Johan Cruyff said yesterday that reports of injuries having diminished his talent on the soccer field are "just a lot of rubbish."
Cruyff, acquired by the Washington Diplomats Tuesday night, said he is recovering quickly from groin surgery performed three weeks ago and expects to be close to full effectiveness by the time he joins his new teammates July 1 to play San Diego at RFK Stadium.
But the Diplomats must first visit Le Manic of Montreal today at 2 p.m. (WTTG-TV-5) in Olympic Stadium. Montreal has closed within 12 points of second-place Washington in the Eastern Division.
"All I need is a week to 10 days rest and I'll be my old self," Cryuff said in a telephone conversation from his home near Amsterdam.
Concern over Cryuff's condition increased when it was learned that he was removed from a tournament in Milan earlier this week. Shortly thereafter, Diplomat owner Jimmy Hill convinced him to return to Washington for the rest of this season for what Cruyff called "a lot less money" than the $600,000 he reportedly made last season.
There's no problem with my fitness," Cruyff said. "I just tried to come back too soon after the initial injury. After the first five minutes of a game the other day I reinjured it (his groin). But I didn't break or tear anything. The team doctor just said I shouldn't play any more until I gave the injury time to heal.
Can he return to the old world-beating form? "Why not?" he said. "I don't think I have slowed down any. I don't have any other injuries."
Cruyff, the NASL's most valuable player in 1979 with the Los Angeles Aztecs, scored 10 goals and assisted on 20 others for the Diplomats last year. When that team was folded in November, Cruyff played for Levante, a second division team in Valencia, Spain. Cruyff had indicated last winter that he would not return to play in North America.
"But I realized I enjoyed last season so much . . . I really missed Washington D.C.," Cruyff said. "I had such a nice time taht I wanted to come back to do it all over again."
Cruyff said Hill, an old friend, contacted him about a week ago to propose the idea of returning. "I didn't even think about going back before that. Teams had contacted me long before. But I wouldn't have gone to any of them."
Cruyff said he has never seen most of the Diplomats in action, and that he has no idea what his role will be. Washington Coach Ken Furphy said yesterday that he is exploring the idea of having Cruyff -- who can expertly fill almost any role -- concentrate on scoring goals.
"Sure, the opposition will sit on him," Furphy said, "but that's part and parcel with being a star."
Cruyff, 34, also said that too much is being made of his habit of chastising teammates for little imperfections. "I don't think there will be any trouble," he said. "Last year's team didn't have any problems during the last half of the season. I'm expecting to work hard. The pressure is always on. But I'm not worried about that. I intend to give the same as I did last year."
For the first time this season, the Diplomats (9-7, 75 points) are looking over their shoulders. Montreal, led by forward Gordon Hill with eight goals, has improved its record to 7-8 (63 points).
Washington has lost four of its last five games. The Manic has won five of its last seven at home and is expecting at least 30,000 to attend today's game. Montreal has been a pleasant surprise for the league, averaging more than 21,000 in seven home games this season.
Diplomat captain Peter Baralic is listed as questionable because of a groin injury. Defender Ken Murphy will be examined Monday for cartilage damage in his knee. Montreal starting defender Bobby Smith will serve the second game of a two-game suspension.