The Runner Sports

Johan Cruyff, 68, Dies of Lung Cancer

With a sinking feeling I awoke to read that Johan Cruyff, the greatest Dutch footballer of all time, has passed away at the age of 68 from lung cancer. Between news of Phife Dawg’s passing yesterday, and Cruyff today, it’s safe to say this week has already claimed more than its fair share of the great ones. Today, we should all reflect on his many achievements as a player and manager, and recognize the irreversible effect he had on the game throughout his beautiful life.

Cruyff was an Ajax and Barcelona legend. During his time with the Dutch club, he won three European Cup titles as well as a UEFA Super Cup title. While with Barcelona, he managed to win both La Liga and the Copa del Rey, as well as leading the Netherlands to a World Cup final.  His individual honors include a World Cup Golden Ball, three Dutch Footballer of the Year awards, three Dutch Sportsman of the Year Awards, three Balon D’Ors, and a spot on FIFA’s World Cup All-Time Team. Johan Cruyff is also one of the original soccer ambassadors to the United States, playing in the NASL alongside Pele, George Best, and others. In the words of Franz Beckenbauer, “He was certainly the best footballer Europe has produced.” Frank Rijkaard referred to him as “the godfather of Dutch football,” and Eric Cantona said, “If he wanted to he could be the best player in any position on the pitch.” Players of legendary foot skills such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, even Kaka and Neymar, owe much of their innovation to a skill perfected by the Dutch great, the Cruyff Turn:

While today, this cut is taught to children, this innovation laid the groundwork for foot skill worldwide. The F2 posted a tribute video of some Cruyff variations today, and undoubtedly, the technique is an essential for any player at any level.

As a manager, Cruyff won two KNVB Cup championships with Ajax as well as a UEFA Cup Winner’s Cup. At Barcelona, he initiated the golden years that the club has yet to see fade. He won 11 trophies including 4 La Liga titles, 1 Copa del Rey, 3 Spanish Supercups, and a UEFA Supercup. He managed greats such as Miguel Angel Nadal, Romario, and Pep Guardiola. In the words of the last great Barcelona manager, Pep, “Johan Cruyff painted the Chapel, and Barcelona coaches since merely restore or improve it.” Or as Graham Hunter stated, “No Cruyff, no ‘Dream Team,’ no Cantera, no Cruyff, no Joan Laporta, No Cruyff, no Frank Rijkaard, no Cruyff, no Pep Guardiola.” Perhaps the most fitting description of the Dutchman is his most well-known moniker: “Pythagoras in Boots.”It is only fair to say the game is indebted to this phenom, so all that is left to do is remember the beauty and the innovation:

Hope you’re enjoying one of your trademark cigarettes so often associated with your sideline management.