Johan Cruyff, one of the greatest footballers in history, died on Thursday at the age of 68 after a battle with cancer, it was announced on his official Twitter account.
The Dutchman won three European Cups as a player with Ajax as well as three Ballon d'Or titles (1971, 1973, 1974). He then led Barcelona to their first European Cup title as a manager in 1992.
Cruyff, known as the inventor of "total football", also captained the Dutch national squad in the 1974 World Cup final, won against all odds by Germany.
To this day, his "Oranje" are regarded as one of the best teams never to have won football's biggest prize.
Reacting to news of Cruyff's death, French football hero Michel Platini described the Dutchman as the world's "best-ever player".
An ex-smoker who had heart surgery in 1991, Cruyff joined Ajax Amsterdam as a long-haired teenager before emerging as one of the world's greats in the early 1970s.
He helped Ajax Amsterdam win three European Cups in a row from 1971-73 and also named European Footballer of the Year in 1971, 1973 and 1974.
Born Hendrik Johannes Cruyff, he joined Barcelona for a then world-record transfer fee of $2.0 million, and it was Barcelona that would later define his coaching career, helping the Catalan club to win their first La Liga title in nearly 15 years in 1974.
That year, as he led the Dutch in the World Cup final, a global audience saw him perform the now-famous "Cruyff turn", the movement in which the player with the ball plays it behind their own leg before swerving away in the direction of the ball.
The Dutch also got to the World Cup final but lost again in 1978, this time without Cruyff who had quit the national side, saying years later he walked away after an armed kidnap attempt.
'2-0 up in the first half'
Following stints at Los Angeles Aztecs and Washington Diplomats in the old NASL, then Levante in Spain, Cruyff returned to Ajax before ending his playing career at their bitter rivals Feyenoord in 1984.
In 1999, he was voted European Player of the Century while he is often bracketed alongside Brazil's Pele and Argentina's Diego Maradona as one of the three best players ever to grace the sport.
The Barca 'Dream Team' Cruyff coached won four straight La Liga titles between 1991 and 1994 and beat Sampdoria 1-0 for the club's maiden European Cup triumph in 1992.
The possession-based playing style Cruyff promoted, with an emphasis on relentless attack, has been widely copied and is credited with underpinning Barca's subsequent successes, as well as those of the Spanish national team.
Former England captain Gary Lineker, who played under Cruyff at Barcelona, summed up the Dutchman's contribution by saying on Twitter: "Football has lost a man who did more to make the beautiful game beautiful than anyone in history."
Cruyff had announced last October that he was suffering from lung cancer but continued to write his newspaper column and earlier this month travelled to Israel to visit his son Jordi, who is technical director at Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Only last month he said he was "2-0 up in the first half" of his battle against lung cancer. Poignantly that turned out to be one of the last public statements made by the man whose footballing pronouncements were eagerly sought after by soccer fans around the globe.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AFP)
Date created : 2016-03-24