Johan Cruyff's secret fortune

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The stern Dutch coach owns a string of real estate agencies, foundations, schools and upmarket menswear

Newcomer Johan Cruyff at Barcelona in 1973

10 de enero de 2013 (01:23 CET)

‘Anger running through your veins can lead you to long distances', states Johan Cruyff. The Dutch football manager that changed FC Barcelona history for good, larger-than-life persona both on the field and outside of it, quit the Barça bench in 18th May 1996, when was fired by Josep Lluís Nuñez. Since then, the outspoken coach has only managed the Catalan National team, a post that he gave up last January 2nd, following a 1-1 draw against Nigeria.

Although in theory one might assume that he has been 15 years lying idle, Cruyff in fact shows a hectic agenda. He has gone as far as building one of the eyebrow-raising fortunes across the football industry. In spite of not earning a dime as Catalan coach, he took in emoluments for counselling and training tasks to other managers at the Catalan Football Federation. Similarly, he pocketed up to 10 million euros during a stint as Ajax football team adviser, and later on his services were hired by the Chivas of Guadalajara (México), were he wound up sacked in December 2012.

A negotiator

In addition to various assignments in the football industry and contributions to specialized press, Cruyff has always proved to be business-savvy, a negotiator and, above all, an entrepreneur. Etched by a stern personality and bestowed by outstanding management skills, the also known as ‘El Flaco', The Lanky One, owns a string of foundations that bear his name: the Cruyff Foundation, the Johan Cruyff Institute on sport-linked research, the Johan Cruyff College business school, the sportwear brands Cruyff Sports and Cruyff Classics, the Johan Cruyff bookshop and Johan Cruyff Football Ltd. Moreover, he is known for possessing two real estate agencies with headquarters in Spain: Maplestar SL and Nuevos Horizontes 2000 SL, the latter endowed with assets worth 5 million euros, even though it recorded losses to the tune of 137,000 euros in 2011.

An emporium of trade bearing the seal of guarantee of one of the biggest ever football players, awarded with three Ballon d'Or. However and as it is commonplace with football maestros, his childhood was surrounded by hardship. He managed to be admitted to one of FC Barcelona amateur sides due to his mother's persistence, who worked as a waitress in the Barça bar. Cruyff himself started out as a ball boy and shoe shiner and in spite of being a tiny frame and suffering his father's passing away when he was twelve, he went on to become one of the biggest football stars ever. So much so that in 1973 he signed a 360,000-euro over-the-top contract with FC Barcelona, that to date represented one of the plushest working agreements ever signed in football.

Distrustful

A natural-born leader, Cruyff spearheaded a negotiating process with the Dutch government to give the slip to stringent taxation for footballers that used to apply in the Netherlands (75 percent levies on their wages). ‘The deal struck envisaged that football players were allowed to pump 30 percent of their gross income into an official pension fund that was accompanied by life insurance and retirement insurance chapters (…) In my case, for instance, since I was 40 I have been payed 50,000 euros a year', admits Cruyff on his book ‘Me gusta el fútbol', I am fond of football. Subsequently, while in Spain he took on ministers and State secretaries.

Whatever the case, he also suffered several blows, what made him of an extremely cautious individual in what concerns economic issues, and indeed distrustful. A paradigm case dates back to his decline in Barcelona, when set up a business with Johan Neeskens and a partner of his called Michel-Georges Basilevich. Cruyff decided then to invest a large lump of money in the firm Ganadera Catalana, specialized in caring livestock. Basilevich fell out with his father-in-law and then Cruyff representative, Cos Coster, and vanished carrying with him all the firm leverage. As a result, a bulky debt with the Spanish Treasure was contracted and Cruyff went on the run to the United States so as to bolster his career and recapture the pillaged capital.

A character

The ‘Flying Dutchman' went then back to Spain to become the Barça manager in 1988, having been vowed by Nuñez that the latter would sort out Cruyff's pending issues with the exchequer. He started off with a 100-million worth of wages (600,000 euros per annum) and left the club in 1996, with Jaume Roures –owner of Mediapro- as agent, boasting of a 1.2 million euros fee and having won a hair-rising collection of trophies. He was alone in instilling a one-pass playing scheme in the Catalan side, and was famous for being ahead of his time as giving centre stage to technical abilities, but he departed surrounded by a chorus of flying chairs and shrieks, down to his short fuse. ‘There does not exist a club chairman who orders me what needs doing', was heard saying more than once. Nevertheless, he was never able to be apart from the club and from behind the scenes, co-operated with Joan Laporta, as well as with Josep Guardiola, when it came to concoct the best Barcelona side the football has ever seen.

Among Johan Cruyff's famous quotes, there is one saying that goes: ‘Money has to be invested on the pitch and not on the bench, so that delighting the crowd'. As time went by, he modified it slightly, to say, ‘As for now, money is neither on the field nor on the bench, it is kept in some smartass's pocket'. Surely, Cruyff has fallen out with many a man. Notwithstanding this, those who know him are conscious that The Lanky One is, in his way, a smartass.

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