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Johan Cruyff dies at 68 after cancer battle

    The Catalonia National Team's then coach Johan Cruyff pictured during a friendly against the Tunisia National Team at Lluis Companys Olympic stadium in Barcelona on December 30, 2011

The Catalonia National Team’s then coach Johan Cruyff pictured during a friendly against the Tunisia National Team at Lluis Companys Olympic stadium in Barcelona on December 30, 2011

BARCELONA, March 22 – Johan Cruyff, one of the greatest footballers in history, died on Thursday at the age of 68 from lung cancer, his family announced.

Cruyff “died peacefully in Barcelona, surrounded by his family after a hard-fought battle with cancer”, said a statement on the legend’s official website.

“It’s with great sadness that we ask you to respect the family’s privacy during their time of grief.”

The Dutchman won three European Cups as a player with Ajax as well as three Ballon d’Or titles (1971, 1973, 1974). He then led Barcelona to their first European Cup title as a manager in 1992.

The incarnation of Total Football that took the Dutch team to the World Cup final in 1974, Cruyff was a long-time smoker who revealed in October last year that he had lung cancer.

He gave up smoking in 1991 after open heart surgery.

The news still came as a shock to the football world and tributes quickly flooded in.

“Cruyff, he was the best player of all time,” French legend Michel Platini told AFP.

“The ’14’ will never be the same. RIP Johan Cruyff,” said modern-day Barcelona hero Xabi Alonso on Twitter in a tribute referring to Cruyff’s number 14 shirt.

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Barcelona’s rivals also expressed their sadness.

“Goodbye to one of the legends of the history of football,” said Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos.

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