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The legend of 'Flying Dutchman' Johan Cruyff

March 24, 2016 20:02 IST

Johan Cruyff, one of the greatest footballers in history, died on Thursday, at the age of 68 from lung cancer.

The following is a factbox on former Dutch international who was popularly known as 'Flying Dutchman'.

Johan Cruyff

IMAGE: Football legend Johan Cruyff of The Netherlands. Photograph: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images.

Born Hendrick Johannes Cruyff in Amsterdam on April 25, 1947.

Dutch soccer legend Johan Cruyff passes away

*Cruyff began playing on the streets of Amsterdam and started his career with local side Ajax where he went on to win eight Dutch league titles. He also won three successive European Cups between 1971 and 1973.

*Lithe, wiry and strong he made his international debut in September 1966, scoring in a 2-2 European qualifier against Hungary. He was also the first Dutch player to be sent off in an international. From 1970, he always wore the number 14 jersey.

*Moved to Barcelona in 1973 for what was then a world record transfer fee of around $2 million. "The sale of Rembrandt's Night Watch could not have caused more dismay," commented one Dutch magazine at the time.

Johan Cruyff

IMAGE: Johan Cruyff of Holland in action during a match against England at Wembley Stadium in London. Holland won the match 2-0. Photograph: Tony Duffy/Allsport/Getty Images.

*He won the second of his three Ballon d'Or (now the European Player of the Year) awards in 1973 and in 1974 helped Barcelona win their first league title in nearly 15 years. He also endeared himself to locals by choosing a Catalan name for his son Jordi (born 1974) at a time when Spanish was the country's only official language under the rule of general Francisco Franco.

*Cruyff led the Dutch national team, the masters of 'Total Football', to the 1974 World Cup final where they inspired a generation with their fluid style of play that he once described as 'controlled chaos'.
They lost 2-1 to hosts West Germany after taking a 1-0 lead but he was named player of the tournament, famed for close control and dazzling trickery with the ball including the famous 'Cruyff Turn' - the movement in which the player with the ball plays it behind their own leg before swerving away.

*He retired from international football in 1977, the year before the Dutch again reached and lost the World Cup final in Argentina to the hosts. He had scored 33 goals in 48 matches.

*In 1979 he moved to the Los Angeles Aztecs in the North American Soccer League and then joined the Washington Diplomats in 1980. The club folded later that year and Cruyff returned to Europe where he played for Spanish second division side Levante and then Ajax (where he won two more league titles) and Feyenoord (another title). He retired in May 1984, aged 37.

Johan Cruyff

IMAGE: Johan Cruyff in action during a match. Photograph: Allsport/Getty Images.

*Cruyff then entered management, coaching Ajax to European Cup Winners' Cup success in 1987.

*He returned to Barcelona as manager in 1988, where he oversaw the rise of a 'Dream Team' - a host of talented players including future manager Pep Guardiola that won four straight titles between 1991 and 1994. Until Guardiola, he was the club's most successful coach.

*In 1999 he was voted European Player of the Century.

*Cruyff was a chain-smoker for much of his career but gave up the habit after a double heart bypass in 1991 while still coaching Barcelona. He subsequently lent his image to an anti-smoking campaign under the slogan "Soccer gave me everything but smoking nearly took it away".

He was diagnosed with cancer in 2015.

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