Friday 23 March 2018

Barcelona holds last day of memorial tribute to Johan Cruyff

Jordi Cruyff speaks at a press conference in Barcelona (AP)
Jordi Cruyff speaks at a press conference in Barcelona (AP)

Barcelona has held a final day of respect for Johan Cruyff, remembering the Dutch soccer great who is largely credited with reinvigorating the club and helping launch its modern winning era.

Although the Camp Nou opened on Saturday to thousands of mourning fans, Tuesday was the first day when members of the Cruyff family participated, with son and former Barcelona player Jordi Cruyff thanking fans and the club for their respect and affection.

Cruyff's funeral was on Friday with just a few family and friends invited, his son said. Cruyff died Thursday of lung cancer at 68.

"We understood that Johan is not only ours, he belongs to the whole world," Mr Cruyff said.

Barcelona's entire team paid homage with a minute's silence before Tuesday's training began and then visited the stadium to take part in the event.

"Johan leaves us a fantastic legacy that will continue," Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said. "We will always remember him."

Cruyff, a former Netherlands international, reached his peak in the early 1970s, leading Ajax and Barcelona to multiple trophies. He also led the Netherlands to the World Cup final in 1974 and later went on to successfully coach Barcelona.

He is often listed among the greatest players ever, alongside Pele, Alfredo di Stefano, Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi.

In 1979, he persuaded then Barcelona president Josep Nunez to set up La Masia, Barcelona's youth academy, based on coach Rinus Michels' Ajax Academy at the Dutch club where Cruyff started as a professional.

La Masia has since been considered the bedrock of Barcelona's success and the place where players like Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez received their training.

Former Barcelona president Sandro Rosell and his father were among the early visitors Tuesday to pay their respects within the garland-strewn hall temporarily dedicated as a memorial chapel to Cruyff. Images of La Masia were visible all around.

Spain's Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport has posthumously awarded Cruyff its Gold Medal of the Royal Order of Sports Merit.

The club said that since Saturday more than 50,000 mourners had filed past the spot where a banner hangs saying "Thanks Johan".

Press Association

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