The Transfer of Johan Cruyff to FC Barcelona

A Complicated Operation

On August 13th 1973 in Amsterdam, Ajax and FC Barcelona agreed on the transfer of Johan Cruyff to Barcelona for the record sum of 60 million pesetas.

As there were no sports papers on Mondays in those days, the Mundo Deportivo of Tuesday 15th August gave all the details of the negotiation and showed the toast of Rinus Michels, Johan Cruyff, FC Barcelona director, Armand Carabén, and Cor Coster, who was Cruyff's father-in-law and representative.

It seemed as if the long drama of the transfer of the world's best player was over, but unfortunately that wasn't the case.

The Dutch Football Federation tried to block the move motivated by Ajax president, Jaap Van Praag, who in public was all smiles but behind the scenes did everything he could to avert the operation.

First they refused to recognise the transfer and then they said Cruyff wouldn't arrive in Barcelona until December.

Finally, the began to process the transfer but Cruyff wasn't able to debut with FC Barcelona until October 28th 1973 against Granada.

The relationship between the Flying Dutchman and FC Barcelona was due to English coach Vic Buckingham, who discovered Cruyff and gave him his first game with Ajax.
Buckingham was FC Barcelona manager from December 1969 to June 1971 and recommended signing Cruyff but Spanish football didn't allow foreign players at the time.

Johan and his wife Danny visited Barcelona and Cruyff was even photographed wearing the Barcelona kit.

Spanish football opened its borders in 1973, when Cruyff and Ajax were at the peak of their dominance of European football.

Ajax immediately came to an agreement with Real Madrid for the transfer of the young star but Cruyff had his heart set on Barcelona and this only provoked him.

Cruyff had a close relationship with Barcelona director Armand Carabén, who had a Dutch wife, and while on holiday in the Algarve after winning the 1973 European Cup with Ajax began to try to persuade the Dutch club to accept the transfer.

Cruyff made it clear that he didn't want to sign for Madrid refusing to play for what he called 'a fascist club'.

He even said he would retire from football if he couldn't sign for Barça and even threatened to boycott the 1974 World Cup in Germany if the Dutch Federation blocked the transfer.

FC Barcelona had already signed Hugo Sotil and had 'Milonguita' Heredia on loan to Oporto until he could be classified as oriundo as foreign, particularly Latin American, players with Spanish ancestors were known in those days.

Both were options in case the Cruyff transfer didn't come off and Barça even began negotiations with Gerd Muller, just in case.

Ajax were asking 2 million dollars for Cruyff and, seeing that he was refusing to budge and they may well end up without the transfer fee, were forced to back down.

On August 9th, Cruyff called Carabén, who was in Palafrugell, asking him to come to Amsterdam and at a meeting on August 13th, an agreement was finally reached.

Ajax president Jaap Van Praag signed the transfer contract in Amsterdam on August 18th and on August 23rd Johan Cruyff arrived in Barcelona and signed his contract with FC Barcelona president, Agustí Montal, on the same day.

However, despite having appeared in the photo, Van Praag still tried to block the transfer and the the Flying Dutchman wasn't able to make his debut for the club until October 28th against Granada.

Interestingly, Van Praag's son, Michael, repeated the same strategy when he was Ajax president in 1998 and FC Barcelona signed Frank and Ronald De Boer.

The information in this article is taken from a Mundo Deportivo article in Spanish commemorationg the 40th anniversary of the transfer of Johan Cruyff to FC Barcelona.

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