We all know what Johan Cruyff has meant for modern football and I am not going to ”rain on what’s wet”, as one would say in Brazil. Instead, I will pay homage to one of the very greatest by detailing his one and only encounter with Palmeiras.
We are in the city of Cadiz, 1974. As usual, four teams have been invited to play for the prestigious Ramón de Carranza trophy, famous for standing more than 170 cm tall. This year, Barcelona, Espanyol, Santos and Palmeiras are the invited and, as evident from the tournament poster to the right, a clash of titans is expected in the final: Cruyff’s Barcelona against Pelé’s Santos. Recently, the Dutch had magnetized the world with his skill and vision of play in the World Cup, where the Netherland finished runner-up to Germany. No one expects Palmeiras to repeat the feat of 1969, when the Verdão emerged victorious in the Ramón de Carranza´s 15th edition against stiff competition from Real Madrid, Atlético Madrid and Estudiantes from Argentina.
Cruyff´s Barcelona did eventually play Santos, but only for third place: in the first round, Palmeiras eliminated Barcelona 2-0, and Espanyol beat Santos by the same score. The Palmeiras squad, successfully taking out Cruyff, Neeskens and the others, was coached by Osvaldo Brandão and consisted of Leão; Eurico, Luís Pereira, Alfredo and Zeca; Dudu (Edson) and Ademir da Guia; Ronaldo, Leivinha, César and Toninho Vanusa (Edu). No less than six of the Palmeiras players had played in the World Cup that year (Leão, Luís Pereira, Alfredo, Ademir da Guia, Leivinha e César) and they all put on a splendid performance.
Third place ended up with Barcelona, who overtook Santos 4-1 with two goals by Neeskens. Palmeiras went on winning the whole thing, beating Espanyol 2-1 in the final (enjoy these game highlights).
Johan Cruyff, a legend – as player and coach. Rest in peace.