skip navigation

Four Lessons Passed Down From Soccer Legend Johan Cruyff

By Sean Jensen, 11/15/17, 1:00PM CST


Cruyff emphasized family, fun and sports as a tool for community good

Once you have a vision, an inspirational vision, don’t let others derail you from that vision because they say it’s impractical.

Johan Cruyff, left, and son-in-law Todd Beane teamed to revolutionize the way players were coached to think the game.

Todd Beane’s 14 years with Johan Cruyff are a blur.

He was hired by Cruyff in 2002, launched youth academies with him around the world for over a decade and, oh yeah, married his daughter, Chantal.

But the “Aha” moment of the American’s relationship with the soccer legend actually happened close to where Cruyff’s journey started in 1947. Even in his 50s, Cruyff still enjoyed playing a pickup game, so Beane joined him — alongside Franz Beckenbauer, Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard.

“I really became a kid in a candy shop,” Beane says. “I had no idea how many doors it would open up.”

Beane recalls sitting in on an FC Barcelona board meeting, when club leaders were weighing whether to sign, as other major clubs had done, a lucrative sponsorship deal with a company for real estate on its famed jersey. Millions of dollars were at stake, but Cruyff — a successful player, manager and advisor for the club — had a couple of questions.

“ ‘What can the club do to help the world?’ ” Beane recalled Cruyff asking. “You have the power to do so much.”

The insight prompted the Barcelona board to reconsider their decision. Ultimately, FC Barcelona partnered with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) to help raise money and awareness for humanitarian efforts worldwide.

Years later, Beane also was present for advisory meetings between Cruyff and Barcelona president Joan LaPorta, who made key decisions that have set up the club’s dominance on and off the pitch.

Beane helped build the Cruyff Football and the Cruyff Institute with the namesake, but Beane also is raising four of Cruyff’s grandchildren — ages 6 to 10 — in Barcelona with Chantal.

Cruyff died in 2016.

Beane shares four lessons he learned from his mentor and father-in-law:

1. Have a romantic vision

Results matter, but anytime I saw him make a decision, he would stay true to his romantic vision of what the ideal should be. That’s hard to do. Once you have a vision, an inspirational vision, don’t let others derail you from that vision because they say it’s impractical.

2. Sport is a powerful tool

It’s perhaps the most powerful tool for community good. That’s why he created the Johan Cruyff Foundation. It helps handicapped children through sport. Sport can change lives and has the power for social good.

3. Enjoy life

You have to have fun! You don’t want to impose drudgery upon people. We’d go down to Mauritius, a beautiful island off coast of Africa. We’d water ski, and he’d be the first one out there. We also got my son on water skis. He loved to have the kids participate! He loved when we were all out doing something together. Skiing in the French Alps, eating meals together. He enjoyed those family moments far away from the spotlight and the press. We’d sneak out for a round of golf, and he would take his grandkids places.

4. Protect your children

He was a family man. When Chantal and I were in Amsterdam, he would always make sure there were delicious dutch cookies with tea outside our door. Keep your family first; he emphasized that to me upon his death. “Take care of Chantal and the kids. Everything else come and goes, but take care of them.”

About Sean Jensen

Sean Jensen was born in South Korea, but he was raised in California, Massachusetts and Virginia, mostly on or near military bases. Given his unique background, he's always been drawn to storytelling, a skill he developed at Northwestern University and crafted for the last 16 years, almost exclusively covering the NFL. Sean lives in a Minneapolis suburb with his wife, two children and dog. Read more

Other Articles by Sean

Sean's Social Media Contacts