If Johan Cruyff returns to the Washington Diplomats next season, he will recommend that Gordon Bradley be removed as coach and Los Angeles Aztecs Coach Rinus Michels hired to replace him.
"Why not hire Michels?" Cruyff said. "He is the best coach in the world."
Cruyff and Bradley have feuded over tactics and players all season. It is generally acknowledged that neither wants to go through another season like this one.
Bradley is in the last year of a three-year contract as coach and personnel director of the Dips. He has said he wants to relinquish one of those jobs next season, because they have become too big for one man.
Thus, when the season ends, which could be as early as Saturday or as late at Sept. 21, it appears Sonny Werblin, chairman of Madison Square Garden Inc., owner of the team, and Executive Vice President Jack Krumpe are going to have several major decisions to make.
Do they want Cruyff back? The Dutchman, 33, signed a one-year contract with two option years. He has set conditions for playing here again. c
Who will be the coach? If Cruyff returns, a coaching change is almost inevitable. Bradley could remain personnel director or he might opt, at 47, to leave to coach elsewhere. He will be offered a job somewhere in the organization if he is not retained as coach.
What other players should be retained? Juan Jose Lozano has shown flashes of brillance, but has been injured so often there is some question whether he can play in the NASL. Wim Jansen won't return without Cruyff. Joe Horvath is 32 and has a very high salary.
All of this presumes that Gulf and Western, the Garden's parent organization, does not decide to sell the Dips. That now is unlikely, although losses this year probably will approach $5 million, much of it a tax writeoff.
"When the season is over, we'll sit down and talk to everyone and decide what we want to do," Werblin said. "We're not going to make any decision until after the season is over."
Almost everything that will happen to this franchise in the next year revolves around Cruyff. He has been the lynchpin in the team's tremendous growth in attendance and in credibility this season.
But he also has made enemies with his blunt, aggressive style. There are members of the organization who do not think he has been worth the headaches he has created; they will recommend to Werblin that Cruyff not be asked back. h
One key member of the organization, team President Steve Danzanksy, has gone way out of his way in recent weeks to praise Bradley. Danzansky will be in Bradley's corner if a dispute arises.
Krumpe will not answer questions about the Cruyff -- Bradley situation. But he has appeared miffed at times by Cruyff's bluntness and probalby would react angrily if he believed Cruyff was delivering an ultimatum.
The final decision, unless Bradley decides he wants to quit coaching and move strictly into the front office, will be Werblin's.
He and Bradley are friends, dating back to Bradley's days with the Cosmos. But Werblin has said he will never let that influence his business decisions. In the end, it seems likely that he will have to choose between Bradley and Cruyff.
Michels, asked about the Washington job Wednesday, seemed to reject the idea. Asked if he would consider the job if Cruyff personally appealed to him, he smiled and said, "I might, if they let me live in the White House. Right now, I have two options next year, here or Europe. That is all."
Cruyff rejected the idea of becoming player-coach. "I don't coach," he said "Too many headaches."
The animosity between Bradley and Cruyff is not personl; in fact, they like each other. The conflict is that Bradley believes in one system, Cruyff another. Bradley could decide he doesn't want to coach next year and Cruyff still might decided not to come back. He might opt to finish his career in Europe.
But Cryuff's first choice probably would be to remain here -- under his conditions. Whether he returns likely will depend on whether Werblin feels his demands are reasonable and whether Werblin feels Cruyff is worth the changes that will have to be made in order to get him back to Washington in 1981.
Bradley has played a major role in the Diplomats' rise the past three years and his wishes certainly will receive serious consideration. But no one in the organization wants the situation to boil down to a choice between Bradley and Cruyff.
Still, it may be unavoidable.
Leading, 1-0, in their first-round series with the Los Angeles Aztecs, the Dips flew 17 players, one over the allowable on-field limit, to the West Coast last night. The 17th player was midfielder Thomas Rongen, who has missed three games with a sprained ankle but could play Saturday.
Cruyff believes Washington will have an edge Saturday night.
"They are playing against the watch now, not us," he said. "That means they have to rush forward in the beginning to try and create something.
"That means we should have some space up front early. If we get ahead, 1-0, it would be very good."
If the Dips do get on top, look for Cruyff, who played more defense Wednesday than in any other game all season, to practically become a defender. With Alan Green out, the Dips lack firepower (only four of Wednesday's starters scored goals this season) and they would be delighted with another 1-0 win.
Game time Saturday is 10:30 p.m. (WTTG-TV-5; WWDC-1260). If the Dips win, they move on to round two. If the Aztecs win, there will be a 10-minute break followed by a 30-minute minigame to decide the series.
The minigame is not sudden death. If it is tied at the end there will be no overtime, however, just a shootout to decide the series.