The Netherlands are world famous for their footballers, but they were also known as the country of sailing and life on water. It was because Johan Cruyff had his most successful stint with Ajax before he joined Barcelona in 1973 where he won many trophies including three consecutive European Cups from 1974 to 1976.
The “cruyff age of death” is the legacy of Johan Cruyff. The legacy lives on in Wim Jonk’s side, who are known as “The Dream Team.”
FC Volendam is currently in first place in the Dutch second division, having only lost one league game all season.
Johan Cruyff is linked with total football and bright orange, but it may come as a surprise to some that his legacy is fueling a promotion push in the Netherlands’ second division.
When Wim Jonk returned to coach his childhood club Volendam in April 2019, he brought with him the team that put Cruyff’s ideas into action during Ajax’s ‘Velvet Revolution’ over a decade earlier.
‘Plan Cruyff’ was a restructuring of the Dutch giants’ structure and academy system that produced players like as Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt, with an emphasis on beautiful football, fostering a performance culture, and developing young players via customised individual programs.
Bringing this concept to life in Amsterdam was one thing; bringing it to life in Volendam, a fishing community 18 miles north of the Johan Cruyff Arena, is quite another.
‘The Other Orange’ has a history of being a yo-yo team, having been promoted to the Eredivisie nine times in all but not playing top-flight football since 2009.
Volendam were in deep difficulty when they called on Jonk and his crew, who had left Ajax in December 2015 after conflicts with the board, due to poor performances and boring play.
Jonk’s first task in his new position was to get fans back to Kras Stadium.
“Rather than watching the game, they were sitting at the bar watching the beer tap,” the former Netherlands international tells Sport.
“I wanted to teach the players how to play forward, defend forward, utilize the three-second rule, and employ third-man possibilities, among other things, to get them acclimated to what attractive football and offensive football entails. It’s good to say lovely things, but there’s a lot more to it than that.”
Jonk showed his team movies of elite clubs around the globe on his first day on the job and spoke about positioning and the ideals he wanted to get over in training.
“The first thing the players said to me was, ‘yes, but we aren’t Barcelona, Manchester United, or Manchester City,’” explains Jonk, who answered that they needed to “do something extraordinary” to grow, fill the stadium, and re-establish the club’s visibility.
Jonk’s footballing ethos has taken hold three years into the job, and his side is on track for promotion, seven points ahead and undefeated in 21 games, with just one loss all season.
“Now, if we win 2-1 in a game that isn’t our best, everyone complains because we need a three- or four-goal differential,” Jonk explains. “We’re still working on it; there’s a lot to learn.”
Wim Jonk started his career at Volendam, then moved on to Ajax, Inter Milan, PSV, and Sheffield Wednesday.
The next step, according to Director of Football Jasper van Leeuwen, was to build a more long-term transfer strategy, focused on uncovering “high-potential prospects” both within and beyond the club.
Micky van de Ven, a teenage defender who had previously been ignored in the under-19s, excelled under the new administration and was transferred to Wolfsburg for £3.15 million last summer after Volendam won a court struggle with agent Mino Raiola over the transfer cost.
“We had a three-year strategy,” Van Leeuwen explains, “but the first two years were about creating value in the club.” “That was very much the same thing we did at Ajax, which was to uncover huge talents either inside the club or outside of it.”
“We acquired some more experienced players later in the third year, which is now, to truly push for the promotion.”
Ruben Jongkind claims that everything from talent development to training techniques needed to alter since there was no scouting department or even an office for academy instructors.
“We had to find, select, and train a whole new army of coaches and scouts,” says Jongkind, who is also the director of Volendam’s Academy and Cooperations and was in charge of drafting and executing Plan Cruyff at Ajax.
“We needed to retrain and educate individuals who were receptive to our concept.”
“The most important thing is that we wanted to demonstrate that if you strive for the beauty of the game, you will receive results in the end.”
“You can demonstrate it in a large club with a huge budget, but it’s another thing to show it in a small club with a budget of just 5 million euros for everything.”
Volendam’s academy prospects and scouting the proper talent are crucial for the club, which is also willing to give “damaged goods” a second opportunity and has a first-team roster with an average age of only 22.6 years.
“If the current level is really high, he will not come to Volendam; we must be realistic,” Van Leeuwen adds. “If everyone recognizes the boy’s skill, he will join Chelsea or Barcelona.”
“Many people can appraise reality – the entire data business is predicated on this – but potential cannot be measured.” That is crucial.
“If you are extremely skilled at judging a player’s potential level, it is rewarding because you can bring him in before everyone else does, and you can also nurture him very fruitfully and go into a steep development curve.”
Volendam has also profited from a partnership with Inter Milan, who have sent numerous players on loan to the club after being pleased with the way they develop new talent.
‘We have several players that are better than Ajax.’
Cruyff’s idea has come to fruition in the Dutch second division, confirming the trio’s view that good scouting and the correct atmosphere can help young players realize their full potential.
“When you work at Ajax, you know you have a lot of bright youngsters in the academy and around the first team, so nature takes care of itself if you scout properly,” Van Leeuwen says.
“Nature then comes into action.” How do you go about developing them? Nature will not furnish us with ten extraordinary skills from among the 25,000 Volendam residents; this is unrealistic.
“We are actually getting more information by being here, that if you find and recruit some talents that were overlooked somewhere else, if you really dive into their characteristics, also their background – maybe they are late to mature, maybe they were overlooked because of a different vision somewhere else – if you really dive into their characteristics, also their background – maybe they are late to mature, maybe they were overlooked because of a different vision somewhere else – if you really dive into their characteristics, also their background – maybe they are
“However, if you take them in, give them a podium, minutes, confidence, develop them individually, and make them feel secure and valued, we realize that they can really burst, maybe even more than we expected.”
“You wouldn’t expect Volendam’s skills to be greater than Ajax’s, but I can confidently declare that there are those among us who are greater than Ajax’s.”
“If a smaller team can defeat a larger club just by working harder, it is an encouraging sign. It is more fulfilling for me.”
Taking Volendam to new heights
If Volendam wins promotion this season, the club’s ambition is to stay in the top tier next season and eventually establish itself in the Eredivisie.
“If we get there, then staying there and growing again will be a new challenge,” Jonk adds. “This is more challenging, and a new process starts.”
Although plans for a multi-functional new stadium designed like a boat, in line with Volendam’s fishing traditions, are already in the works, Jongkind believes that promotion will need at least double the club’s budget.
He adds, “We’re thinking a lot about how to sell the narrative and connect with sponsors who can identify to this notion of sustainable development.”
“Volendam is a kind of a cult town in Holland; everyone knows it, and 1.5 million visitors visit every year from all over the globe, so there’s a lot of opportunity to attract more people than just your own inhabitants.”
“However, we realize that we can only take this step if we are in the Eredivisie and linked to the style Wim is teaching the players – we believe that combination, as well as the narrative of all these talents who have come a long way since their time in Volendam, will really help the club expand.”
“It is doable; all we need is time, support, and, most importantly, people who believe in it.”
The “how did johan cruyff get lung cancer” is a question that has been asked many times. The answer to the question, is that Johan Cruyff was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1985.
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