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In 1973, he moved to Barcelona for a world record transfer fee, winning La Liga in his first season and was named European Footballer of the Year.
After retiring from playing in 1984, Cruyff became highly successful as manager of Ajax and later Barcelona; he remained an influential advisor to both clubs. In 1999, Cruyff was voted European Player of the Century in an election held by the International Federation of Football History & Statistics, and came second behind Pelé in their World Player of the Century poll.
Cruyff and his friends would frequent a "playground" in their neighbourhood and Ajax youth coach Jany van der Veen, who lived close by, noticed Cruyff's talent and decided to offer him a place at Ajax without a formal trial.
He made his first team debut on 15 November 1964 in the Eredivisie, against GVAV, scoring the only goal for Ajax in a 3–1 defeat.
This victory prompted Dutch newspapers to announce the demise of the Italian style of defensive football in the face of Total Football.
Soccer: The Ultimate Encyclopaedia says, "Single-handed, Cruyff not only pulled Internazionale of Italy apart in the 1972 European Cup Final, but scored both goals in Ajax's 2–0 win." Cruyff also scored in the 3–2 victory over ADO Den Haag in the KNVB Cup final.
His vision of perfect movement and harmony on the field was rooted in the same sublime ordering of space that one sees in the pictures of Vermeer or church painter Pieter Jansz Saenredam.
It was the music of the spheres on grass." In a league game against AZ '67 on 29 November 1970, Cruyff scored six goals in an 8–1 victory.
Four days later, in a cup game against Veendam in a 7–0 win, he scored four goals.
In total that season, Cruyff scored 25 goals in 23 games, and Ajax won the league championship.
Cruyff ended the season as the leading goalscorer in the Eredivisie with 33.
Cruyff's only own goal came on 20 August 1972 against FC Amsterdam.
A week later, against Go Ahead Eagles in a 6–0 win, Cruyff scored four times for Ajax.