5.31.2011

Legends: Alfredo Di Stefano

ALFREDO DI STEFANO

Alfredo Di Stefano in Real Madrid jersey
Alfredo Di Stefano

Alfredo Di Stefano was born on July 4, 1926 in the neighborhood of Barracas, where was the port of Buenos Aires. There, the English sailors introduced the football in Argentina. His grandfather Miguel was the first Di Stefano who arrived in the country, from Capri (Italy). His father, Alfredo, married Eulalia Laulhé who had French and Irish origin. They had three childs; Alfredo, Tulio (left midfielder footballer) and Norma (she was a basketball player).

"Little Tow" (Estopita: His grandfather placed him this nickname due to the old yellow mops that were used on ships) grew up playing with neighborhood kids on vacant lands in "the academy of the street", with rubber balls that cost two cents. His first organized team was called "Unidos y Venceremos", before moving to the "Flores" neighborhood, where he played for "Imán".

In 1940, his family moved to "Los Cardales", in the outskirts of Buenos Aires. His father was a collector of cereals and worked in the field. Alfredo left school and began working to help the family finances. That would have been his future if he had not followed the footsteps of football, a flame which, fortunately, was installed in his heart deeply. Football was his irrepressible passion. On Sunday he played with his brother Tulio in a local league and in the afternoon he went with his father to see River Plate (he was member from seven years). His amazing play and talent did not go unnoticed. In 1944 he made a test for River Plate and was quickly accepted in the youth team.

Player

He began with 18 years in the fourth category, from there ascended to the third and then to the First Division. Debuted with River in 1945 and that season he only played one match. For the 1946 season he was loaned to Huracan. There his coaches knew that they had an exceptional player. In 1947 he returned to River, in which he won the League Championship and was proclaimed top scorer. That year he debuted with the Argentina National Team that won the South American Championship in Guayaquil (Ecuador), in which he scored six goals. Soon he was dubbed with the nickname of "Blond Arrow" (LaSaeta Rubia) by the explosive speed that impressed on his play. In the Argentine Championship he played 66 games and scored 49 goals.

A general strike paralyzed the Argentine football and Di Stefano joined the "Millonarios" of Bogota, the best team in Colombia. It was a truly global selection, where coincided with major players like Rossi, Baez or Pederson. The sporting success of this 'Blue Ballet' pierced borders. This team played 294 matches and scored 267 goals. In 1952, he played for the first time in Spain (Chamartin Stadum), during the tournament to commemorate the 50 Anniversary of the Real Madrid. That day Real Madrid fans fell in love with him.

Real Madrid's dream was fulfilled in 1953 when Real Madrid managed to sign the best player of the moment after a long dispute with Barcelona that was also bidding for his services. He debuted on September 23, 1953 against Nancy (France). It was the first of the 510 matches played with Real Madrid scoring 418 goals. With the white set he won 8 Leagues, 5 European Cups, 1 Spanish Cup and 1 Intercontinental Cup among many other titles. In addition, he won five times the Pichichi trophy in seasons; 1953/54, 1955/56, 1956/57, 1957/58 and 1958/59.

Alfredo Di Stefano with 5 European Cups

That Real Madrid has gone down in history as one of the best teams of all time. In its brand new stadium, Santiago Bernabéu brought together a generation of unrepeatable footballers: Gento, Rial, Kopa, Puskas, Santamaria, Juanito Alonso, Zárraga... and Di Stefano, considered by all the squad as the natural leader, although he rejected the praise. He was a complete player, a role model on and off the pitch. UEFA awarded him the Golden Ball in 1957 and 1959.

He was captain of the "Rest of the World" team in the centenary of the English Football Association (1963). His last official match with Real Madrid was on May 27, 1964 in the Prater Stadium (Vienna) in the final of the ninth European Cup. After two seasons in the RCD Espanyol, he finally left the football with a tribute match that faced Real Madrid and Celtic Glasgow in 1966. That night took off his captain's armband to give it to Grosso in the middle of the roar of the crowd, standing to say goodbye to the best player who has stepped on the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.

Alfredo Di Stefano (1982)

Coach

In March 1982, sixteen years after his farewell in the Bernabeu, Di Stefano signed as coach of Real Madrid (Luis de Carlos was the president). After the World Cup was presented on July 20, 1982 along with his assistant Juan Santisteban and Jesus Paredes. "I will give the team moral, strength and mastery", he said in his message to the fans. It was a year of records, although bittersweet, because Di Stefano led the team to five finals and was runner-up in five. The team lost the League (Athletic Bilbao), the Cup Winners Cup (Aberdeen), the Spanish Cup (Barcelona), the League Cup (Barcelona) and the Spanish Super Cup (Real Sociedad).

The following season he returned to coach the team. He always opted for the younger players and had players like Butragueño, Sanchis, Martin Vazquez and Pardeza. It was the seed of a team that amazed Europe in the second half of the decade. But the rush of football and the lack of titles led to the exit of Di Stefano, who gave way to Amancio Amaro. "The doors of the Club are always open for you", Luis de Carlos recalled him in the farewell.

Six years later, on November 21, 1990, he returned temporarily to the white bench, along with Grosso and Camacho. At that time he was presidential adviser, and coached because the club had fired Toshack. In just a few months he changed the face of the team and its commitment to an offensive football was rewarded with the Spanish Super Cup, won against Barcelona. Months later, he left his post to Radomir Antic.

Di Stefano also coached Elche (1967), Boca Juniors (1968), Rayo Vallecano (1975),Castellón (1976), River Plate (1981) and Valencia (three times). In all these teams left the stamp of his competitive nature, love for his work and winning spirit. In all teams is respected and still loved. Under his discipline played hundreds of footballers that still have his lessons in the memory as their greatest asset.

Since 2000, Alfredo di Stefano is honorary president of Real Madrid and now "lives" the club with the same passion and commitment that the first day. His door is always open. His voice is still the beacon that lights to Real Madrid on the way to the title of best team in the XXI century.

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