Former teammate blindsided by Johan Cruijff’s lung cancer diagnosis

Willem van Hanegem (Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Luctor). (Willem van Hanegem (Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Luctor))

The news that football legend Johan Cruijff has been diagnosed with lung cancer had all of the Netherlands in stunned disbelief on Thursday, but none more so than former teammate Willem van Hanegem. "This is incomprehensible. You just hope that it isn't so. It's part of life. Anyone can get sick. But with some you think: no, it can not be true!" Van Hanegem said in newspaper AD.

"We were not friends. We did not get together. But I respect him immensely. At Oranje we often slept in the same room. I held his son Jordi in my arms. 'Give that to me,' I said then. 'Cause I'm much stronger than you'", Van Hanegem said, remembering their time as teammates.

Cruijff was the best player Van Hanegem ever played with, and that says something, according to him. "Because I have also played with, for example, Pele in World teams. Cruijff was better. I'd put him in the category of Messi and Maradona."

Van Hanegem wonders what he can say to Johan Cruijff, to encourage him, to boost his morale. "I can say: feel better. Or good luck. But there are no words for this. I've been thinking about him all day. This is incomprehensible."