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Impatient Chivas fire Dutch legend Cruyff

December 3, 2012

Just as Tijuana was winning the national soccer league on Sunday night, local side Chivas de Guadalajara brought its ill-fated Dutch revolution to a premature end.

A statement on Chivas’ website revealed owner Jorge Vergara had dismissed Johan Cruyff from his advisory role, just nine months after hiring the Dutch legend to oversee a long-term transformation of the club.

Cruyff’s “contract had been terminated” because “established objectives had not been met,” the statement read. “The coaching staff will not be affected,” Chivas said, but given that Dutch coach John van’t Schip was appointed by Cruyff, an imminent resignation or dismissal would come as no surprise.

“I don’t know anything. I just heard about it. I’m trying to figure out what’s going on,” Cruyff told Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf on Monday morning. Chivas declined to personally inform their advisor of the decision to fire him, with the Johan Cruyff Institute revealing on Tuesday that the only notice it received came in an email from the club.

One of the most gifted footballers of all time, Cruyff drew plaudits at Dutch club Ajax and Spanish side Barcelona in the 1960s and 1970s. He later returned to coach both teams – again to great acclaim – and is credited with laying the foundations of their hugely successful youth academies.

Vergara hired him on a three-year contract in late February, with the task of building a similar legacy at Chivas, which is unique in its policy of only fielding Mexican players. Cruyff would instill a brand of “total football that enables us to be a team like Barcelona, the best in the world,” Vergara boasted at the time.

Yet such a project would require years of work and Vergara is not renowned for his patience. It appeared to snap as Chivas endured a torrid year, suffering humiliation in the CONCACAF Champions League and scraping through into the Apertura 2012 playoffs, only to lose the quarterfinal 5-2 to Toluca.

The timing of Sunday’s announcement – made during the Liga MX final in which Tijuana defeated Toluca 4-1 on aggregate – appeared a vain attempt by the Chivas public-relations department to bury bad news.

With 11 league titles, Chivas remain the most successful side in Mexican history, yet they have won just one championship under Vergara’s ten-year tenure.

Cruyff is thought to have upset his employer during an October visit to Guadalajara, when he tried to play down expectations by noting that Chivas was no longer a massive club, having won just three championships in the last 40 years. Cruyff also criticized the instability that Vergara had brought about by changing coach ten times in the last decade.

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