“He has been in hospital this week for tests and lung cancer has been confirmed,” said Carole Thate, a spokeswoman for the 68-year-old former Ajax and Barcelona star.
She gave no further comment on Cruyff’s condition, saying he was undergoing further tests.
Cruyff, who personified his country’s attacking Total Football in the 1970s, was a smoker during his playing days and until undergoing an emergency heart bypass in 1991. Afterwards, he became the face of an anti-smoking campaign.
His career began at Ajax and took him to Barcelona where, as player and later coach, his footballing philosophy laid the foundations for the dominant Barca teams of recent years. He was also one of the marquee stars, along with Franz Beckenbauer and Pele, who moved to play in the United States to raise football’s profile there. Cruyff played for the Los Angeles Aztecs and Washington Cardinals.
Barcelona financial vice president Susana Monje sent the club’s best wishes to their former player and coach.
“We would like from the club to give Johan Cruyff and all of his friends a very big hug after hearing today of the situation that he is living through,” Monje said.
World football’s governing body, Fifa, also sent its support, tweeting: “Wishing a speedy recovery to the incomparable JohanCruyff. This is just another challenge to conquer.”
Ajax director Edwin van der Sar said on the Dutch club’s website: “We have had contact with his manager, Carole Thate, and she confirmed to us that Johan indeed has lung cancer.
“It has just been discovered, so they could not yet provide much more information. On behalf of the club, I wish Johan and his family a lot of strength and a speedy recovery.”
A three-time European footballer of the year, Cruyff was synonymous with the “Clockwork Orange” Netherlands teams of the early 1970s whose attacking style earned the team fans around the world.
With Cruyff as their fulcrum, Ajax won the European Cup for three consecutive years from 1971-1973 before he moved to Barcelona in 1973 and led the then middle-of-the-table team to their first Spanish championship in a decade.
Cruyff was a star of the 1974 World Cup, where the Netherlands lost 2-1 in the final to West Germany in Munich.
As a coach, he oversaw a golden period at the Nou Camp, which included winning the European Cup in 1992, and has been cited as a major influence by many of those he used to manage, most notably Bayern Munich and former Barca boss Pep Guardiola.