark on football as both a player and a manager.
One thing that Cruyff is famous for is the the trick that bares his name, after he famously bamboozled a Swedish defender with a change of direction at the 1974 World Cup.
"There's not many players that have had a skill named after them," Brady said on News at One on RTE Radio 1 when asked about the Cruyff turn.
Rip Johan cruyff a sad day for football .. true footballing legend pic.twitter.com/qJ17CRJLPn— Cyrus Christie (@cyruschristie) March 24, 2016
"We hadn't seen it before, a player facing one way and then turning the other. He introduced skills we had never seen before and he was so fast."
Cruyff's genius was sandwiched between the Pele and Maradona eras and there is no doubt that the Dutchman ruled football for a large part of the 70s, winning a hat-trick of European Cups with Ajax to go with his Ballon d'Or treble while also making the World Cup final with the Netherlands in 1974.
Brady believes that if you could transport a young Cruyff into football today, he would be just as dominant as the stars that currently rule the game.
"When Pele retired in 1970, Cruyff stepped into his shoes and dominated football for the next ten years," Brady said.
"If he was playing now he would be up there with Messi and Ronaldo but better."
Cruyff's managerial brilliance was also remarkable. He took charge of his former club Barcelona between 1988 and 1996 and led them to what was then unprecedented success - four straight league titles and a first ever European Cup.
What's more, Cruyff - who managed Pep Guardiola during that period - implemented a style that laid the groundwork for the Spaniard's four-year period of dominance between 2008 and 2012.
"He introduced a style of play at Barcelona that lives on today," Brady concluded.