Melbourne City coach John van’t Schip has compared the aura around his marquee signing Tim Cahill as being similar to what he felt when as a young Ajax player legend Johan Cruyff returned to the Dutch giants.
In the early 1980s, City’s Dutch coach was just starting his senior playing career when the iconic Cruyff, a three-time Ballon d’Or winner and one of the key architects of the Dutch Total Football revolution, returned to the club where he made his name as one of the game’s all-time greats.
Cruyff made a huge impression on a young van’t Schip.
Now, 25 years on, the City boss can see Cahill having the same effect on his playing group.
“Tim I think has always been a special player.
“He’s fantastic with everybody, with the young players, the experienced players,” van’t Schip told FFA TV.
“He’s a real professional, he’s a winner, everybody gets the fight that he brings.
“I can remember from my time that I was playing in Holland with Cruyff.
“I was like 18 and he [Cruyff] came in as a 35-year-old player.
“It was a really great time to be around a player like that.
“I think that’s the same feeling that I can feel now, that I can sense.”
Cruyff is regarded as one of the greatest footballers ever, alongside the likes of Pele, George Best and Maradona. Like the rest of the world, van ‘t Schip was a huge admirer of the former Barcelona player and coach, who passed away in March this year.
Meanwhile, on the eve of the season’s first Melbourne Derby, which is set to see Cahill make his Hyundai A-League debut in front of a packed Etihad Stadium, van’t Schip acknowledged there was plenty at stake.
With both sides recruiting strongly during the off-season and expected to be in the reckoning come Finals Series time, the result will be an important marker for the winner.
“For us it’s a derby, it’s a game that of course we want to win,” said van’t Schip
“Win it for yourself, for the players, for the work you put in and of course the fans.
“To have Etihad at almost a sell-out I think tells you enough at how the game’s growing.
“It’s really a big event in Melbourne, now maybe even more because Tim is playing.”