The world of Football has united in expressing its sadness and admiration after the tragic news of the death of Johan Cruyff on Thursday from cancer. The 68-year-old Dutch maestro was rightly hailed as one of the game’s greatest players of all time, a key figure in the development and success of both Ajax and Barcelona at club level.

Died too young

With tributes being made by his fellow teammates, the great players he managed and many other football fans who were fortunate to witness his brilliance down the years, the general feeling is of a great man who died far too young.

Famed for the ‘Cruyff turn’

Ground-breaking’ is a term that could be aptly applied to Cruyff’s majesty on the pitch. To have a sporting skill named in your honour is a reflection of pure genius and a flair for invention. The ‘Cruyff turn’ has become an accepted option for players to bamboozle their opposition in the modern game, but before Holland’s famous number 14 demonstrated the manoeuvre it was unknown.

Embraced ‘Total Football’ philosophy

Cruyff exemplified the ‘Total Football’ philosophy explored by Rinus Michels, playing a fundamental part as the once poor relations of European football developed instead into powerhouses within the game. Three times Ajax claimed the highest prize of the European Cup and the team of that era is often held up as one of the greatest sides that the world has ever seen.

The top stars of today such as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are often feted as being among the greatest players to have graced a football field, yet Cruyff deserves comparison for his consistency during the 1970s. His name commonly features in polls to establish the best players down through the ages.

Three-time Ballon d’Or winner

Three times the Dutch diamond won the Ballon d’Or during the 70s decade as the Amsterdam-born player sparkled at first Ajax and then Barcelona, the Catalonian giants splashing out a world record transfer fee for his services in 1973.

After he hung up his playing boots in 1984, Cruyff was to return to both Ajax and Barcelona as manager and enjoy yet more success with them.

Influential style

His playing style and philosophy is believed to have greatly influenced several successful managers in recent years, including Arsene Wenger and Pep Guardiola. The development of youth academies at Ajax and Barcelona is another major development that bears many of the hallmarks of Cruyff’s coaching methods within their DNA.

National treasure

His national side also benefited from Cruyff’s abilities on 48 occasions – scoring a remarkable 33 goals - and he led them to the 1974 World Cup final, receiving the Golden Ball as player of the tournament in the process. Sadly, that inspirational Dutch side couldn’t quite match the efficiency of the host nation as their West German opponents ran out 2-1 victors.

Apt tribute

A fitting tribute has been arranged at the upcoming international friendly between the Netherlands and France, when the match will be briefly stopped after 14 minutes, allowing fans and players to pay their own respects during a minute’s silence. Both teams plan to wear black armbands in addition throughout the game.

The apt tribute was announced by the Dutch football association after the news broke of their former national captain and coach’s death.