Legendary Dutch soccer player Johan Cruyff has died at the age of 68, according to a note published on his website by his family.
The former Barcelona star and coach passed away in the early hours of Thursday morning after a long battle with cancer.
He is a key figure because of the successes the side had in his time and, above all, in the future
Considered one of the greatest soccer players of all time, along with George Best, Pelé and Diego Maradona, he was part of the Dutch national side that revolutionized the game in the 1970s and lost narrowly to West Germany in the World Cup Final in 1974.
That same year he won the Spanish Liga with Barcelona, having signed for the club in 1973. He had previously taken part in Ajax’s three European Cup wins.
As coach of Barcelona in the 1990s, he won four consecutive Liga titles, and established a style of play that has endured there ever since.
Andrés Iniesta, one of Barcelona’s captains, spoke briefly to the media after a training session, saying Cruyff’s death marked “a very sad day for world soccer.” The forward highlighted Cruyff’s impact on the side, saying, “What remains for me is the influence he had on the club through what he passed on. He is a key figure because of the successes the side had in his time and, above all, in the future.”
Cruyff was Barcelona’s most expensive player at the time, costing the Catalan club 60 million pesetas, equivalent to €1.79 million today. After leaving Barcelona he played briefly in the United States, for the Los Angeles Aztecs and the Washington Diplomats, returning to Spain to play for Second Division side Levante, before heading back to the Netherlands. After being turned down by Ajax, he signed for its arch-rival Feyenoord, remaining there until he retired.
He eventually returned to Ajax as coach in 1985, before moving to Barcelona three years later and leading the side to new glories. Alongside his assistant Charly Rexach, Cruyff introduced his total football style to Spanish soccer. The revolutionary approach took time to prove itself, but eventually brought Barcelona four Liga titles in a row, along with the side’s first European Cup, in 1992.
After standing down, Cruyff joined Barcelona’s board as an advisor. In 2009 he took the job of coach of the Catalan national side, staying there until 2013, after which he spent more time with his family and business interests.