Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu described Johan Cruyff as having “changed the world of football” as the club opened a memorial to their former player and coach.
Cruyff died on Thursday after a long battle with lung cancer and tributes have continued to pour in from across the world, while Netherlands’ friendly with France on Friday was halted with 14 minutes on the clock to allow a minute’s applause in his honour.
La Liga leaders Barca, with whom Cruyff won historic league and European titles as a coach in the 1990s after inspiring them to domestic glory as a player in 1974, unveiled a memorial site at Camp Nou on Saturday which will remain open until Tuesday next week to allow members of the public to pay their respects.
President of the Catalan Generalitat, Carles Puigdemont, was also in attendance as dignitaries and supporters were invited to leave tributes and sign a book of condolences.
“These are sad days for Barcelona and football. But the show of support at Camp Nou and around the world is welcome,” Bartomeu said.
“Johan changed the world of football and Barca, in the way he expressed himself, too. It’s impossible to understand the current situation without him.
“He is and will continue being a great reference for the fans.”
Thank you Johan for your genius and your leadership (1/2) pic.twitter.com/5jzoHNz4H3
— Josep Maria Bartomeu (@jmbartomeu) March 26, 2016
Former president Joan Laporta, who was present alongside long-term rival and successor Bartomeu, added: “He was always grateful to the club. He was kind, he revolutionised football with his way of understanding football and life.
“Barcelona and Catalonia have been privileged to be linked with him.”
Former Spain international Salvador Sadurni, a team-mate of Cruyff at Barca, recalled an experience in which the man widely regarded as Europe’s greatest footballing figure showed his genial human side.
“We were champions five games before the end of La Liga. He was an amazing team-mate,” he said. “I took part in a tribute to a boy who had had an accident and Cruyff appeared at my house to take part.”