Johan Cruyff, Dutch football legend, dies after battle with cancer

Dutch football legend Johan Cruyff, one of the greatest players in the history of the game, has died aged 68 after a "hard-fought" battle with cancer.

Cruyff died peacefully in Barcelona surrounded by his family, a post on his official website said.
Johan Cruyff, Dutch football legend, dies after battle with cancer
PHOTO: Johan Cruyff during a World Cup quarterfinal in 1974. (AFP)
The Dutchman had been a heavy smoker and had heart surgery in 1991. His death comes less than six months after he announced that he had been diagnosed with lung cancer.

As a player, Cruyff was the embodiment of Dutch "total football" — a fluid style of play focused on ball possession and rapid passing, and involving all members of the team in both attack and defence.

He emerged as one of the world's greats in the early 1970s, when he helped Ajax Amsterdam win three European Cups in a row from 1971 to 1973, and was named European Footballer of the Year in 1971, 1973 and 1974.

He joined Barcelona for a then-world record transfer fee of $US2 million ($2.6 million), and the Catalan club later defined his coaching career as he led them to their first La Liga title in nearly 15 years in 1974.

He was also a key player in the great Netherlands team that reached the 1974 World Cup final, when a global audience saw him perform the now-famous "Cruyff turn", in which the player tries to deceive a defender by hooking the ball behind their own leg before swerving away in the direction of the ball.

Modern-day Barcelona hero Xabi Alonso mourned Cruyff's passing on Twitter.
"Cruyff, he was the best player of all time," French legend Michel Platini said.

Barcelona's rivals also expressed their sadness.

"Goodbye to one of the legends of the history of football," Real Madrid's Sergio Ramos said.

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