The Hague: Dutch legend Johan Cruyff, regarded as one of the world's greatest-ever footballers, has been diagnosed with lung cancer, his management team said yesterday, as messages of support poured in.
"In the last few weeks Johan Cruyff has undergone medical tests at a Barcelona hospital. He has been diagnosed with lung cancer," Carol Thate said in a statement. "To respect Johan and his family's privacy and because tests have not been finalised, no further information will be given at this stage," Thate added. "More will be given once these examinations have been finished."
Cruyff, 68, who captained the Netherlands to the World Cup final in 1974 and who was one of the proponents of the 'total football' philosophy, has been in-and-out of hospital over the last few weeks with health complaints. During his international career, the unorthodox Cruyff, whose fluid passes and mercurial on-field tactics often kept opponents guessing until the last moment, scored 33 goals before retiring in 1977.
He also won the prestigious Ballon d'Or award three times. Afterwards, he enjoyed a hugely successful managerial career with clubs like Amsterdam-based Ajax and Catalan giants Barcelona.
In earlier days, he was often seen sporting a cigarette from the side of his mouth and known to light up at half-time or as soon as he stepped out of the showers. But he quit smoking after undergoing a double heart bypass operation in 1991.
At the time he was reportedly smoking at least 20 cigarettes a day. He later appeared in an advertisement for the Catalan health department in which he was seen juggling a cigarette packet 16 times before booting it into touch. "Football has given me everything in life," Cruyff says in the advert. "Tobacco almost took it all away."