Former Ajax and Netherlands superstar Johan Cruyff, widely regarded as one of the finest players to ever grace the game, has died, his website today confirmed.
The 68-year-old passed away after a short battle with cancer.
The statement on his website simply read:
“On March 24 2016 Johan Cruyff (68) died peacefully in Barcelona, surrounded by his family after a hard fought battle with cancer. It’s with great sadness that we ask you to respect the family’s privacy during their time of grief.”
Just last month Cruyff had revealed that he was confident of beating the cancer diagnosis that he had made public last October, saying in an interview:
“Right now, I have the feeling that I am 2-0 up in the first half of a match that has not finished yet. But I am sure that I will end up winning.”
Cruyff had been a heavy smoker up until having heart surgery in 1991.
Though the word “legend” may be thrown around nowadays with flagrant disregard for the gravitas that such a word deserves, few could deny that Cruyff was a legend of the game – deserving of a place at the top table alongside the likes of Pelé and Diego Maradona.
His status in the game has been reflected in the tributes that have already been pouring in for the three-time Ballon d’Or winner.
We’ll always love you, Johan. Rest in peace
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) March 24, 2016
— AFC Ajax (@AFCAjax) March 24, 2016
— Boris Becker (@TheBorisBecker) March 24, 2016
Shocked by the sad news about Johan Cruyff. RIP ?? pic.twitter.com/L8ZOBDEfka
— Yaya Touré (@YayaToure) March 24, 2016
Very saddened by the passing of Johan Cruyff – a dear friend unbelievable player and a national hero!!
— Ian Rush MBE (@Ian_Rush9) March 24, 2016
— AS Roma English (@ASRomaEN) March 24, 2016
Johan Cruyff. Rest in Peace. pic.twitter.com/GF11q40ZrT
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) March 24, 2016
The lasting legacy Cruyff had on football cannot be overstated – from the Total Football style of the Netherlands sides of the 1970s right up to the Barcelona that we see today, Cruyff’s fingerprints are all over what perceive as modern footballing practices.
You spent hours practising his turn as a kid. RIP Johan Cruyff. pic.twitter.com/MwnT315lXN
— Coral (@Coral) March 24, 2016
He led Ajax to three consecutive European Cup titles in the early 70s (winning eight Eredivisie titles in total over two spells in Amsterdam) and narrowly missed out on a World Cup medal with the Netherlands in 1974.
He moved to Barcelona in 1973, for a then-world record fee of roughly $2million, and while his playing days there were far from trophy-laden, he enjoyed considerably more success at the Camp Nou as a manager, winning four Spanish league titles as well as taking home the 1992 European Cup.
His later years had seen him return to both Barcelona and Ajax at various instances at board level.
He will be remembered as one of the most innovative footballing thinkers the game as ever seen, and likely will ever see.
— Johan Cruyff (@JohanCruyff) March 24, 2016