Jordi on his own

Simon Turnbull reports on the new Old Trafford test facing young Cruyff
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The Independent Online
Perhaps it is just as well that Jordi, the Catalan patron saint after which Johan Cruyff named his son, is the same legendary George who became adopted as the venerable guardian of all things English. It would be mythical to suggest that Manchester United's latest acquisition will have a dragon breathing down his neck when he plays in the Red Devils' cauldron, but, at 22, the time has come to slay the monster of his paternal burden.

There could be no better starting point than the City Ground in Nottingham on Saturday. Manchester United's opponents on the opening day of the Umbro Cup tournament happen to be Ajax, in whose colours Cruyff Snr became Europe's player of the 1970s, and for whose youth team Cruyff Jnr took his first steps in his father's shadow. The tournament also features Chelsea and Nottingham Forest

Cruyff, it is safe to assume, will not be wearing the No 14 which so famously adorned his father's back. It was no accident that he was Holland's No 17 during Euro 96, nor that he was listed on team-sheets simply as Jordi.

Life as the son of the Dutch Master has not been easy, but it has cut both ways for Johan Jordi Cruyff. Having made his way through the Ajax and Barcelona academies, Jordi's early first-team appearances two years ago included flashes of Cruyff class.

His continued presence in the Barcelona side gradually became a cause celebre in Catalonia, however. The mutterings of nepotism reached a crescendo in the spring when Cruyff Snr declined the chance to buy the Croatian Davor Suker from Seville and then recalled his son, who had missed much of the campaign with a serious knee injury, for the Spanish Cup final, which Barcelona lost to eventual double-winners Atletico Madrid.

When the coach's contract was terminated in the final week of a second consecutive barren season, Barcelona's president, Jose Luis Nunez, cited family favouritism as one of the reasons for the split. "Cruyff made us get rid of Laudrup, Salinas and Romario so that Jordi could play for Barca," he claimed. His father's departure meant that Jordi's fate was sealed too. For the first time in his life, he faces the challenge of a new club without the presence of his father.

He has signed a four-year contract with the English champions, but there is a clause which allows him to review his future at the end of his first season. The assumption is that he wants to be free to follow wherever his father may go, but there are no immediate indications of where that will be. Nevertheless, at a fee of just pounds 800,000, his signing could hardly be described as a costly gamble by Alex Ferguson.

Jordi returned to Barcelona after his medical examination on Friday, content that he had made a smart move. "This is the ideal place for me to come," he said.

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