Johan Cruyff: Netherlands great dies of cancer aged 68

Netherlands footballing great Johan Cruyff has died of cancer aged 68.

Cruyff, who made his name as a forward with Ajax and Barcelona, was European footballer of the year three times.

He won three consecutive European Cups with Ajax from 1971, coached Barcelona to their first European Cup triumph in 1992 and helped the Dutch reach the 1974 World Cup final, where they were beaten 2-1 by West Germany.

The Dutch FA said: “Words can hardly be found for this huge loss.”

It added: “The greatest Dutch footballer of all time and one of the world’s best ever. Our condolences go to his wife, family, friends and the entire football world at home and abroad. We wish everyone a lot of strength in this difficult time.”

Live – Johan Cruyff tributes

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Memories of Cruyff and his famous turn
World Cup moments: Watch Cruyff’s turn
He first showcased the ‘Cruyff turn’ at the 1974 World Cup in a match for the Netherlands against Sweden and scored 33 goals in 48 international appearances.

He scored 293 goals in 521 appearances for five different clubs – including 204 in 276 games while winning 18 trophies in two spells for Ajax.

UntitledCruyff had double heart bypass surgery in 1991, and immediately after the operation gave up smoking and took to sucking lollipops in the Barcelona dugout.

He featured in a Catalan health department advert, saying: “Football has given me everything in life, tobacco almost took it all away.”

The Catalan side won four consecutive La Liga titles from 1990-91 to 1993-94 under his guidance and, although he was sacked in 1995, he remained influential at the club for the rest of his life.

Cruyff was diagnosed with cancer in October 2015 but in February of this year he said he felt he was “2-0 up in a match” against lung cancer and he was “sure I will end up winning”._88252809_cruyff_barcasupport_gettyManchester City and Belgium captain Vincent Kompany: “RIP 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 beliefs. Football will miss him but we will never forget.”

Former World Cup-winning Germany captain Lothar Matthaus: “Such sad news about Johan Cruyff. A great man, who transformed football. Condolences to his family and friends.”Former Germany World Cup winner and manager Jurgen Klinsmann: “Very sad news about the death of legend Johan Cruyff. What an amazing player, Coach, teacher and person he was.”

German football legend Franz Beckenbauer: “I am shocked. Johan Cruyff has died. He was not only a very good friend, but a brother to me.”

John Murray, BBC Radio 5 live: “I think you have to be in your 40s now to really appreciate the skill and genius he brought to the game. He was a strong-willed individual and that was the reason he went on to achieve so much success after his playing days were over.

“He went on to be the founding father of Barcelona. He is absolutely revered to this day in Barcelona. He was one of the best players who had ever played the game.”Former Manchester United and Scotland midfielder Paddy Crerand: “When you talk about the greatest players that ever lived he was one of them. What a great person he was, I had a great time with him and met him again when his son Jordi came to play for Manchester United.

“I am so sad to hear about it. He turned out to be a fabulous manager as well. It was a pleasure for me to be in the company of such a great player.”

Veteran former England international and BBC summariser Jimmy Armfield: “He was truly one of the great ambassadors as well as much as anything else. He was the all-purpose player, he could get up and down the pitch and he was clever enough to have a manoeuvre and the Cruyff turn that so many kids try to emulate today.

“He was so modest about things but the point about him was he would come into the top list of players in my time.”Cruyff was also known for his outspoken opinions:

On himself:

“In a way I’m probably immortal.”
“If I wanted you to understand it all, I would have explained it better.”
“Actually I never make a mistake, because it takes a huge effort for me to make a mistake.”
“I don’t believe in God. In Spain all 22 players cross themselves, if it works the game is always going to be a tie.”
On football and his philosophy

“Playing football is very simple, but playing simple football is the hardest thing there is.”
“Italians can’t win the game against you, but you can lose the game against the Italians.”
“Quality without results is pointless. Results without quality is boring.”
“It’s better to go down with your own vision than with someone else’s.”
“In my teams, the goalie is the first attacker, and the striker the first defender.”
“There is only one ball, so you need to have it.”
“Why couldn’t you beat a richer club? I’ve never seen a bag of money score a goal.”
The Netherlands play France in Ajax’s Amsterdam Arena in a friendly on Friday (19:45 GMT) and face England at Wembley on Tuesday (20:00).

BBC Radio 5 live will broadcast a special programme paying tribute to Cruyff at 19:00 GMT on Thursday, followed by another programme at 21:00 on Friday.

What were your personal memories of Johan Cruyff? Leave your comments below.

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