Amsterdam: Dutch football great and three-time ‘FIFA World Player of the Year’ award winner Johan Cruyff is suffering from lung cancer, it was confirmed on Thursday.
“We have had contact with his manager Carole Thate and she confirmed to us that Johan has indeed lung cancer. On behalf of the club I wish John and his family a lot of strength and a speedy recovery,” Dutch football club Ajax Amsterdam director Edwin van der Sar said in a statement on the official website.
The 68-year-old former star Barcelona playmaker was diagnosed with the disease on Tuesday, Xinhua reported.
“Very shocked we have taken note of the serious illness of Johan Cruijff. Our thoughts are with John, his wife and family,” Dutch football federation tweeted on Thursday.
Cruyff, who began his career with Ajax Amsterdam, is considered one of the all-time great footballers and his name will forever be linked with that side and Barcelona, who he played for between 1973 and 1978.
He returned as Barcelona head coach in 1988, forming what became known as the ‘Dream Team’ and leading the club to its first European Cup in 1992.
One year earlier, Cruyff, who had been a heavy smoker, underwent a double heart bypass operation and subsequently stopped smoking, swapping his cigarette in the dugout, for a ‘chupa-chupps’ lollipop, giving the brand a boost.
He was also the brains behind the famous ‘Masia’ which forms the basis of Barcelona’s youth system, which has produced players such as Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and Linel Messi.
Cruyff was sacked as Barcelona coach in 1996, but has always maintained close links to the club, especially with former President Joan Laporta. He led the Netherlands to the final of the 1974 FIFA World Cup and received the Golden Ball as player of the tournament. Cruyff scored 33 international goals from 48 matches.