In 2012, the legendary Dutchman was put in charge of rebooting Guadalajara’s legacy. It was a short-lived experience.
As the Clausura 2012 season opened, Chivas fans were fretting about their beloved club. The Chivas were an inconsistent team, regularly missing the playoffs in alternate years and their last championship was five years in the rear-view window. Then came the bombshell. On Feb. 25, 2012, the legendary Johan Cruyff was introduced as the new general manager/sporting consultant.
More than 600 fans trekked out to Estadio Omnilife for the presentation ceremony. Cruyff was introduced to the fans, walking out onto the pitch to ecstatic cheers. However, when team owner Jorge Vergara started to speak, boos emanated from the crowd.
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Fans across Mexico wondered how Cruyff’s concepts of “Total Football” would evolve with the Chivas. At his first press conference, Cruyff said his priority would be to find a top-notch academy coach to develop players for “El Rebaño Sagrado.”
Cruyff told reporters that he would insist that a specific “Chivas style” be implemented from the earliest age group and be used all the way up to the senior team.
“I’m not going to be able to make big changes to the current team,” he said. “But I can help make the future much better.”
The Dutchman spoke about installing a soccer ideology and teaching methodologies. He wanted the team’s coaches – from Under-14 through to the senior team – to be adept at teaching and to preach the exact same technical and tactical ideas.
“To be successful on Sunday, we must work hard in a coordinated fashion from Monday through Saturday,” he said.
The former Barcelona coach had insisted on a free hand to run the Chivas operations as he saw fit. Vergara was desperate for success – the Chivas had won only one title in 15 years, with just one title (Apertura 2006) since Vergara acquired the team 10 years earlier – so the owner reluctantly agreed to turn over control of the team to Cruyff.
The Dutchman takes charge
During the previous 10 years, Guadalajara often struggled and Vergara was quick with the trigger, changing coaches like other people change their socks. By the time Cruyff took over, there had been 14 coaches.
The pressure to win forced managers to opt for veterans in hopes of saving their job. The result was stagnation in the development of young players.
Cruyff intended to change that. His tenure would only last 10 months.
In April (after the Chivas lost to crosstown rival Atlas), Guadalajara announced the hiring of John van’t Schip – a Cruyff acolyte who played for him at Ajax – to be the new coach. Ignacio Ambriz was fired with one game remaining in the Clausura 2012, a season in which Guadalajara finished 15th. Ambriz was the 15th coach to be dismissed since Vergara had bought the club less than 10 years earlier, in October 2002.
Ambriz had been brought on board earlier that season after the Chivas had lost its first three games under the direction of Fernando Quirarte. The Clausura 2012 marked the fourth time that the Chivas had three coaches during a single season since Vergara took over.
Van’t Schip had coached Ajax’s youth squads, was an assistant coach with Holland (that club won the 1988 European Championships) and had one head coaching job (in Australia) before joining the Chivas. National media was a bit surprised as they were unfamiliar with the new coach and his assistants – Rob Meppelink and David Nascimiento.
The Cruyff era comes to an early end
After a slow start to the Apertura 2012 season, Vergara told reporters he was confident that Cruyff’s leadership would show results. He maintained that van’s Schip would remain coach until Cruyff said otherwise.
“The results have not gone our way, but I think there have been positives in the process,” Vergara told reporters on Sept. 7.
A month later, Vergara sent out a Tweet thanking fans for their patience and writing “the Dutchmen are demonstrating their abilities.”
The Chivas finished the Apertura 2012 in 8th place, squeaking into the playoffs with a 6-5-6 record, scoring only 17 goals while also giving up the same number. Despite the so-so results, Guadalajara had relieved its relegation pressure, climbing up into the middle of the pack in the relegation standings.
However, the return to the Liguilla was short-lived. Top-seeded Toluca manhandled the Chivas 5-2 and went on to reach the final. During the second leg of the final between Toluca and Tijuana, on Dec. 2, the Chivas announced that they were ending their relationship with Cruyff, declaring in the press release that the Dutchman had not produces the results expected of him.
Cruyff’s tenure lasted but 23 games in which the Chivas went 7-6-10. Van’t Schip would be replaced a month later. Guadalajara has had 11 coaches in the 7 years since then, including two already this year.