/ Soccer

Johan Cruyff, 68, passes away after cancer battle

Updated: Thursday, 24 Mar 2016 21:22 | Comments

Dutch football great Johan Cruyff has died at the age of 68.

The former Ajax and Barcelona forward, who also managed both clubs, was diagnosed with lung cancer last October. He died of cancer, it was announced on Thursday.

A statement on his website said: "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."

Cruyff captained the Netherlands at the 1974 World Cup, at the height of his playing career, and led the Dutch to the final. Despite winning them an early penalty, which Johan Neeskens converted, Cruyff and the Netherlands were left disappointed as they lost 2-1 to West Germany.

At Ajax he won seven league titles but most notably three consecutive European Cups from 1971 to 1973.

Cruyff's career at Ajax ran in parallel to manager Rinus Michels implementing the highly successful Total Football system.

Michels went to Barcelona in 1971 and Cruyff followed two years later.

A prolific goalscorer, and a great creator for others, Cruyff even had his own trick, famous to this day. The 'Cruyff turn' was perfected by its inventor, who finished his playing career with spells at Ajax and Feyenoord.

A sought-after football thinker, he managed Ajax from 1985 to 1988, and then, just as in his playing career, Cruyff was lured away by Barcelona.

At the Nou Camp he won the European Cup, in 1992, and four league titles among a raft of trophies.

During his time at the club he underwent major heart surgery in 1991, which prompted him to stop smoking.

He was sacked by Barcelona in 1995 but remained influential at the club for the rest of his life.

Ajax and Barcelona shared a mutual grief.

Ajax issued a short statement that read: "Johan Cruyff has died in Barcelona at the age of 68. The greatest Ajax player of all time had suffered with lung cancer since October last year.

"Ajax share in this great loss and wish the families much strength."

The initial reaction from Barcelona was succinct.

Before the grand tributes that will follow, the club tweeted simply: "We will always love you, Johan. Rest in peace."

User contributions and/or comments do not, unless specifically stated, represent the views of RTÉ.ie or RTÉ.
Click here for Terms of use