How to Perform the Famous Cruyff Turn (6-Step Guide)

Johan Cruyff was an exceptionally talented soccer player who revolutionised the way we think about soccer and how the modern game is played.

It’s questionable whether any player had a bigger impact on the sport we know and love today.

Barcelona's success and soccer identity has largely been based on Cruyff's ideas and philosophy as has the success of the Spanish national team.

And he also created the famous Cruyff Turn.

First performed in the 1974 World Cup, this evasive move drew admiring gasps from the crowd and came to symbolise the flamboyant, attacking artistry of Total Football.

Below, I’ll explain how the move came about and how you can add it to your game.

Let’s get started...

player controlling the soccer ball on the grass field

What’s the Real History Behind the Cruyff Turn?

Long story.

Stick with me...

Having progressed through the youth ranks at Ajax, Cruyff soon established himself in the first team. And in the 1965 - 1966 season, won his first league title, scoring 25 goals in the process.

This was a remarkable achievement at the time.

Lighting up the Dutch Championship with their beautiful form of soccer, success soon came on the European stage as Ajax and Cruyff won the European Cup in 1971, following it up with further success in 1972 and 1973.

Having won the Ballon d'Or in 1971 and 1973, Cruyff was at the peak of his powers, and the free-flowing soccer that Ajax was playing was replicated by the Dutch national team.

The 1974 World Cup started wonderfully, and it seemed as if no one would be able to stop Cruyff’s team as the Netherlands easily won against any opponent given to them.

But unfortunately, that didn’t happen...

West Germany would ultimately defeat the Netherlands in the final.

But the revolutionary style of soccer played by Cruyff’s team lit up the tournament and they’re still remembered to this day for the Toal Football they introduced to the world.

With players effortlessly switching positions and all of them at ease on the ball, the famous ‘Cruyff Turn’ move occured in the group stage match between the Netherlands and Sweden.

Having drifted out to the left wing from his center forward position, it appeared that Cruyff was cornered by the Swedish defender and had nowhere to go…

But in the blink of an eye, everything changed and the most famous image of the tournament had been embedded in minds around the world forever.

Facing away from goal, Cruyff made as if to pass back to a teammate before suddenly twisting his body in one swift movement and dragging the ball behind his standing leg before sprinting away towards goal.

Here’s a video to take a look:

​Completely sold by the feint, the Swedish defender had to take a second to compose himself before attempting to get back into the play.

Cruyff had brought the crowd to their feet with this moment of magic, cementing the Total Football of the Dutch national team in hearts and minds everywhere.

Now that you know where the Cruyff turn came from, let’s talk about how you can do it...


How to Perform the Cruyff Turn

Step 1: Set Yourself Up For Success

Having received a pass from your teammate and being tightly shadowed by your opponent, get the ball slightly in front of you so that it appears your next move might be to pass.

You should be thinking about the space around you and where you want to attack once you execute the Cruyff Turn.

Step 2: Look Like You’re Going to Pass

Now that you’ve set yourself up, make a move as if you’re about to pass to a teammate.

Make sure you’re close enough to the ball to reach it with your foot and that your standing leg isn’t too close to the ball that it will get in the way of your move.

Step 3: Hook the Ball With the Inside of Your Foot

Instead of passing, at the last second you need to hook your foot around the ball.

Remember: For the Cruyff Turn to be believable, you really need to sell this fake pass to get your opponent to commit to going for the block or tackle.

If executed correctly, the fake pass will completely throw them off and will allow you to win yourself some valuable time and space.

Step 4: Drag the Ball Back

With the interior of your foot, drag the ball backwards and through your legs.

As your standing foot is the leg left nearest to your opponent, you should still be shielding the ball from them with your body.

Step 5: Turn Your Body

As the ball is passing between your legs, swivel your body as quickly as possible until you’re facing completely the opposite direction.

This sudden change of direction should be enough to bamboozle the defender if you’ve sold the pass fake well enough.

Step 6: Sprint Off

Now that you’re past your opponent and they’re looking back at you in horror wondering what’s just happened, you want to explosively sprint off with the ball in front of you.

Use the time and space you’ve created to set up something for yourself or a teammate.


Conclusion

The Cruyff Turn is a move that came to define a player, tournament, and team.

And while it can be difficult to execute, it will give you a big advantage if used correctly.

But before you go out there and try it, here’s my advice for you:

Only attempt the Cruyff Turn in your attacking third.

In my opinion, it’s too risky to attempt this move anywhere else on the pitch due to its difficulty.

If you’re too close to your goal, you run the risk of allowing the opponent to win the ball back in a dangerous position.

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