Hailed as one of the game's greatest players, legendary Real Madrid CF striker Alfredo Di Stéfano has passed away in the Spanish capital at 88.
Known as 'The Blond Arrow' during a playing career that brought a plethora of titles, including five European Champion Clubs' Cups and eight Spanish Liga titles, Di Stéfano lit up the world of football as he formed part of the all-conquering Real Madrid side of the late 1950s and early '60s.
Born on 4 July 1926 in Buenos Aires, he joined CA River Plate's youth team, and at just 13 quickly began demonstrating the strength and skills which would later help him to reach the pinnacle of his chosen sport.
Di Stéfano's progress was aided by a loan move to CA Huracán in 1946 and on his return to River, he joined the likes of Juan Carlos Muñoz, José Manuel Moreno, Ángel Labruna and Félix Loustau in what became a famous forward line. A move to CD Millonarios followed, and it was while impressing in a friendly game for the Colombian side away to Madrid that their former president Santiago Bernabéu insisted on signing the striker, eventually doing so in September 1953.
In the first season with the formidable forward in their ranks, Madrid won the Liga, signalling the start of a period in which they collected seven further top-flight titles between 1955 and 1964 and a domestic double in '62. It was also during that time that the Spanish giants displayed their might on the continental stage, triumphing in the first five editions of the European Cup. Indeed, Di Stéfano flourished in European Club football's elite competition, scoring in all five finals and famously netting a hat-trick in the 7-3 win against Eintracht Frankfurt in May 1960.
Speaking about La Saeta Rubia's influence at the ten-time European champions, former Madrid striker Emilio Butragueño – who was given his Real Madrid CF debut by Di Stéfano in February 1984 – said: "Alfredo Di Stéfano joined Real Madrid in 1953 and changed the history of our club. When he arrived, Real Madrid changed its mentality completely. From that moment on, Madrid became a winning team. I think he left values that helped make our team different from other clubs. Real Madrid now is what it is because, mainly, of Alfredo Di Stéfano."
Assuming Spanish nationality in 1956, Di Stéfano scored 23 goals in 31 internationals for his adopted country, while at the end of his playing days, he embarked on a lengthy coaching career, earning Liga and UEFA Cup Winners' Cup triumphs at Valencia CF.
He became Madrid's honorary president in 2000, and eight years later received the first UEFA President's Award from Michel Platini. "A great among greats," is how the UEFA president described Di Stéfano, adding, "Alfredo Di Stéfano, you personified the best of world football over two decades – a god of the stadium, a magician of the ball, a perfect football master. You invented modern football on our TV screens."
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