Johan Cruyff, one of the best players to ever kick a football, has died at the age of 68.
A statement was posted on Cruyff’s official website earlier this morning:
Cruyff was diagnosed with lung cancer last October but appeared to be coping with it well. Just last month he spoke with the press about his ongoing treatment and appeared upbeat and optimistic.
The legendary playmaker came up through Ajax’s academy system and spent the first nine years of his senior career there. During this time he helped lead the squad to eight Eredivisie titles, five KNVB Cups, and three European Cups. He later moved to Barcelona— which at the time wasn’t quite the football juggernaut it is now— and helped them win a La Liga title and a Copa del Rey title. He then joined the growing number of European stars in the old NASL before returning briefly to Spain for Levante, the back to Ajax, before finishing his playing career, controversially, at Feyenoord. He was also a crucial squad member for the Dutch National Team, leading them to the 1974 World Cup Final (which they lost 2-1 to West Germany) and to third place in the 1976 Euros.
Cruyff’s lasting legacy is as a pioneer of Total Football, a tactical philosophy characterized by positional fluidity and high technical acumen from all players. This approach to football had a deep and lasting impact on how the game is played. At the risk of oversimplifying, there would be no Tiki Taka without Total Football.
He also had a successful career as a manager, most notably his eight years at Barcelona. During his tenure on the touchline he helped revitalize the club with four consecutive league titles and their first European Cup title, among other honors. Pep Guardiola, who played under Cruyff, famously said during his own tenure as Barcelona manager, “Cruyff built the cathedral, our job is to maintain and renovate it.”
He was outspoken, famously refusing a move to Real Madrid because he did not want to be associated with dictator Francisco Franco. His observations on the game remain thought-provoking for players and managers to this day. His charitable foundation has won praise for helping build street football courts around the world. He even has an asteroid named after him.
Cruyff also gave the world this nifty little move.
He’s survived by his wife Danny and their children Chantal, Susila, and Jordi.