Definition of Total Football

Johan Cruyff is a legend of football, not only for his playing days, but also for his innovations as a manager. Particularly, his emphasis and philosophy of "Total Football" revolutionised how teams play the game.

The concept of Total Football revolves around the idea that any player can be used in any position of the pitch (with the exception of the goalkeeper). That means that defenders should be just as comfortable playing as a forward as they are in the back. Midfielders should be able to drop back and go forward as needed. Players need to be intelligent and extremely technically skilled to pull this sort of system off.

The actual philosophy of Total Football does predate Cruyff, being used in the 30s, 40s and 50s by Austrian and English sides. However, it wasn't until Dutch side Ajax started using it in the 70s that it truly rose in popularity. Cruyff and other players were deployed by Ajax and the Dutch national team to be free to roam around the field in order to confuse opposition.

Total Football has also evolved over time, most notably with Pep Guardiola's "Tiki taka" philosophy at Barcelona (who were managed by Cruyff in the late 80s and early 90s) . While the positions were more fixed than the Dutch sides of the 70s, Guardiola did require his players to be highly technical and able to move around nearly any part of the field.

While Total Football did not make a side invincible (the Dutch lost the 1974 World Cup to a more defensive West Germany), it did lead to some lovely attacking football and highly successful teams. Another reason as to why Johan Cruyff's name shall live on forever in the hearts and minds of football fans everywhere.