Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
Saturday, during the La Liga fixture between Espanyol and Real Madrid, the cameras focused several times on an older gentleman in the tribune of honor. He was wearing a business suit, but due to the windy and cold conditions last night in Barcelona, also adorned a Real Madrid jacket. Who was this man? Alfredo Di Stefano, the honorary President of Real Madrid, and one of the best players to ever grace a pitch.
Mr. Di Stefano was born in 1926 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. His family background was mostly Italian; however, his maternal grandmother was Irish. He began his professional career at the tender age of 17 with River Plate. A few years later, he was transferred to Millionarios of Colombia, where he would stay for five years. Then Real Madrid came calling, and for the next ten years, Di Stefano would become a part of one of the best teams in European club history. With Ferenc Puskas of Hungary and Francisco “Paco” Gento of Spain, Di Stefano, a striker, would set club and personal records that few have ever eclipsed. He ended his illustrious career with Espanyol, and retired at the age of 40.
Club Honors at Real Madrid
- Five European Cups between 1956 and 1960.
- Eight La Liga championships.
- One Intercontinental Cup victory in 1960.
- One Copa del Rey (King’s Cup).
Personal Honors at Real Madrid
- Pichichi, or leading scorer, of La Liga: 5 times.
- European Footballer of the Year: 2 times.
- 48 goals in 59 European Cup games (a record that stood until Raul Gonzalez of Real Madrid broke his record in 2005).
- Highest La Liga goal scorer for Real Madrid of all time, and the 3rd best in all Spanish competitions.
- In 2004, he was named the best, or Golden, player in Spain for the preceding 50 years.
“The original ‘total footballer’ and the greatest player of his era, Alfredo Di Stefano’s superb skills, incredible goals and remarkable selflessness were key factors in Real Madrid CF’s domination of the 1950s and 1960s.”
Source: “Europe Dazzled by Di Stefano.” UEFA.com.
World Cup and Copa America
Similar to George Best of Northern Ireland, Eric Cantona of France, Ryan Giggs of Wales, and George Weah of Liberia, Mr. Di Stefano was one of the anomalies of the modern football era: A great player who never played in the World Cup. Although he represented Argentina, Colombia, and Spain, respectively, he never featured at the World Cup. He did win the Copa America in 1947 with his native Argentina.
See why they called him the blond arrow (approx 7 mins video):
Steve Amoia is the author and editor of World Football Commentaries.