Ronald Koeman has labeled himself a “Cruyffista,” a follower of Johan Cruyff, although he said he was still a “realist” at heart.
The current Barcelona coach was a player under Cruyff’s spell managing both Ajax and FC Barcelona.
Current club president Joan Laporta labeled him a Cruyffista, and Koeman agreed, saying he is “very much” one. But he continued to elaborate:
“Sometimes people get it wrong about what the Cruyff system is. Eusebio, in our time, sometimes played as a winger. And he is not a winger. So what? He also played as a fullback without being one. There were many changes with him as a coach. Above all, his philosophy was to have the ball, press, play offense, take risks in defense ... This is Johan’s style. And I am in favor of this style. But you also have to be realistic in some games. I have been a defender, Johan was an attacker. And attackers always want to attack and defenders want to defend because they want to have people around them. I am realistic and of course I like to attack. And Barça wants to have the ball, a higher percentage possession of the ball. Even with three at the back, it has been the most offensive version. Sometimes people think that with three centerbacks you are going to defend. In the game against Real Sociedad at home we were winning 3-0 but they made it 3-2. I brought in Lenglet and put him in the back. Once we put one more further back, we pressure the opponent better, and they vanish from the game. They make it seem like it’s killing someone if Barça today brings on one more defender to defend a complicated scoreline.”
He said he would, depending on the match, also take a defender out while preserving a slim lead.
“If you are going to play with two forwards instead of playing with one forward, then you have three defenders against two attackers. And you, with two forwards, put better pressure on their two centerbacks,” he said.
Koeman stressed tactical flexibility and the necessity to retain a spare man at the back.
“It is about looking for what each match needs, each opponent is different. If the opponent only plays with one forward up top, it is not necessary to put three central defenders. And if you put three centerbacks, you have one left over in the back, and you lack someone in another part of the field. It depends on the game, it depends on the opponent, and it also depends on your team,” he said.