Dutch star Johan Cruyff missed the 1978 World Cup after he was almost kidnapped

For a long time, Johan Cruyff's absence from the 1978 World Cup had been one of football's great mysteries.

Cruyff, regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, decided that he would not play for the Netherlands in Argentina. Naturally, speculation was rife as to the reason behind his decision not to go to the tournament.

Was it injury? Had he fallen out with the Dutch football association over sponsorship, as had been claimed at the time? Or maybe he simply disagreed with authoritarian military junta government.

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It turned out that it was none of these things. Because in 2008, the former Barcelona and Ajax legend revealed that he and his family had gone through a horrific kidnap attempt just a few months before the finals.

Cruyff said that assailants entered his house in Barcelona and tied him and his family up at gunpoint, with one of the gunmen putting a rifle to his head. In Cruyff's own words, the terrifying experience changed his attitude to life and played a big part in the reason behind his no-show in Argentina.

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Speaking to Catalunya Radio 14 years ago, Cruyff said: "You should know that I had problems at the end of my career as a player here and I don't know if you know that someone [put] a rifle at my head and tied me up and tied up my wife in front of the children at our flat in Barcelona."

Thankfully, the Dutch legend managed to escape and the kidnap attempt failed. But, as you might expect, it had a lasting effect on Cruyff, who died in 2016.

"The children were going to school accompanied by the police. The police slept in our house for three or four months. I was going to matches with a bodyguard," he continued. "All these things change your point of view towards many things. There are moments in life in which there are other values.

"We wanted to stop this and be a little more sensible. It was the moment to leave football and I couldn't play in the World Cup after this."

Netherlands went on to reach the final of the 1978 World Cup, losing out to hosts Argentina. Cruyff retired from international football one year earlier in 1977, having helped the Dutch side qualify for the tournament.


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