The Holland football legend Johan Cruyff has died of cancer at the age of 68. The Dutchman, who on three occasions was voted the world player of the year, guided Holland to the World Cup final in 1974 and as a manager he spent eight years in charge of Barcelona.
Just last month the former Ajax, Barcelona and Holland star, one of the main exponents, along with Rinus Michels, of the world famous Total Football – the Dutch style of play that involved players constantly interchanging roles – popularised in the 1970s but still playing a major influence on modern football, said he was ‘2-0 up’ in his match with lung cancer.
“With great sadness we have learned of the death of Johan Cruyff. Words are not enough,” wrote the Dutch football federation on Twitter. Ajax issued a short statement that read: “Johan Cruyff has died in Barcelona at the age of 68. The greatest Ajax player of all time had suffered with lung cancer since October last year. Ajax share in this great loss and wish the families much strength.”
By then he had joined Barcelona for a world record fee. He went on to become a huge favourite at the Camp Nou, eventually coaching the Catalan club to a first European Cup triumph in 1992 as well as winning four successive La Liga titles between 1991 and 1994, having managed Ajax from 1985 to 1988. Barcelona tweeted: “We will always love you, Johan. Rest in peace.”
As a player Cruyff scored 392 times in 520 games over a 19-year career but his influence reached far beyond creating goals, thanks to his qualities as a leader, thinker and speaker. As a coach he had 242 victories in 387 matches, with 75 draws and 70 losses.
The current and five-times world player of the year, Lionel Messi, was among the first to pay tribute to Cruyff, writing on his Twitter account: “RIP Johan Cruyff. Your legacy will live on forever.”
The Belgium captain and Manchester City central defender Vincent Kompany was quick to follow suit. “Johan Cruyff, true football royalty. I don’t think anyone has ever influenced the game as much as he has done. We have all been touched and inspired by his vision and his believes. Football will miss him but we will never forget. #JohanCruyff.”
Ruud Gullit, who played with Cruyff at Feyenoord, said: “I’m perplexed, I thought he was getting better. Holland lost a face in the world. He put our football on the map. Furthermore he’s been extremely important for my career.”