The legendary football player and one of Barça’s most iconic coaches, Johan Cruyff, has died of lung cancer at the age of 68. Regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, he won three consecutive European Cups with Ajax and went on to manage Barcelona to their first European Cup triumph in 1992. He played 184 matches and scored 51 goals in the blaugrana shirt and was voted, on three occasions, world player of the year. However, his most revolutionary role was played from the bench. He was Barça’s coach for nearly 10 years and his name will always be linked to the ‘Dream Team’, the name popularly given to the squad which won the first European Cup for Barça at Wembley in 1992 and four successive La Liga titles between 1991 and 1994.He was a figure actively involved in Catalonia too. In September 2006, the Government of Catalonia awarded him the Cross of St. George and he later became the manager of the Catalan national football team.
Born in Amsterdam in 1947, his relationship with the Catalan squad started as a player. He arrived at Barça in August 1973 from Ajax, already renowned as one of the best players in the world. Barça soon began to reap the rewards as the Dutch magician helped Barça to the league title in his first season, and went on to win his second and third Ballon d’Or. With his intelligent play, superb technique and leadership, he quickly became an icon for Barça. In 1978, after winning the Copa del Rey, Cruyff left the club.
Ten years later, however, he would return as manager. He was in the dugout for eight seasons, during which time he led the club through its most successful period up to that point. He won four consecutive league titles and guided the club to its first ever European Cup in May 1992 at Wembley, among other successes. He formed the side that would go onto be known as the legendary ‘Dream Team’, a team that amazed everyone with their extraordinary style.
In 1996, he left the Barça bench, and in 1999 was chosen as the European player of the century.
Johan’s relationship with Catalonia
Johan Cruyff became very involved, throughout the years, in Catalan life. Besides being one of the most outstanding players at Barça during the seventies, his role as coach at the head of one of the best squads ever made his figure and influence within Catalan sporting and social life even bigger. Beloved by many and with genuine character, Cruyff was regarded as an institution both on and off the pitch.
He was the spokesperson for anti-tobacco campaigns sponsored by the Catalan Department of Health. Another way he paid homage to his adopted country was by choosing a Catalan name for his son Jordi Cruyff.
In September 2006, the Government of Catalonia awarded him the Cross of St. George, and he later became the manager of the Catalan national football team.
The footballing and political community express their condolences
Catalan president Carles Puigdemont shared on social media platform Twitter that he was “moved by the death of Johan Cruyff”, adding that the icon “brought winning and beautiful football (to the club) that still endures today at Barça”.
Other government officials also offered their condolences through the same platform. Neus Munté, Vice President, Minister of Social Welfare and Family and Government Spokeswoman wrote: “We are grieving. Leaving us is a great player, coach and person. We owe the ‘dream team’ to you. Rest in peace Johan, and thank you for the magic.” Oriol Junqueras, Vice President and Minister of Economy and Finance tweeted: “Thank you for the moments of magic and thank you for loving our country like you did.”
Josep Maria Bartomeu, president of Football Club Barcelona wrote on Twitter that “Both as a player and as a manager, [Cruyff] changed the history of our Club. Thank you Johan.” Other members of the football club are writing about the former Barça player and coach as well. On Facebook, Lionel Messi shared “Another legend has left us today” while Neymar wrote “A legend. A leader. And above all, a great person.” and “Thank you for everything you gave for the Beautiful. Everyone has to return to their creator one day.” Other players have also commented on the legacy left by Cruyff, with Arda Turan calling him “a true legend, genius, hero” and Gerard Piqué affirming that “the legacy you left us is eternal”.
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