England manager Roy Hodgson believes Johan Cruyff stands as one of the few true greats of football.
Netherlands, Ajax and Barcelona superstar Cruyff died on Thursday following a battle with lung cancer, aged 68.
Hodgson is preparing England for upcoming international friendlies against Germany and Netherlands and he told the Football Association’s official website: “I’m extremely saddened by it.
“I think the world of football has lost one of the true legends of the game, both as a player and as a coach.
“His achievements really were second to none, and also as a man and a person.”
Cruyff was diagnosed with cancer in October but reported encouraging progress in his treatment last month, leaving Hodgson shocked by Thursday’s news.
“When I heard the news about his cancer, that was a bad day, but then I was buoyed by the news recently that he was winning the battle,” he said
“I rather hoped that it was just going to be all an upward curve for him from then on, so it was a blow finishing training and hearing this.”
On his personal encounters with Cruyff throughout his own varied career in coaching, Hodgson added: “I was always pleased to meet him and bump into him again as I did on numerous occasions. I’m just speaking, I suppose, as a real football fan and a football lover who was really, really impressed by the football player Johan Cruyff and, as a coach, impressed yet again.
“I am happy and proud to say that I actually knew him and had chances to meet and talk with him.
“The word ‘great’ is sometimes used a little bit loosely and sometimes even flippantly these days, but there are one or two greats and one or two legends – and Johan Cruyff was one of those.”
Hodgson’s France counterpart, Didier Deschamps, also paid tribute to Cruyff ahead of what is likely to be an emotionally charged friendly against Netherlands on Friday.
“He was a great man who doubly influenced the world of football,” Deschamps told a news conference.
“First with a great playing career – marked by collective and individual titles – and also as a great coach.
“In Barcelona he brought a new and different philosophy of play.”
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