Regarded as one of the greatest players of all time and also one of the most innovative coaches, Johan Cruyff has died at his home in Barcelona.

Dutch icon Johan Cruyff has died at the age of 68.

The Dutchman, who on three occasions was voted the world player of the year, guided Holland to the World Cup final in 1974 and as a manager he spent eight highly successful years in charge of Barcelona.

A statement on his official website confirmed his death.

“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, who was a heavy smoker until undergoing heart surgery in 1991, revealed his illness late last year.

The Dutchman was regarded as one of the game’s greatest players. He led Ajax to three consecutive European Cups from 1971 to 1973 and was the key player in the Holland side that lost the 1974 World Cup final to West Germany.

From Ajax he moved to Barcelona in 1973 for a world record fee, winning he league in his forst season in Spain.

He returned to manage the Catalan club in 1988 and led them to their first European Cup success in 1992. Cruyff’s ‘Dream Team’ featuring the likes of Ronald Koeman, Michael Laudrup, Romário, Gheorghe Hagi, and Hristo Stoichkov, won the Spanish league for four successive seasons between 1991-94.

With 11 trophies he was the club’s most successful coach until he was surpassed by his former protege Pep Guardiola.

In recent years he has worked in an advisory capacity with his original club Ajax and although he resigned in 2012, the Dutch outfit said Cruyff would “remain involved with the implementation of his football vision within the club”.

He leaves a wife and three children.

  • carl

    Two quotes sum up Cruyff

    “What is speed? The sports press often confuses speed with insight. See, if I start running slightly earlier than someone else, I seem faster”.

    “Technique is not being able to juggle a ball 1000 times. Anyone can do that by practicing. Then you can work in the circus. Technique is passing the ball with one touch, with the right speed, at the right foot of your team mate”.

  • DavidAW

    He led a small northern European country with a population of just 13 million to the 1974 World Cup final in (West) Germany and to the
    pinnacle of the sport. He masterminded a goal in that same World Cup
    final, in Germany, against the mighty Germans, before the Germans could
    even touch the ball. He was born five minutes away from Ajax stadium in
    Amsterdam, where his mother later worked as a cleaner after his father
    died when he was just 12; the same club we would make legendary and help
    win three European Cups. He was the best player in the world while at
    once perhaps being one of the greatest tacticians and theorists of the
    game. He mastered Total Football on the field, a style in which players
    could effortlessly switch positions–a center-half could temporarily
    become a winger, a holding midfielder could become a striker and back
    again–and used this system to beat the defending world champions and
    world-famous Brazilian team 2-0 in the ’74 World Cup semifinals,
    transforming the individually-brilliant Brazilians into an overly
    physical, frustrated side. Intelligent and fiercely outspoken, he was
    at once the central figure of that Dutch side, whose orange kits became
    one of the most iconic in sports history, while simultaneously standing
    out from the team: his teammates oozed a relaxed style, sported gorgeous
    long hair and decorative necklaces, while he was an extremely thin,
    almost gaunt figure with short hair, darkly sunken eye sockets, and an
    expression and dimeanor that was almost always strikingly serious. He
    invented the ‘Cruyff turn’ in the ’74 World Cup, turning a poor Swedish
    defender into an immortal part of countless film clips, video clips, and
    gifs of the future.

    He didn’t play in the 1978 World Cup–partly to protest the military dictatorship of the Argentine government, partly because there had been threats against his family’s
    life–a tournament that the Dutch, with Cruyff, almost certainly would
    have won (they lost in the final once again to the nation hosting the
    Cup). After retiring, he became one of the most successful managers in
    Barcelona’s history, all along refusing to be a player or manager for
    Real Madrid because of their associations with Franco, and remained a
    part of Barcelona’s philosophy and culture for years. Without him, would
    Barcelona have trained and help cultivate the modern masters Xavi and
    Iniesta? Would Barcelona have brought a tiny, 13 year old Argentine
    named Lionel Messi to Catalonia? Would Ajax have developed the superb
    second generation of Dutch players, who won the 1988 European
    Championship and the country’s first major trophy, like van Basten and
    Rijkaard? Or that third Ajax generation, that included the technical
    masterpiece that was Dennis Bergkamp, and that later upset the almighty
    Milan to win the European Cup in 1995 with Seedorf, van der Saar, and
    the de Boer brothers? Who knows. But his legacy at both Ajax and
    Barcelona, and his relationship to two of the greatest youth sports
    academies in history, and to some of the greatest footballing philosophy
    of all time, shouldn’t be underestimated.

    Without him, I may nothave fallen in love with what is (rightfully) known as the beautiful game. From watching Dutch videos in the basement of a high school in
    rural Illinois, brought by our coach Mark Castro, mesmerized by Ajax’s youth training methods, to staying up late with Jerry Schroyer III
    in our early twenties watching old, bootlegged VHS tapes from the ’74
    World Cup and of compilations of thousands of Dutch league goals, I
    learned how a ridiculously simple game with a round ball can flourish
    into countless styles, theories, and philosophies, and that somehow can
    also explain world economics while serving as a form of communication
    across the globe. Many years later, playing a Sunday match in a country
    across the world, where no one spoke English, a rather heavy but crafty
    older player once asked me in a foreign language, “Why and how is it
    that an American can come to be so passionate about this sport?” I
    mentioned the name Cruyff, and he immediately understood.

    His importance on the field is behind the highlight reels. His flawless
    technique and superb vision, combined with an uncanny sense of space,
    controlled the pace and flow of a game in an unparalleled way that all
    lovers of the game at all levels can recognize: that player whose mere
    presence causes the team without the ball to cease pressuring out of
    respect and caution and dominates the emotions and feeling of a match.
    He was the kind of player that understood and mastered the importance of
    teamwork.

    To me, Cruyff is the stuff of legend, the beautiful
    myths of the game that in some way embrace both fact and fiction.
    Somewhere I read a story, perhaps in the book ‘Brilliant Orange’, that
    helped relate his significance and went something like this: near the
    height of Ajax’s strength, the club signed a foreign player. Back then,
    it was extremely rare to have a foreign player join a club, especially
    for a team like Ajax. Cruyff was reportedly upset by the club’s signing
    because he didn’t know the player. So, he demanded the new signing be
    brought to the training pitch. The club brought the new player, who I
    think was Yugoslavian, to the training ground, trembling at the thought
    of angering the mighty Johan Cruyff. Upon their arrival, Cruyff said
    nothing. He lined up a series of balls instead on the edge of the
    penaly box, 18 yards from goal. He struck the first ball resoundingly
    off the crossbar. He then proceeded to hit each and every ball squarely
    against the bar. After finishing, he collected the balls and returned
    them to the edge of the box. He motioned for the new foreign signing to
    begin. The new recruit stepped up and repeated the amazing task,
    hitting the crossbar with every strike. Cruyff nodded, and walked off
    the pitch. The new signing could now be accepted as part of the squad.

  • carl

    Cruyff said the turn was nothing he preferred space and movement than dribbling.

  • Milton R

    Remember the book about him that you gave with an editionn of the press magazine in the 90’s.