• Spain's news in English
 
app_header_v3
'History's greatest footballer' and Barça icon dies at 68
Johan Cruyff. Photo: Valery Hache / AFP.

'History's greatest footballer' and Barça icon dies at 68

AFP · 24 Mar 2016, 15:01

Published: 24 Mar 2016 15:01 GMT+01:00

Cruyff was one of the most exciting and gifted players ever to take the pitch, winning almost everything at club level in a glorious career not only as a player but also as a coach with Ajax and Barcelona.

The Dutchman was also the lynchpin of the Holland side, the driving force at the heart of his nation's push to the World Cup final in 1974 where they lost a narrow and hard fought match 2-1 to West Germany.

What the Dutch did win was a great deal of admiration for their idea of "total football", which first attracted attention at that time along with Johan Neeskens and Ruud Krol. 

It was to be his only appearance at a World Cup.

After that run to the 1974 final he won the third of his three Ballon d'Or titles as he towered above the European game, having led Ajax to the European Cup three times in 1971, 1972 and 1973.

Cruyff had it all - vision, speed, passing ability and the knack of getting into attacking positions, a genius that resulted in 33 goals in 48 games at national level.

He once said that he sometimes preferred to hit the post than score, so much did he love the sound, and always said he was in the sport for its beauty, rather than merely to win.

He turned professional at 17 and quickly made the number 14 shirt one to be feared as he progressed through the ranks of Ajax, becoming the leading scorer in Holland in only his third season with 33 goals.

Ajax's success in Europe made Cruyff a household name, and when his compatriot Rinus Michels held the reins at Barcelona, he tempted Cruyff to try his luck in Spain.

He guided the Catalan club to their first Spanish title in 14 years in 1974 and made it a double success when they added the domestic Cup.

Tempted by the financial rewards of the North American Soccer League, he had brief spells with teams in Los Angeles and Washington, before returning to Ajax.

When his playing days ended in 1984 he embarked on a successful career as a coach, beginning - inevitably - with Ajax.

He led the club to consecutive Dutch Cups and was also at the helm when Ajax won the Cup Winners' Cup in 1987.

Story continues below…

He then took over at Barcelona, where he cut an unmistakable figure, chain-smoking on the sidelines. He won four straight Spanish titles from 1991-1994 there and the 1992 European Cup with Pep Guardiola at the heart of his side.

It was during that time that Cruyff underwent heart surgery in 1991, at the age of 44 years, and first gave up smoking.

It was revealed in October 2015 he had lung cancer and in February he told the Dutch press he thought he was winning his battle.

"Right now, I have the feeling that I am 2-0 up in the first half of a match that has not finished yet."

For more news from Spain, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Ten incredible Spain locations for Game of Thrones season 7
Photo; Carlos Olmedillas / Flickr

Filming for Game of Thrones season 7 gets underway in Spain in October. The Local takes a look at the special places chosen for the next episodes in the epic HBO drama.

Catalan leader promises 2017 independence referendum
Photo: AFP

The president of Catalonia vowed to hold a referendum on independence next year, whether Spain allowed it or not.

Spain's stricken Socialist party hit by 'coup' attempt
Pedro Sanchez is under pressure to resign. Photo: AFP

Spain's Socialist party was hit by a "coup" attempt on Wednesday with half of its leadership quitting in a bid to oust leader Pedro Sanchez and unblock the country's political deadlock

British mother arrested for leaving child to party till dawn
The mother went clubbing until dawn leaving her seven-year-old alone at the hotel. Photo: AFP

A British mother has been arrested in Mallorca after leaving her child alone overnight in a hotel while she went clubbing till dawn.

Socialists in open warfare as ex-PM blasts Sanchez
Felipe Gonzalez has spoken out against Pedro Sanchez. Photo: AFP

"I feel frustrated... as if I had been tricked," said ex-PM Felipe Gonzalez of the current Socialist leader.

Lidl's €2.99 anti-aging cream comes out top in Spain again
The supermarket brand beat luxury jars. Photo: OCU.

A face-cream from Lidl supermarket costing just €2.99 has once again been found to be the most effective following research by Spain’s leading consumer organisation.

Spanish jihadists arrested for forming terror cell in Europe
Photo: AFP

Police have arrested five suspected members of an Islamic State cell in Spain, Belgium and Germany that spread propaganda for the group online.

Bardem and Cruz team up again for Pablo Escobar film
Spain's golden couple will appear on screen together again. Photo: AFP

Oscar-winning Spanish actors Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem will begin shooting a movie about Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar next month, the married couple's first film together since 2008.

UK files show how Spanish spy tricked Nazis over D-Day
Photo: AFP

Secret files released in Britain Wednesday shed new light on how a Spaniard dubbed the greatest double agent of World War II tricked Germany with false intelligence about the D-Day Normandy landings.

Spain parliament OKs probe into govt 'political police'
Jorge Fernandez-Diaz is accused of using 'political police' against rivals. Photo: AFP

Spanish lawmakers have approved a commission to probe allegations that acting interior minister Jorge Fernandez-Diaz used ministry resources as "political police" against rivals.

National
Seven reasons why autumn is the very best season in Spain
International
Spanish study finds four types of personality. Which are you?
National
New search underway for civil war grave of poet Lorca
National
Bison found decapitated on Valencia nature reserve
International
Forgotten Voices: What Brits in Spain think about Brexit
Travel
One dead and 14 injured in blast at Spanish resort
International
Game of Thrones want extras 'with muscles' to film in Spain
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Thousands march in Madrid to push for bullfighting ban
Technology
Spanish team invents hands-free 'penis bidet'
National
In pics: Devastation caused by Costa Blanca wildfires
Society
Pregnant woman in niqab attacked by two men in Spain
National
Spanish café offers cut-price coffee to those with manners
Travel
What's on in Spain: September 2016
Travel
'We drank from animal troughs to survive'
National
Forest fires threaten Costa Blanca resort of Jávea
National
Loyal dog mounts vigil at hospital doors for sick owner
Politics
Five reasons why Spain's Socialists won't back Rajoy
National
It's a girl! Rare giant panda cub born in Madrid zoo
Culture
La Tomatina: Everything you need to know about epic fiesta
National
Shocking video shows torture of young calf during fiesta
Police launch appeal for Costa Blanca hit and run driver
Politics
What political deadlock? Spain economy forges ahead
Features
Eight reasons to spend your gap year exploring Spain
3,174
jobs available