An incredible player and game-changing manager, the former Holland forward was diagnosed with lung cancer last October — a disease he had been confident of beating just six weeks ago.
However, arguably European football’s finest player of all time succumbed to the disease yesterday, surrounded by his family in Barcelona — a city where Cruyff did so much of his wonderful work.
Barcelona posted on Instagram: “We’ll always love you, Johan. Rest in peace.”
In a fuller statement on their website, the Spanish club added: “FC Barcelona would like to express its pain and sorrow at the passing away of Johan Cruyff (Amsterdam, 25/04/1947 — Barcelona, 24/03/2016), who was both an FC Barcelona player and a coach and who will forever be a legend at the club.
“FC Barcelona wishes to send its most heartfelt sympathy to Johan Cruyff’s family at such a painful moment, a sentiment which the club members, fans and the whole world of football and sport will share. Rest in peace. Thank you Johan.”
Ronald Koeman, who scored the free-kick that brought Cruyff’s Barcelona team European Cup success against Sampdoria at Wembley, tweeted: “Deeply saddened by the death of my best coach and good friend. Thanks for everything. Forever in our heart.”
Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Luis Suarez were among the current Barca crop to pay their respects, with Gerard Pique expressing his thanks to Cruyff, saying: “The legacy you leave is eternal”.
Ajax players past and present also conveyed their sadness following the sudden passing of the club’s greatest ever player.
“Johan meant so much to our club,” former goalkeeper and now Ajax director Edwin van der Sar said.
“We were shocked when we learned of his lung cancer last October. Having to say goodbye to him so soon after that has brought us into mourning. We will miss Johan very much.”
Former Ajax and Barcelona manager Louis van Gaal did not always see eye to eye with Cruyff, but the Manchester United boss was clearly touched by the news.
“It is a very sad day for the footballing world, to lose one of the true legends of the game,” he said on www.manutd.com. “My thoughts are with Johan’s family at this difficult time.”
The Dutch Football Association (KNVB) said the “whole of football” is going to miss the man who gave us the ‘Cruyff Turn’. The forward’s exquisite swerve past bamboozled Sweden defender Jan Olsson at the 1974 World Cup remains one of football’s most endearing images.
RIP Johan Cruyff.— Complex Sports (@ComplexSports) March 24, 2016
The game wouldn't be what it is today without you. pic.twitter.com/YWUPWMilD5
The Dutch lit up that tournament but West Germany pipped Cruyff’s side to victory, with their captain Franz Beckenbauer quick to pay his respect.
“I am shocked,” he posted on Twitter. “Johan #Cruyff is dead. He was not only a very good friend but also a brother to me.”
The Dutch master is survived by his wife, Danny, and their three children, Chantal, Susila and Jordi.