Alfredo Di Stéfano

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Alfredo Di Stéfano, Альфредо Ди Стефано
Coach, Football player
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Alfredo Stéfano di Stéfano Laulhé (4 July 1926 – 7 July 2014) was an Argentine-Spanish footballer and coach, widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time. He was most associated with Real Madrid and was instrumental in their domination of the European Champions' Cup during the 1950s, a period in which the club won the trophy in five consecutive seasons from 1956. Along with Francisco Gento, he was one of only two players to play a part in all five victories. Di Stéfano played international football mostly for Spain, but he also played for Argentina and Colombia.

Di Stéfano, nicknamed "Saeta rubia" ("blond arrow"), was a powerful forward with great stamina, tactical versatility, and vision, who could also play almost anywhere on the pitch. He is currently the fifth highest scorer in the history of Spain's top division, and Real Madrid's second highest league goalscorer of all time, with 216 goals in 282 league matches between 1953 and 1964.

In November 2003, to celebrate UEFA's Jubilee, he was selected as the Golden Player of Spain by the Royal Spanish Football Federation as their most outstanding player of the past 50 years. He was named by Pelé as one of the "top 125 greatest living footballers" in March 2004 (in September 2009, he said Di Stéfano was the best Argentinian player "ever"). Di Stéfano was voted fourth, behind Pelé, Diego Maradona, and Johan Cruyff, in a vote organized by the French weekly magazine France Football consulting their former Ballon d'Or winners to elect the Football Player of the Century.

Players such as Pelé, Eusébio, Luis Suárez, Sandro Mazzola and John Charles described Di Stéfano as "the most complete footballer in the history of the game".

Club playing career

Born in Barracas, a neighborhood of Buenos Aires, Di Stéfano was the son of Alfredo Di Stéfano, a first-generation Italian Argentine (his father Michele emigrated to Argentina from Capri in the 19th century), and Eulalia Laulhé Gilmont, an Argentine woman of French and Irish descent.[14][15] He began his career at Argentina's River Plate aged 17, in 1943. For the 1946 season he was loaned to Club Atlético Huracán, but he returned to River in 1947. Due to a footballer's strike in Argentina in 1949, Di Stéfano went to play for Millonarios of Bogotá in the Colombian league. He won six league titles during the first 12 years of his career in Argentina and Colombia.

Di Stéfano is best known for his time at Real Madrid where he was an integral part of one of the most successful teams of all time. He scored (then a club record, now surpassed by Raúl González) 216 league goals in 262 games for Real, striking up a fearsome partnership with Ferenc Puskás. Di Stéfano's 49 goals in 58 matches was for decades the all-time highest tally in the European Cup, until it was surpassed by Real Madrid's Raúl in 2005, and Milan's Andriy Shevchenko and Real Madrid's Ruud van Nistelrooy in 2006. Di Stéfano scored in five consecutive European Cup finals for Real Madrid between 1956 and 1960, including a hat-trick in the latter. Perhaps the highlight of his time with the club was their 7–3 victory over Eintracht Frankfurt in the 1960 European Cup Final at Hampden Park, a game many consider to be the finest exhibition of club football ever witnessed in Europe. He was awarded the Ballon d'Or for the European Footballer of the Year in 1957 and 1959.

He moved to Espanyol in 1964 and played there until hanging up his boots at the age of 40.

Controversy surrounding transfer to Spain

Di Stéfano's transfer to Spain would prove controversial. Real Madrid first noticed Di Stéfano at a friendly in the Nuevo Estadio Chamartín in 1952 where Di Stéfano's Colombian side, Millonarios, defeated Real 4–2. Then Real Madrid president Santiago Bernabéu Yeste was greatly impressed with Di Stéfano, and in July 1953, Real Madrid reached an agreement with Millonarios for Di Stéfano's transfer to Real Madrid.

However, Real Madrid were not the only La Liga club to notice Di Stéfano during his time at Millonarios. The mission to secure the signing of Di Stéfano to Barcelona had first been given to the Catalan Ramon Trias Fargas, who, besides being a lawyer and expert in commercial law, was the son of one of the share-holders of Millonarios, where Di Stéfano was playing at the time. According to Trias Fargas, FC Barcelona's own management effectively obstructed the transfer when club president Enric Martí Carreto also involved Barcelona chief scout Josep Samitier in the negotiations. Samitier, in his turn, brought in Joan Busquets-Baró, a Catalan acquaintance living in Colombia, to speed up the talks with Millonarios (and according to Finestres & Luque, with Di Stéfano himself). Busquets, a director of Millonarios' rivals Santa Fe, seems to have tried more to sabotage the deal than to secure it. After issuing a harsh ultimatum to Millonarios to accept a modest offer for the player, he organized Di Stéfano's defection from Colombia when the ultimatum was rejected, despite Di Stéfano owing the club money. River Plate, who owned the rights of the player from 1955 onwards, had accepted the transfer on the condition that Millonarios also agreed upon the transfer, but Millonarios was no longer interested in doing so after Busquets' ultimatum and bullying tactics. Trias Fargas' negotiations with the Colombians regarding a transfer sum were also breaking down when Enric Martí, despite assurances to Trias Fargas that he would pay whatever price Trias Fargas thought necessary, rejected a figure whenever it was agreed between the lawyer and the Colombians. Trias Fargas blamed Enric Martí, claiming Barcelona directors had allowed him to spend $20,000 but Carreto only accepted to offer $10,000 plus the player's debts.

In 1953, Di Stéfano signed a deal with Barcelona, and FIFA, who didn't know anything about Di Stéfano having left Millonarios without permission, authorized the transfer from River Plate. The Spanish Federation, however, did not recognize the deal. According to Andres Ramírez, the Spanish Football Federation secretary, both Millonarios (who owned the rights of the player until the end of 1954, according to the agreements reached in the Lima Pact) and River Plate's consent were needed in order for Di Stéfano to sign up with a Spanish club. By this point, Real Madrid had signed their own transfer agreement with Millonarios, and indeed Millonarios reported to FIFA the anomalous situation of the Argentinian, so FIFA itself demanded that the Spanish Federation solve the problem. On 22 May 1953, Di Stéfano arrived in Spain to conclude his contract with Barcelona but during the discussions with the Federation, Real Madrid's president Santiago Bernabéu, acting upon the apparent division within the Barcelona management, convinced him to sign for them instead.

During the parallel negotiations between the two Spanish clubs and Millonarios, the Spanish Federation issued a ban on foreign players in the Spanish league. On 15 September, the Spanish Federation made public the decision, signed by club presidents Martí and Bernabéu, to allow Di Stéfano to play four seasons in Spain – two for FC Barcelona and two for Real Madrid, to be played alternately. The agreement created such a storm of protests by the rest of the Barcelona management and the fans that Martí resigned a week later. The reasons for Barcelona's decision to let the player go to Madrid are disputed by the two clubs. This incident exacerbated the traditional enmity between the two clubs.

International playing career

Di Stéfano played with three different national teams during his career: he played six times with the Argentine national team, winning the 1947 Copa America; twice with Colombia (not recognized by FIFA); and 31 times with the Spanish national team. However, he never played in the World Cup.

World Cup absence

The first World Cup in which he would have been able to participate was the 1950 tournament. As Argentina refused to participate, Di Stéfano (aged 24) missed his first chance at playing in the World Cup.

For the 1954 World Cup, Argentina did not enter once more and FIFA declared Di Stéfano was not eligible to play because he had previously been capped by both Argentina and Colombia.

He acquired Spanish citizenship in 1956, and played four World Cup qualifying matches for Spain in 1957, but the team failed to qualify for the 1958 World Cup.

In 1961, Di Stéfano (36) who had already won 5 European Cups, helped Spain qualify for the World Cup of 1962. A muscular injury just before the competition prevented him from playing in the finals. He retired from international football afterwards.

Kidnapping in Caracas

On the night of August 24, 1963, the Venezuelan revolutionary group Armed Forces of National Liberation (FALN), kidnapped Alfredo Di Stéfano at gunpoint for three days from the Potomac Hotel in Caracas while his team, Real Madrid, were on a pre-season tour of South America. The kidnapping was codenamed "Julian Grimau", after the Spanish communist Julián Grimau García executed by firing in April during Francisco Franco's dictatorship. Di Stefano was released unharmed two days later without ransom close to the Spanish embassy.

A Spanish movie entitled "Real, La Película" ("Real, The Movie") which recounted these events was released in August 25, 2005. In a bizarre publicity stunt at the premiere, both kidnapper Paul del Rio, now a famous artist, and Di Stefano were reunited for the first time in 42 years since the abduction.

Managerial career

After retirement, he moved into coaching. He guided the Argentine clubs Boca Juniors and River Plate to league titles, and won La Liga and the Copa del Rey with Valencia as well as the European Cup Winners' Cup with the side in 1980. He also managed Sporting in the 1974/75 season and Real Madrid between 1982 and 1984. The 1982–83 was catastrophic for Real, they finished second in La Liga and were defeated finalists in the Supercopa de España, Copa de la Liga and Copa del Rey. Madrid were also beaten by immense underdogs Aberdeen in the European Cup Winners' Cup final. Out of five possible trophies, Real Madrid collected five runners' up titles.

After retirement

Di Stéfano resided in Spain until his death in 2014. On 5 November 2000 he was named Honourary President of Real Madrid.

On 24 December 2005, 79-year-old Di Stéfano suffered a heart attack.

On 9 May 2006, the Alfredo di Stéfano Stadium was inaugurated at the City of Real Madrid, where Real Madrid usually train. Its inaugural match was between Real Madrid and Stade de Reims, a rematch of the European Cup final won by Real Madrid in 1956. Real Madrid won 6–1 with goals from Sergio Ramos, Antonio Cassano (2), Roberto Soldado (2), and José Manuel Jurado.


Following another heart attack in July 2014, the 88-year-old Di Stéfano was moved to intensive care in the Gregorio Marañón hospital in Madrid, where he died on 7 July.



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