Johan Neeskens is number 36 in 90min's Top 50 Greatest Footballers of All Time series.
No one likes being second. Hardly anyone remembers second after first. To truly go down in history, you have to be first.
But the exception can be found in Johan Neeskens, christened 'Johan Segon' (Johan the Second) by Barcelona fans during his time at Camp Nou in the 1970s, a really subtle nod to his teammate and compatriot. For the sake of privacy, let's call him J Cruyff. No, that's too obvious, let's say Johan C.
The Second followed his path from Ajax to Barça, the two sporting institutions most rooted in style and philosophy - Cruyff and Neeskens were adored at the latter so much that they played for a Catalan XI to mark the end of the Franco era. And while the most obvious connotation of Total Football is the thought of the former, it was the latter who best embodied it, the truly complete player - his passing, his dribbling, his defending, his goalscoring, his surprising aerial prowess, his success, his legacy.
Cruyff was pure beauty, and Neeskens was a little closer to an elegant beast - when Blaugrana fans weren't calling him 'Segon', they switched gears to 'El Toro' (Bobby Haarms' suggestion of 'a kamikaze pilot' didn't quite catch on).
For all of his honours, his legend, it's hard to believe his path to the top didn't even start in the Dutch capital - Neeskens wasn't brought up with Ajax DNA - but rather earned his spurs at hometown club RCH Heemstede. In Amsterdam and Catalonia, they were building fine-tuned total-footballing machines, and the missing cog was up in North Holland.
A REMINDER:— Football Remind (@FootballRemind) September 15, 2019
Happy Birthday Johan Neeskens
He won the European Cup with Ajax in 1971, 1972, 1973 and was World Cup runner up twice with Holland. pic.twitter.com/dz3HGweCEu
If he played in the age of more advanced technology, where pretty much every professional football match across the globe has footage readily available, then you'd find hours and hours worth of Neeskens compilations on YouTube - 'Johan Neeskens | Goals, Skills and Assists | El Toro UNCUT (HD)', if you will.
Imagine a player somewhere between N'Golo Kante and Mousa Dembele when his knees still worked, then imagine if you threw him in Call of Duty's pack-a-punch machine - you'd probably get one of the 50 best players of all time, right? Makes sense.
So here's to you, Johan Neeskens - the best 'second' there ever was.
90min's 'Top 50 Greatest Footballers of All Time' can be found here.
Number 50: Luka Modric
Number 49: John Charles
Number 48: Hugo Sanchez
Number 47: Jairzinho
Number 46: Omar Sivori
Number 45: Paolo Rossi
Number 44: Paul Breitner
Number 43: George Weah
Number 42: Kaka
Number 41: Lev Yashin
Number 40: Gunnar Nordahl
Number 39: Kevin Keegan
Number 38: Hristo Stoichkov
Number 37: Gianluigi Buffon