David (Sonny) Werblin, the man who gave the American Football League Joe Namath, delivered one of the world's great soccer players, Johan Cruyff, to Washington yesterday.
With the Diplomats' corporate godfather, Madison Square Garden President Werblin, beaming, Cruyff was introduced at a crowded news conference at the Four Seasons Hotel.
"I can't promise a championship, but I can promise I'll play the very best I can," said Cruyff, the 32-year-old midfielder purchased from the Los Angeles Aztecs for $1 million and signed to a three-year contract worth about $1.5 million.
Cruyff's best is all Werblin, Coach Gordon Bradley and most of the Dutchman's new teammates feel they need to contend from the championship of the North American Soccer League.
"I'm really looking forward to playing with Cruyff," said striker Alan Green, who led the Dips in scoring last year with 41 points." Adjusting to him will be no problem. He is still a world-class player and knows what to do with the ball."
While most Washington players seemed ecstatic at the prospect of playing with the talented Cruyff, most valuable player in the NASL last year, a few wondered if Cruyff would fit into the Dips' team concept.
"Right now, we have a lot of midfielders," said one player. "If Cruyff plays with us as a team, we'll be great. If he decides to play by himself, well . . . ."
Bradley laughed at the thought.
"There are only three true superstars in the world: Pele, (Franz) Beckenbauer and Cruyff," Bradley said.
"Cruyff is a true leader, not with words but with action. I don't anticipate any problems at all.
"Cruyff is not the type of player to go for himself. But if the team is down, he can turn it on, make things happen. We can't gurarantee anything, but we're on the right track."
"He'll make us that much better," said all-purpose player Bobby Stokes.
"We'll have to change our style to play with him. But it'll only take a couple of games to see what we're about."
"He (Cruyff) did more against us last year as one player than the other teams did together," said defender Tommy O'hara. "It won't take him long to fit in."
Bradley and the Dips still have nightmares caused by Cruyff last year.
It was Cruyff who made the Dips look like statues in a playoff game when he went through four players to score the winning goal in overtime, at RFK, Los Angeles defeated Washington three out of four times last season.
Cruyff's mere presence will stablilize the Dips' midfield, a troublesome spot for several seasons. The 5-foot-9, 150-pounder is an excellent passer and scorer and can inspire teammates with his enthusiasm, leadership and knowledge of the game. At 32, Cruyff may have lost a step, but makes up for it with his experience.
"After age 27, you read the game better," said Cruyff, who speaks five languages. "You just know where to go."
His illustrious career began at age 10 when he joined Ajax of Amsterdam. He signed his first pro contract at age 15. He was an immediate success as a forward, leading his team to four Dutch Cup titles and six Dutch League crowns. In 1974, Cruyff led the Netherlands to the World Cup final, where it lost to West Germany.
Cruyff then was purchased by Barcelona for $2 million. Barcelona won the Spanish League title in 1974 and was runner-up in 1976 and 1977. Cruyff "retired" in June 1978.
The Cosmos, who had coaxed Pele out of retirement and signed Beckenbauer, then went after Cruyff. He played two exhibitions with the New York club.
Cruyff signed with the Aztecs in May 1979 and played in 23 games. He scored 13 goals and had 16 assists from his center midfield position and was selected as the NASL's MVP and offensive player of the year. Five of his 13 goals were gamewinners, including the one that beat the Dips.
Cruyff won the European footballer of the year award three times, the only player to do so.
Last week Washington signed another midfielder, Juan Jose Lazano, also considered a world class performer. He and Cruyff should make the Dips formidable at midfield.
"I still need two more players," Bradley said. "Cruyff can't do it by himself. One man won't make a team. I can't improve Cruyff but I can complement him with some good players.
"Our midfield will be a little complicated for a while, but our players are professional and will compete. They'll work things out. Our team will be very entertaining."
In the games Washington and Los Angeles played last year, Cruyff was the target of the Dips' aggressive play and he complained after the two playoff games that Washington players had been kicking him.
"That's part of the game," Cruyff said yesterday. "Washington was trying to win the game. Nothing that bad. I think Washington is a good team. I remember them being a good attacking team, but the balance wasn't too good.
"That's what I'll try to do, give the team and the midfield some balance."