Johan Cruyff, one of the world’s greatest footballers, has passed away at the age of 68, after a hard fought battle with cancer.
“On March 24 2016 Johan Cruyff (68) died peacefully in Barcelona, surrounded by his family after a hard fought battle with cancer,” the Dutch icon’s official website announced Thursday.
The saddening news came only a month after the former Ajax and Barcelona star said he was “2-0 up” in his battle against lung cancer, which he was sure he would “end up winning.”
Cruyff led Ajax to three consecutive European Cups between 1971 and 1973 and took Holland to the final of the 1974 World Cup, where his side was defeated by West Germany.
He was a Dutch professional football player and coach. As a player he won the Ballon d’Or three times, in 1971, 1973 and 1974. As a player he won the Ballon d’Or three times, in 1971, 1973 and 1974.
At club level, Cruyff started his career at Ajax where he won eight Eredivisie titles, three European Cups and one Intercontinental Cup.
In 1973 he moved to FC Barcelona for a world record transfer fee, winning La Liga in his first season and was named European Footballer of the Year. After retiring from playing in 1984, Cruyff became highly successful as manager of Ajax and later FC Barcelona; he remained an influential advisor to both clubs.
His son Jordi also played football professionally. In 1999, Cruyff was voted European Player of the Century in an election held by the International Federation of Football History & Statistics, and came second behind Pelé in their World Player of the Century poll.
In October 2015, Cruyff, a heavy smoker until undergoing open heart surgery in 1991, was diagnosed with lung cancer. He featured in a Catalan health department advert, saying: “Football has given me everything in life, tobacco almost took it all away.”