Former Ajax star Sjaak Swart has hailed Johan Cruyff as “a great player and a true friend” after he lost his battle with cancer.
The renowned former Netherlands international and Barcelona head coach died at the age of 68 on Thursday in the Catalan city, surrounded by his family.
Tributes have poured in from famous football clubs and players from around the world for Cruyff, with Barca describing him as “a magician” and “an icon” at Camp Nou.
While Swart recalls a prodigious young talent during his early spell with Ajax, he described his former team-mate – with whom he won consecutive Eredivisie and European Cup titles during the 1970s – as a true gentleman of the sport.
Speaking in January, he told Omnisport: “When I came to the first team I was 17 years old. Johan was eight or nine. His father – his second dad – worked in the Ajax stadium. So after school Johan would shoot back all the balls ending up behind the goal.
“And on Saturday I always watched Johan playing at the youth team. It was great to see him dribbling past five or six players. You could already see that he was a great football player.
“When Johan was 17 he started playing for the first team. We played together for about seven years. And we are true friends. And that’ll be forever. He is a great person as well.
“Sometimes people think that Johan is a little arrogant but that’s simply not true. He always wants to help other people. We got along very well.
“We had a lot of people from Amsterdam in the squad. Piet Keizer, Johan Cruyff playing up front. We all lived in Amsterdam, within a radius of one kilometre. You don’t see that anymore. We got along together so well.
“At the time you couldn’t play abroad. We played together with the same team for five years. You know exactly what to expect from each other. So we built a team together and eventually we won the European Cup three times.”
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