London - England hero Bobby Charlton led British football's tributes to Johan Cruyff following the death of the Dutch legend by saying he was "one of the greatest footballers I have ever seen".
In a statement issued by the Laureus Sports Foundation charity, Charlton, a key member of England's 1966 World Cup-winning team, said: "I was proud to have known Johan. He was one of those great, great footballers that made you excited whenever he got the ball and began to play. There was always expectation in the crowd when Johan was on the pitch.
"There wasn't a negative thought in his head. He loved the game, he loved sport and he loved life.
"He was one of the greatest footballers I have ever seen, you would put him in the same class as Pele, (Alfredo) di Stefano and (Diego) Maradona. The kind of football he played changed the game and still has an impact today."
Cruyff died from lung cancer aged 68 on Thursday and the passing of the man who came to exemplify the "total football" played by the brilliant Ajax and Netherlands teams of the early to mid 1970s sparked a flood of reminiscences.
The roaming centre forward also became a hero at Barcelona after joining from Ajax and he later went on to manage the Spanish giants.
Former England striker Gary Lineker, who also played for Barcelona, tweeted: "Sad to hear that Johan Cruyff has died. Football has lost a man who did more to make the beautiful game beautiful than anyone in history."
Meanwhile the BBC quoted Scotland's Steve Archibald, who like Lineker was a Barcelona forward in the 1980s, as saying of Cruyff: "He had a philosophy to the game we should all inspire to have. He was silky, he was a hard worker, he had touch, control, pace and he was brave.
"His body movement was different from everyone else's and he was full of invention, with the machinery of a Rolls Royce."
Players from more recent generations also hailed Cruyff's impact, with former England captain David Beckham writing on Instagram: "My thoughts and love are with the friends and family of not just one of the best footballers in the history of the game but also one of the greatest men and nicest person you could meet ...
"The game lost a true hero today. Rest In Peace."