‘Amazing’ Cruyff was a footballing revolutionary, says former team-mate Olsen

Cruyff died of cancer on Thursday, aged 68.

Advertisement

Cruyff died surrounded by his friends and family at his home in Barcelona, according to his official website.

“During the World Cups in ’74 and ’78 their brand of football was regarded as the best in Europe and possibly the best in the world”, he said. I’m very saddened by his death.

“Total football” centred on the idea of players being accomplished and comfortable enough on the ball to play anywhere – and Cruyff, endlessly skilful and lightning fast in thought, was seen as the “total footballer”. He inspired a new generation of footballers. His death comes less than six months after he announced that he had been diagnosed with lung cancer. Barcelona stars Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez recently paid tribute to Cruyff with a version of the penalty routine.

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.

He also captained the club to three successive European Cup wins between 1971 and 1973, a feat only bettered by the great Real Madrid team of the 1950s, who won five in a row between 1956 and 1960.

A heavy smoker, he underwent major heart surgery in 1991, after which he gave up the habit.

– England hero Bobby Charlton remembered Cruyff as one of the finest players to grace the pitch.

At the world level, Johan Cruyff single-handedly brought Netherlands into prominence taking the team to the finals of the 1974 World Cup. “I was fortunate in my career to play against some formidable footballers but I would put Cruyff up there among the very, very best”.

“Recently I heard someone say, ‘When I’m overseas and tell people I’m from Holland, they say the country that’s famous for its tulips and for Johan Cruyff.’ That’s something that will always remain the same”, said the winger.

After his playing career, Cruijff became a successful coach at Ajax and FC Barcelona.

The Cruyff turn is the stuff of legend, the Dutch master bamboozled poor Swedish full back Jan Olsson by inventing what remains one of the most recognisable pieces of skill in football.

“The health of Johan Cruyff has deteriorated rapidly in the last week and a half”, said his manager Carole Thate to the NOS.

Advertisement

33 – The number of goals scored by Cruyff in 48 appearances for Holland before a premature retirement from global football ahead of the 1978 World Cup. It would come to be known as “total football”. Cruyff insisted on having a two-striped version instead and such was his importance and influence to the Dutch, his request was granted.

John Toshack