Filed under: Alfredo Di Stefano, Hungary | Tags: Alfredo Di Stefano, Argentina, Bogota, Czechoslovakia, Eintracht Frankfurt, European Cup, European Footballer of the Year, FC Barcelona, Ferenc Puskas, FIFA, Glasgow, Gregorio Maranon hospital, Hampden Park, Hungary, Ladislao Kubala, Millonarios, Real Madrid, River Plate, The Blond Arrow, UEFA Champions League
Alfredo Di Stefano, the greatest player of the 1950s, has died in Madrid. He celebrated his 88th birthday on July 4 but suffered a heart attack the following day and passed away at Gregorio Maranon hospital two days after that.
Known as “The Blond Arrow,” the Argentine-born Di Stefano scored more than 800 goals in his career and was named European Footballer of the Year in 1957 and ’59. Through his all-round skills and considerable leadership, Real Madrid won the first European Cup (now the UEFA Champions League) in 1956 and the next four that followed. His record of 49 goals in 59 Euro Cup games still stands. In the 1960 final before a crowd of 135,000 at Glasgow’s Hampden Park, Di Stefano scored four goals and teammate Ferenc Puskas three as Real Madrid pounded Eintracht Frankfurt, 7-3, in a match regarded by many as the greatest ever played.
Di Stefano’s career began in 1944 with River Plate. He jumped to a Colombian pirate league in 1949 to play for Millonarios of Bogota, winning four titles in as many years. Real Madrid tried to sign him in 1953, but, River Plate, which still technically owned his rights, struck a deal with Real’s arch rival, FC Barcelona, and FIFA approved the transaction. The Spanish soccer federation, however, decreed that Di Stefano stay in Spain for four years, playing alternate seasons for Barcelona and Madrid. Barca officials threw up their hands over the ludicrous decision and sold their share in Di Stefano to Madrid. [July 8]
Comment: Di Stefano never played in a World Cup, but nevertheless his career included a hat trick of national teams. Early in his career he played seven games for his native Argentina. While with Millonarios, he played four for Colombia. And when he joined Real Madrid, he became a Spanish citizen and played 31 games for Spain, scoring 23 goals. Had it not been for an injury, he would have played in the 1962 World Cup in Chile, where he would’ve teamed with his Madrid strike mate, Puskas, the Hungarian legend who was playing for his second country, and a third star forward in the twilight of his career, Barcelona’s Ladislao Kubala, who was playing for his third country. (Kubala earlier had represented Czechoslovakia and his native Hungary). Not long after, FIFA tightened up its rules on players playing for more than one country in full internationals.
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