Sunderland boss pays tribute to Dutch great Johan Cruyff

Johan Cruyff

Johan Cruyff

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Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce has paid tribute to Dutch legend Johan Cruyff, who passed away today aged 68 after losing his battle with cancer.

The former Ajax and Barcelona forward - arguably Europe’s greatest ever player - was diagnosed with lung cancer last October and died in Barcelona today surrounded by his family.

“In terms of world football, Johan Cruyff was one of the all-time greats,” said Allardyce.

“He was one of the truly outstanding players of his generation and one of the most influential figures in football history.

“His passing is a sad loss to our sport and our thoughts are with his family and all those who knew him.”

Cruyff captained Holland at the 1974 World Cup, at the height of his playing career, and led the Dutch to the final. Despite winning Holland an early penalty, which Johan Neeskens converted, Cruyff and Holland were left disappointed as they lost 2-1 to West Germany.

At Ajax he won seven league titles but most notably three consecutive European Cups from 1971 to 1973.

Cruyff’s career at Ajax ran in parallel to manager Rinus Michels implementing the highly successful Total Football system.

Michels went to Barcelona in 1971 and Cruyff followed two years later.

A prolific goalscorer, and a great creator for others, Cruyff even had his own trick, famous to this day. The ‘Cruyff turn’ was perfected by its inventor, who finished his playing career in Holland with spells at Ajax and Feyenoord.

A sought-after football thinker, he managed Ajax from 1985 to 1988, and then, just as in his playing career, Cruyff was lured away by Barcelona.

At the Nou Camp he won the European Cup, in 1992, and four league titles among a raft of trophies.

He was sacked by Barcelona in 1995 but remained influential at the club for the rest of his life.