News of the 68-year-old’s diagnosis emerged in the Spanish media yesterday and was later confirmed by Ajax director Edwin van der Sar before a statement appeared on Cruyff’s official website.
“Over recent weeks, Johan Cruyff has undergone various medical checkups at a hospital in Barcelona. During these reviews, he has been diagnosed with lung cancer,” the statement read.
“Out of respect for the privacy of Johan and his family, and the fact that the tests have not yet been completed, further announcements will not be made yet. We trust that this time, if the privacy of Johan and his family are respected.”
Cruyff is regarded as one of football’s greatest ever players having won the Ballon d’Or three times, in 1971, 1973 and 1974.
He was the central figure in Ajax boss Rinus Michels’ footballing philosophy that became known as Total Football, with his flair and artistry demonstrated by the trick that bears his name, the Cruyff turn.
Cruyff led Ajax to three consecutive European Cups from 1971 to 1973 and was the star figure as Holland reached the World Cup final in 1974.
By then he had joined Barcelona for a world record fee and Cruyff became a huge favourite in Catalonia.
Cruyff made the city his home and named his third child – who went on to play for Barcelona and Manchester United – Jordi after the patron saint of Catalonia.
Following his retirement in 1984 after a spell in the USA and then a return to Ajax, Cruyff went into management and took the reins at the Amsterdam giants.
He put in place the system that would make Ajax so successful in the early 1990s and with which they won the Champions League in 1995.
By then Cruyff was coming to the end of a hugely successful spell in charge of Barcelona that, like with Ajax, would have ramifications long after he left the post.
The highlight of his reign came with victory in the European Cup in 1992 while he won four successive Primera Division titles. A heavy smoker, he gave up the habit after undergoing double heart bypass surgery in 1991. He subsequently became an anti-smoking campaigner.