Pep Guardiola believes Johan Cruyff’s legacy at Barcelona and across the wider football world is incomparable.
Former Ajax, Barca and Netherlands great Cruyff died on Thursday at the age of 68, following a battle with lung cancer.
Viewed by many as the finest European player of all time, Cruyff went on to coach Barcelona to a previously unprecedented level of success between 1988 and 1996.
The club won four consecutive Liga titles between 1990-91 and 1993-94, along with a maiden European Cup, while establishing a footballing identity retained to this day at Camp Nou.
Guardiola played under Cruyff for the final six years of his tenure and acknowledged the debt he owes to the Dutchman, having led Barcelona to 14 major honours between 2008-09 and 2011-12.
Speaking to Catalan radio station RAC 1 in response to his mentor’s death, the Bayern Munich boss said: “Forget about the titles, I won more titles than him. Our gratitude is infinite and his legacy is also.
“And this legacy is not measured in trophies. It is rather the fact that he has enforced changes. Johan changed two clubs. But not only Ajax and Barcelona, he also changed the national teams of Netherlands and Spain.
“There is nothing that can compare to what Cruyff has done for football. The football of the last 25 years at Barcelona belongs to him and that is something indestructible.”
Guardiola credits Cruyff with altering the way he and his team-mates viewed the game and is unsurprised by the number of his former disciples who moved on to successful coaching and sporting director careers.
“Johan gave us information but also the grammar of the game,” Guardiola explained. “I knew nothing about football and Johan gave me everything. He opened up a fascinating world to us.
“If you came in at half-time and were poor, you expected a thunderstorm because you had to fight more. However, Johan told you that you were bad because you ran too much – that you had to send the ball where you want and not run there.
“You had previously heard certain things but Cruyff told you the exact opposite.
“[Barcelona] is more than Johan, obviously, but he was the revolutionary that taught us how to do things.
“It is no accident that he has given rise to many coaches because he helped us to understand this game.”
Guardiola, who will leave Bayern to take over as manager of Manchester City from next season, continues to draw on lessons learned from Cruyff – most recently when the Bundesliga leaders were nursing a 4-2 aggregate deficit in the Champions League this month before completing a memorable comeback.
“He told me to act on instinct, not by logic – as in the last match against Juventus,” Guardiola added.
“The noose drew upon my neck and I wondered what Johan would do right now. It is probably something I will always wonder.”