News had been trickling in over the weekend as to the wellbeing of footballing legend Alfredo Di Stéfano, but sadly it was confirmed on Monday that the Real Madrid legend had passed away. He suffered a heart attack close to Real’s Bernabeu Stadium late last Saturday evening. The world takes note and says a fond farewell to a true legend of the sport.
An Argentine by birth, it is his contribution to Real Madrid in a glorious eleven-year spell that makes him a legend for the ages, so much so that Real Madrid honoured him with the presidency in 2000. His record of 307 goals was finally bettered by Raul, another Real legend, in 2009. Despite the fact he never played in a World Cup he is unquestionably one of the all time greats.
As Argentina go into the semi-final of the 2014 World Cup, they will need no greater motivation to drive them on than the memory of Di Stéfano. It would be a fitting tribute to the great man if they were to lift the World Cup.
One of the most gifted footballers of his generation, Di Stéfano is best known for his time at Real Madrid after signing for them in 1953. He had an eleven-year association with Los Blancos and played with other greats such as Ferenc Puskas, Francisco Gento, and Raymond Kopa.
The team dominated the early European Cup editions, and won the first five between 1956 and 1960. He was a powerful forward who in turn played for three different national sides in his illustrious career. He not only played for Argentina, but also Colombia and Spain.
An unfortunate set of circumstances meant he never featured in a World Cup. In 1950, Argentina withdrew from that World Cup and again declined participation in 1954.
After gaining Spanish citizenship in 1956, the 30-year old was on course to appear at his first World Cup in Sweden in 1958 but Spain failed to qualify. In 1962, at the age of 36 and with the World Cup in Chile on the horizon, he suffered a muscle injury depriving him of the opportunity to line out with Real team mate Ferenc Puskas, the Hungarian great, who had also switched nationality to Spain. Unfortunately, he was never to play in a World Cup like other greats such as George Best and Eric Cantona.
A complete striker who was comfortable on either foot, he tore teams to shreds across Europe. Former Real coach, Miguel Munoz said of Alfredo
“The greatness of Di Stéfano was that, with him in your side, you had two players in every position.”
A fitting complement considering he had played in numerous positions on the field throughout his career.
Nicknamed ‘The Blond Arrow’ or “La Saeta Rubi” due to his speed and precision he might just as easily have ended up in Barcelona as the two great clubs were competing for his signature when he was turning out for Los Millonarios, of Bogota, Colombia (he had left his native Argentina in 1949, after the league was suspended).
At Los Millonarios, he played 294 games, netting 267 goals before making his way to Spain. He was still contracted to River Plate and Los Millonarios, when both Real Madrid and Barcelona fought for his services. Real negotiated with Los Millionarios and Barcelona with River Plate.
The Spanish FA decided that he should play for both clubs in alternate seasons, which Di Stéfano declined. A strange request, but this refusal would turn out to be Real Madrid’s gain. Real Madrid finally concluded matters and signed him for the princely sum of £70,000.
His first season at Real Madrid, 1953/54, delivered a league title and the ‘Pichichi Trophy’ with 27 goals. In the inaugural European Cup season of 1955/56, Real Madrid delivered the first of five consecutive European Cup triumphs, with Di Stéfano scoring in each one of those finals.
An incredible achievement considering his last was the 7-3 demolition of Eintracht Frankfurt in Hampden Park, Glasgow; where he scored a hat-trick and his partner in crime Ferenc Puskas netted four times in the most famous of all European Cup finals. He deserves to be considered alongside Pele and Maradona as one of the all time greats.
Real Madrid will not be the same club without his input, but he will live on in spirit. Unquestionably their greatest ever servant, a man who gave almost 60 years of his life to the cause of Los Blancos will finally be laid to rest in what is sure to be a monumental send off from the passionate Real Madrid fans.
Liam Cairns, Pundit Arena.