Johan Cruyff fans pay their respects at Barcelona memorial


BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Thousands of fans mourning the death of Johan Cruyff paid their respects to the former player and coach at a temporary memorial in Barcelona’s Camp Nou Stadium on Saturday.

The Spanish club said more than 15,000 fans passed through the memorial over nine hours. It will remain open through Tuesday, when Barcelona’s players will attend after returning from international competition.

Attendees could sign a book of condolences and file past a large photo of the Dutch great inside the stadium lobby. The photo was flanked by club and Catalonia flags, and rose bouquets.

Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu inaugurated the memorial early Saturday for the “maestro” who “changed our club.”

“These are sad, very sad days for the world of Barcelona and also for the world of football,” Bartomeu said.

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez and Catalonia regional president Carles Puigdemont paid their respects along with other dignitaries fans.

Some fans left scarves, flowers, and lollipops – which Cruyff ate as a manager after stopping smoking following heart surgery – outside the stadium.

Bartomeu said the book of condolences will be given to Cruyff’s family.

After winning three consecutive European Cups with Ajax as a player, Cruyff joined Barcelona midseason in 1973 and led the middle-of-the-table team to its first national title in a decade.

He later returned as a coach and guided Barcelona to four consecutive Spanish leagues from 1991-94 and the club’s first European Cup in 1992.

Barcelona considers Cruyff the mastermind of its signature passing-based attack that has made it the world’s dominant club for the past decade.

Bartomeu and seven former presidents wrote in a public letter that the “professional and personal footprint he left at our club is enormous.”

Cruyff died on Thursday of lung cancer.