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Cruyff had 'rifle put to my head' in failed kidnap attempt

A kidnap attempt, in which a rifle was held to the head of Johan Cruyff, played a part in the Dutchman's decision to miss the 1978 World Cup.

Cruyff said the incident occurred the previous year near the end of a five-year spell with Barcelona. "To play a World Cup you have to be 200 per cent," Cruyff told Catalunya Radio. "I had a rifle at my head, I was tied up, my wife tied up, the children were in the apartment in Barcelona. There are moments when there are other values in life."

Cruyff, who did not say how the kidnap attempt failed, said police then guarded his house for four months and escorted his children to school.

The decision by the former Netherlands international to pull out of the tournament in Argentina, when he would have been 31, had been attributed to a dislike of that country's military dictatorship. He was also at odds with the Dutch football federation at the time. Netherlands reached the final, losing to the hosts 3-1.

Four years earlier, Cruyff had led his country to its first World Cup final, when they lost 2-1 to the hosts West Germany. Cruyff, who won 48 caps and scored 33 goals, was European player of the year three times in the early 1970s. After he retired from playing in 1984, Cruyff coached Ajax and Barcelona.