European Footballer of the Year in 1973 was once again Johan Cruiff. It is not so sure 1973 was his best year, but surely Cruiff was coming into maturity. And no longer only at club level – the national team of Holland finally capitalized on the talent Dutch clubs possessed. A national team led by Cruiff. There was no sharper contrast between European and South American football than their top players – down South past was celebrated. In Europe – the present. Hardly a contest – Cruiff and total football ruled the world.
Cruiff got twice more points than the second placed Dino Zoff. Beckenbauer – the biggest rival of Cruiff – was 4th. 66 points behind. Note that there was no pre-selection of players back than and the full lists were larger than today. I am not at all sure that both Ronaldos would be ranked so high without pre-selections – the reason is the above example: Cruiff was robbed of points by contemporary standards, for die-hards still voted for Eusebio and Rivera (both fading and more akin to the situation of Pele – increasingly belonging to the gone 1960s). Well, the best is the best – Cruiff already twice the best European player.