The world of football is in mourning today following confirmation of the death of Johan Cruyff. The legendary Dutch innovator and proponent of total football, who quit smoking after undergoing double heart bypass surgery back in 1991, passed away in Barcelona on Tuesday (24 March 2016) following a battle with lung cancer.
Unquestionably one of the most influential figures in the sport's history, Cruyff was a remarkably skilful and passionate pioneer who won three Ballon d'Or awards and three European Cups as a player in addition to nine Eredivisie titles and one La Liga crown. He was also a hugely important figure for his native Netherlands, captaining the side and earning 48 senior caps. He was the leader and figurehead of the talented Oranje team that took second place at the 1974 World Cup in West Germany.
Equally as significant as a manager, he continued to revolutionise the game in charge at Ajax. He was responsible for assembling the infamous 'Dream Team' that won four consecutive Spanish championships and Barcelona's first ever European Cup in 1992. Despite being sacked four years later due to his faltering relationship with president Josep Lluís Núñez, Cruyff remained a colossal figure at the Nou Camp, and his influence remained obvious both in the continued success of the La Masia academy and the club's ongoing commitment to an aesthetically pleasing style of football. He fully bought into the Catalan cause and took charge of their national team in 2009-13.
Here, IBTimes UK looks at the widespread outpouring of grief across social media that greeted the news of Cruyff's passing...
The Royal Dutch Football Association tweeted: "It is with great sadness that we've learnt of the death of Johan Cruyff. Word cannot express the loss we feel."
"We have lost our best soccer player ever, our number 14 and our football friend. We are devastated by Johan's death, he brought the Dutch football to greater heights and the KNVB are eternally grateful, personally I say.... Johan, my friend, I miss you," KNVB president Michael van Praag added.
Barcelona, the club with which Cruyff is now most synonymous, wrote simply: "We'll always love you, Johan. Rest in peace."
Ajax expressed their "deepest sympathies" to the family and loved ones of one of their most celebrated figures.
In addition to Ajax and Barcelona, Cruyff also played in the old North American Soccer League for the Los Angeles Aztecs and the Washington Diplomats. He finished his playing career with a one-season stint at Ajax's main rivals, Feyenoord. They tweeted: "Deeply saddened by the death of Johan Cruijff, the greatest Dutch footballer of all time."
One of the key members of that Barcelona Dream Team was Cruyff's compatriot Ronald Koeman. The 53 year old, who now manages Premier League Southampton, scored one of the most important goals in the club's history with an extra-time free-kick that secured their maiden European Cup triumph against Sampdoria at Wembley.
He said: "Deeply saddened at the death of my best coach and good friend. Thank you for everything. Forever in our hearts."