Tiki taka has evolved from different variants during its development and peak period. Majority of the references to the 21st century precursor implemented by Pep Guardiola’s Barca is linked directly to Dutchman, Hendrik Johannes Cruijff.
Johan Cruyff, one of the most influential football figures in history was a former Barca player who would also go on to coach the club after he retired from the game. The European Player of the Century was able to combine his knowledge of Netherlands ‘Total football’ philosophy to the FC Barcelona style of play and laid a foundation for the Tiki taka possession based football style. He will also go on to help mold the Barca academies into the La Masia academy that have produced world best players today.
If football is a religion, Cruyff is one of its most adorable ministers. This stems majorly from the array of Cruyff legacy that is beyond football alone. His foundations and schools all over the world continue to help more than 200,000 beneficiaries.
APPOINTMENT AS COACH
After the Dutchman retired from playing, he went into management. Before he became the coach at Barca, he was first hired by Ajax FC, his former club. While he was there as their coach, he implemented a football system that helped the team win many trophies.
At Ajax, he devised a formation that involved three defenders and one defensive midfielder playing in front of them. In front of the DM are two other midfielders and another player that acted as the link between them and the outlying central forward who had a free role up front. Two wingers manned the left and right flank.
The formation became a huge success for the Dutchman and his Ajax team. However, after the Barca player’s incident with President Nunez that saw many players moved out of the club, Cruyff was contacted to take over the managerial duties at the Camp Nou.
After his appointment, he brought in a lot of players that he felt can implement his ideas including Pep Guardiola, Stoichkov, Ronald Koeman, Txiki Begiristain, José Mari Bakero, Andoni Goikoetxea, Michael Laudrup and Romário.
He also helped the club make institutional changes that involved huge investments into La Masia. According to reports, he advocated for talent over physique – a legacy that the academy has continued to carry on till this day. He also introduced “rondo” into Barca’s training and ultimately helped the Catalan giants take advantage of his 3-4-3/4-3-3 formation. This made the La Blaugrana play an attractive type of football that favors high possession and starving the opponent of the ball at all times. The philosophy is simple – if the opposition doesn’t have the ball, then they can’t dictate the affairs of the game.
Although Barca was coming off a very difficult time in the clubs history at the time, Cruyff was able to turn things around within few months of taking over the management affairs. His Dream Team will go on to win four  straight La Liga titles and the club’s first Champions League trophy in 1992. He won a total of eleven  trophies and was the record holder at that amount until Pep Guardiola took over.
His style of play is unarguably the earliest precursor to the overall implementation of the Ajax “Total football” philosophy by Pep Guardiola during his reign at the Camp Nou. However, Guardiola can be said to have reaped a reward from the system which he is also one of the foundational progenitors. Apart from Guardiola, the glorious Tiki-taka years of success under him also had Txiki Begiristain to thank for – another Cruyff student.
Begiristain worked as “Director of Football” from 2003 until he left in 2010 before joining Manchester City in the same role in 2012. He made the switch with his compatriot Guardiola and have both successfully applied a variant of the Cruyff legacy to help transform Manchester City to the powerhouse they are today, winning numerous trophies and narrowly missing out on the UCL after a 1-0 loss to Chelsea in the finals.