Johan Cruyff: Barcelona and Holland legend dies aged 68

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Johan Cruyff: Soccer legend passes away
02:22 - Source: CNN

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Dutch legend Johan Cruyff has died aged 68

Cruyff both played and managed for Ajax and Barcelona

He is credited with reinventing modern soccer

CNN  — 

Johan Cruyff, the man credited with helping reinvent modern soccer, has died aged 68.

The former player and manager of Spanish giants Barcelona and the Netherlands’ most successful club Ajax, had been battling lung cancer.

One of the world’s greatest ever footballers, Cruyff’s Dutch team finished runners up in the 1974 World Cup playing a revolutionary style of soccer that was dubbed “total football.”

A statement on his official website read: “On March 24 2016 Johan Cruyff 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.”

Not many players have a football trick named after them but Cruyff did. He innovated the Cruyff turn, notably bamboozling Swedish defender Jan Olsson in the 1974 World Cup.

Cruyff feinted to go one way before dragging the ball behind him leaving Olsson trailing in his wake. It’s a trick that is still regularly used on football pitches and playgrounds around the world.

Cruyff’s son-in-law Todd Beane and senior advisor to the Cruyff Institute in Barcelona described the Dutch great as a “football visionary and a sincere humanitarian.”

“To our family, he was “Opa” – a caring father and a loving grandfather,” added Beane. “We will miss him dearly.”

“Johan Cruyff, true football royalty,” tweeted Belgian captain Vincent Kompany. “I don’t think anyone has ever influenced the game as much as he has done.”

READ: ‘Total Football’ pioneer: Cruyff remembered

A former smoker, Cruyff underwent heart surgery in 1991 during his time as coach of Barcelona – a club he also played for.

After his operation he took part in an anti-smoking advertising campaign, which had the slogan: “I’ve had to two addictions in my life: smoking and playing football. Football has given me everything, whilst smoking almost took it all away.”

Cruyff came to epitomize football in the 1970s and with his lanky hair and flared jeans, the Dutchman had as much swagger off the pitch as he did on it.

The Dutchman won the Ballon d’Or – the old European Player of the Year award – three times in 1971, 1973 and 1974 as he helped Ajax to its hat-trick of European titles in 1971, 1972 and 1973.

He also inspired Netherlands to a first ever World Cup final in 1974 in which the Oranje – one of international football’s most exciting sides in history – lost to host West Germany. Cruyff received the Player of the Tournament award for his efforts.

The Dutchman also enjoyed success in Spain, where he won the Spanish La Liga title and Spanish Copa del Rey while at Barcelona.

As a coach Cruyff’s influence has been almost as great as his playing legacy.

He quickly established himself as a Barcelona legend, guiding a side known as the “Dream Team,” due to its flowing style of football, to the club’s first ever European Cup in 1992.

With Cruyff as coach, Barcelona won four consecutive Spanish La Liga titles from 1991 to 1994, as well as the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1989 and the Spanish Copa del Rey in 1990.

The Dutchman helped to lay the foundations for an identity still seen today at Barcelona – a club which has a heavy focus on youth development and prides itself on its defined “tiki-taka” style of play.