“If you look at the greatest players in history, most of them couldn’t coach. If you look at the greatest coaches in history, most of them were not great players. Johan Cruyff did both – and in such an exhilarating style.”
Johan Neeskens – his buddy in white and red, Blaugrana and Oranje – couldn’t have said it better, and how football loved Johan Cruyff for it. The feeling was reciprocated.
Even in the depth of his battle against lung cancer, Cruyff said: “Thinking and talking about football gives me a lot of joy and takes my mind of worrying about the illness.” Today, on Thursday 24 March 2016, Cruyff sadly lost that battle.
Johan Cruyff was a magnificent player, one of the greatest players the world has ever known. A symbol of elegant play. An inspiration. A source of admiration for fans. He has marked football history for ever. I'm very saddened by his death. He will be terribly missed. Both personally and on behalf of FIFA and the world football community, I would like to extend my sincerest condolences to his family and friends.
One of the most thrilling dribblers in history, Cruyff inspired Ajax to eight Eredivisie title and three European Cups, before becoming the darling of Camp Nou and propelling Barcelona to La Liga glory. The Amsterdam native scored 33 goals in 48 games for the Netherlands, wowing as they reached the 1974 FIFA World Cup™ Final, which they lost to hosts West Germany.
Cruyff then masterminded Barcelona’s capture of four consecutive Spanish crowns and the European Cup. Fundamentally, he was the brains behind La Masia – the academy which polished Messrs Xavi, Iniesta and Messi in precious pearls – and the tika-taka football which the Catalan colossuses and Spain used to such grand effect.
Johan Cruyff will not only be remembered eternally, but affectionately.