Netherlands star Johan Cruyff lost his final battle with lung cancer, as he passed away at the age of 68, which was announced Thursday on www.worldofjohancruyff.com.
He was known as a standout forward not only for his native Netherlands international team, but also for clubs like F.C. Barcelona and Ajax. He gathered many prestigious awards as a player in Europe, including the revered Ballon d’Or three times. He excelled in what was known as the “Total Football” technique on the pitch, where players could move around each position and successfully rotate without any gaps in the formation. He helped lead the Netherlands team to the World Cup finals in 1974, where they lost 2-1 to the host country, West Germany. Cruyff’s efforts did not go unnoticed in the tournament, as he was awarded the Golden Ball, an award presented to the best player in the World Cup final.
Not only did Cruyff find success on the field as a player, but he would also be known for his phenomenal managerial skills. After retiring as a player in 1984, he became the head manager at his former club, Ajax, in 1985. He spent three years with the club, as he would move on to coach at Barcelona from 1988 to 1996. His tactics were not forgotten at Ajax however, as his coaching style was still in use and played a major role in Ajax winning the UEFA Champions League in 1995. Cruyff’s success as a recruiter for Barcelona would bring the club to winning La Liga four consecutive years from 1991 to 1994. His record of winning 11 trophies with Barcelona made him their most successful manager, until his former player, Pep Guardiola, surpassed him. He did not coach again until 2009, when he accepted a position as the head manager for the Catalonia national team, where he remained until 2013.
Cruyff’s constant use of cigarettes led to him having open-heart surgery in 1991, which led to him quitting for good. He was a part of a campaign for a Catalonian health department that was anti-tobacco. Although he reported that he was “up 2-0 in the first half of the match” against cancer, he died surrounded by family in Barcelona Thursday. C
Cruyff’s death was mentioned on news outlets and social media all day, with fans taking to Twitter with the hashtag “#estadiJohanCruyff”, in an effort to get the Barcelona front office to rename the Camp Nou in his honor, as reported by Bleacher Report. Current soccer players and legends like Pele and Maradona shared their sentiments online as well. The Netherlands team will prepare to honor Cruyff on Friday in Amsterdam as they are scheduled to take on France in an international friendly.