BARCELONA (Reuters) - Barcelona’s former president Josep Lluis Nunez, who oversaw one of the Spanish club’s most successful periods in its history, died on Monday aged 87.
“FC Barcelona are saddened by the death of Josep Lluís Nunez, club president for 22 years (1978-2000) and a key figure in the club’s contemporary history. RIP,” the La Liga side said in a statement.
Nunez, who was the longest-running president the club has ever had, presided over a period where Barca won their first ever European Cup in 1992 and seven La Liga titles.
He appointed visionary coach Johan Cruyff who was the architect of their success and who laid out the blueprint for the club’s future triumphs. He later divided opinion by sacking Cruyff in 1996 following a very public fallout with the Dutchman.
He oversaw the club’s modernisation off the pitch, including the expansion of the Nou Camp stadium to its current capacity of 99,000 and the creation of La Masia, the club’s youth academy which spawned the likes of Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta.
He signed some of the most famous players to have played for the club, including Diego Maradona, Ronald Koeman, Romario, Ronaldo and Hristo Stoichkov.
Nunez was also a controversial figure, being sentenced to six years prison in 2011 on charges of fraud. He entered jail in November 2014 but was released the next month.
Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola, a key midfielder in the European Cup winning side dubbed the ‘Dream Team’, was among those to pay tribute to Nunez.
“It’s a great loss. He was president of Barcelona for many years. A big hug especially to his family,” Guardiola told a news conference on Monday.
“Today we have lost a great Barcelona man who changed the face of our club,” said Barca’s current president Josep Maria Bartomeu on Twitter.
“In his memory we will revive the great moments and emotions of an extraordinary period in our history. Rest in peace.”
Former Barca coach and player Carles Rexach added: “He fought to ensure Barcelona remained an independent identity despite the fact many people wanted to control the club.
“He achieved that, and from an economic and sporting viewpoint his work was excellent. Today Barcelona is much greater thanks to the 22 years Nunez was president of the club.”
Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Christian Radnedge