Barcelona, Ajax and the Dutch FA have sent their best wishes to Johan Cruyff, who it has been revealed is suffering from lung cancer.
News of the 68-year-old’s diagnosis emerged in the Spanish media on Thursday morning 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.”
Earlier on, Van der Sar said on Ajax’s website: “We have had contact with his manager, Carole Thate, and she confirmed to us that Johan indeed has lung cancer.
“It has just been discovered, so they could not yet provide much more information. On behalf of the club, I wish Johan and his family a lot of strength and a speedy recovery.”
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.
Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu wrote on Twitter on Thursday: “Johan, you’ll win this one too! The whole Club is behind you.”
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 rein came with victory in the European Cup in 1992 while he won four successive Primera Division titles.
Just as Michels was Cruyff’s mentor, the Dutchman had a profound influence on many of those who played under him.
When Pep Guardiola surpassed Cruyff’s managerial achievements at the Nou Camp, it was with a style honed from the man he had previously played under.
Cruyff’s time at Barcelona did have a dark side, though. A heavy smoker, he gave up the habit after undergoing double heart bypass surgery in 1991.
He subsequently became an anti-smoking campaigner and replaced cigarettes with lollipops while standing on the touchline.
Along with Ajax and Barcelona, FIFA and the Dutch federation also sent messages of support.
A tweet on the FIFA account read: “Wishing a speedy recovery to the incomparable @JohanCruyff. This is just another challenge to conquer.”
A statement on the KNVB website read: “The KNVB was shocked to hear of the serious illness of Johan Cruyff. We wish him, his wife and family a lot of strength and support.
“Our thoughts are with Johan and we hope for the best for his health. As soon as possible, we will notify the family of our condolences personally.”