Dutch great and father of Total Football Cruyff dies
Johan Cruyff, the legendary Dutch soccer striker and coach, has died of lung cancer aged 68, according to a message posted on his website.
The site said he had died in Barcelona, surrounded by family.
As a player, Cruyff was the embodiment of Dutch “total football”, a fluid style of play focused on ball possession and rapid passing, and involving all members of the team in both attack and defence.
He emerged as one of the world’s greats in the early 1970s when he helped Ajax Amsterdam win three European Cups in a row from 1971-73, and he was named European Footballer of the Year in 1971, 1973 and 1974.
He joined Barcelona for a then-world record transfer fee of $2.0 million, and it was the Catalan club that later defined his coaching career as he led them to their first La Liga title in nearly 15 years in 1974.
He was also a key player in the great Netherlands team that reached the 1974 World Cup final, when a global audience saw him perform the now-famous “Cruyff turn”, in which the player tries to deceive a defender by hooking the ball behind their own leg before swerving away in the direction of the ball.
Cruyff had been a heavy smoker, and had had heart surgery in 1991. His death comes less than six months after he announced that he had been diagnosed with lung cancer.
-Tributes pour in-
Tributes immediately started pouring in with former Ajax star Sjaak Swart has hailing Cruyff as “a great player and a true friend”.
More have poured in from famous football clubs and players from around the world for Cruyff, with Barca describing him as “a magician” and “an icon” at Camp Nou.
While Swart recalls a prodigious young talent during his early spell with Ajax, he described his former team-mate – with whom he won consecutive Eredivisie and European Cup titles during the 1970s – as a true gentleman of the sport.
Speaking in January, he told Omnisport: “When I came to the first team I was 17 years old. Johan was eight or nine. His father – his second dad – worked in the Ajax stadium. So after school Johan would shoot back all the balls ending up behind the goal.
“And on Saturday I always watched Johan playing at the youth team. It was great to see him dribbling past five or six players. You could already see that he was a great football player.
“When Johan was 17 he started playing for the first team. We played together for about seven years. And we are true friends. And that’ll be forever. He is a great person as well.
“Sometimes people think that Johan is a little arrogant but that’s simply not true. He always wants to help other people. We got along very well.
“We had a lot of people from Amsterdam in the squad. Piet Keizer, Johan Cruyff playing up front. We all lived in Amsterdam, within a radius of one kilometre. You don’t see that anymore. We got along together so well.
“At the time you couldn’t play abroad. We played together with the same team for five years. You know exactly what to expect from each other. So we built a team together and eventually we won the European Cup three times.”
Sjaak Swart, a former Ajax team-mate of Johan Cruyff, has hailed the former Netherlands star for his footballing skill and his conduct.
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