The mavericks of the '70s truly shaped soccer!
The 1970s were a remarkable era in sports, where teams and players stood out. Some of the greatest football players of all time graced the field during this decade, influencing the game significantly. Today's top football players often credit the foundational principles set in the '70s for shaping their sporting philosophies. Here, we've highlighted the best from that influential period.
Johan Cruyff began playing football on Amsterdam's streets, later becoming a key figure in the modern game. Leading the Total Football system, he secured multiple trophies with Ajax and Barcelona in the 1970s, including three consecutive European Cups with the former. As captain, Cruyff guided the Netherlands to the 1974 World Cup final, where he amazed the world with his Cruyff turn
Franz Beckenbauer achieved a World Cup victory as both a player and a manager. He was a pioneer in the modern sweeper role. From 1971 to 1974, the three-time Ballon d’Or winner not only led Bayern Munich to three consecutive European Cups but also led West Germany to a World Cup triumph. His remarkable feat is unlikely to be replicated.
Undeniably one of the most lethal strikers in history, Gerd Muller boasts a remarkable record of 68 goals in 62 caps for West Germany. Der Bomber, who secured the 1970 Ballon d’Or and propelled Bayern Munich to three consecutive European Cups, astonishingly scored 61 of those goals between 1970 and his international retirement in 1974. His illustrious career reached its pinnacle when he scored the winning goal in the World Cup final on home soil.
As the captain of Brazil's 1970 World Cup-winning team, Carlos Alberto is rightfully acknowledged as one of the greatest defenders in football history. Ahead of his time with exceptional dribbling and playmaking skills, his goal in the final of that World Cup, where Brazil defeated Italy 4-1, marked the culmination of one of the most dazzling team moves in tournament history.
As Argentina triumphed in the 1978 World Cup on home soil, Mario Kempes solidified his superstar status by clinching both the Golden Boot as the top scorer and the Golden Ball as the player of the tournament. Known for his prolific goal-scoring at clubs like Rosario Central and Valencia, where he twice topped La Liga's scoring charts, Kempes played a pivotal role with a brace in securing victory over the Netherlands in the World Cup final.
A vital part of the formidable Netherlands team in the '70s, Johan Neeskens stood out as one of the earliest true box-to-box midfielders, demonstrating exceptional excellence in his role. Before experiencing World Cup runner-up finishes in 1974, where he netted five goals, and 1978, Neeskens played a pivotal role as Ajax secured three consecutive European Cup victories from 1971 to 1973. His success continued as he later won the Cup Winners’ Cup with Barcelona.
An electrifying force on Brazil's right wing, Jairzinho began the '70s by playing a pivotal role in his country's third World Cup victory. This guy was on fire, scoring in all six games and bagging seven goals in total! And let's talk about that solo goal against Czechoslovakia—pure magic, one of those moments that sticks with you forever!
The 1970s marked the introduction of football wizardry and a fresh approach to the game, seemingly unheard of before. It brought about significant changes that reshaped football as we know it, giving the sport a whole new meaning in the years that followed.