Before Real Madrid set foot on the path of being arguably the greatest football club of the universe, they signed a player from Argentina named Alfredo Di Stefano. It was ‘Don’ Alfredo Di Stefano who played the most significant role as a player for Real Madrid to become the ‘Club of The Century‘. As the football world is celebrating the legendary footballer’s birthday today, let’s look back at how he contributed to the club and became their greatest legend of all time.
The path to becoming arguably the greatest Real Madrid legend
When Real Madrid president Don Santiago Bernabéu started to rebuild the club after the civil war in Spain, he felt the need to build an invincible squad – The Galacticos. His idea was to gather the greatest players from all around the world and to make them a part of Real Madrid.
The first Galactico he signed for the club was Alfredo Di Stefano. He had to fight with arch-rival Barcelona to get the signing of Alfredo Di Stefano and the event was full of controversy. Back in 1953, it was the time when Di Stefano was playing on loan for Columbian club Millonarias, but his parent club was River Plate from Argentina. Both Barcelona and Real Madrid approached for him. While Barcelona made an offer to River Plate, Real Madrid went on to make a deal with Millonarios directly and both the teams had made a part of their payments. Later when FIFA had to intervene to decide the future of the player, they provided the decision that Di Stefano would play for Real Madrid and Barcelona alternatively in each season till 1957. But Barcelona didn’t agree with this decision and sold the rights to Real Madrid that they bought from River Plate and Di Stefano ended up at Spanish capital.
The next Eleven seasons he played wearing The Royal White shirt and as a part of that, he helped Real Madrid to win back to back five European Cups between 1955-1960. He was a player always hungry for success, which became the way of Real Madrid eventually and it was he who lead Real Madrid to become the greatest club in history.
“Reputations do not win matches and trophies, only goals can do that”Alfredo Di Stefano
During his Real Madrid career, Di Stefano scored 266 goals in 344 matches. Although he is on the third position among the top goalscorer list for Real Madrid, behind two other legends of them – Raul and Cristiano Ronaldo, he is still regarded by many as the greatest player in Real Madrid history. Before he joined Real Madrid, the club didn’t win La Liga for previous two decades and he helped them to win the trophy in his very first season at the club in 1953/54. Di Stefano was the top scorer of La Liga that season.
He was not only a regular goalscorer but also a big match player who always shone on the biggest platform. He scored in all five European Cup finals that he played for Real Madrid. He has won the Ballon d’Or two times and is the only player to be awarded the Super Ballon d’Or in history.
“Alfredo was the first Galactico. In fact, he was worth any three of them put together.”Francisco Gento
Although his international career was not so full of fairy tales like his club career. He was an Argentine by birth but later took the Spanish citizenship. He represented Spain, Argentina and Columbia in International level but surprisingly never featured in the World Cup. There were several reasons for him not playing in a World Cup, the biggest stage of football. One of which was Argentina decided not to play in World Cup 1950, which was the first World Cup after Second World Cup. Later in 1954, he was not allowed to play for Spain as he had already played for Argentina and Columbia. This decision was reversed three years later, but after that, he didn’t get a chance to play in the World Cup anymore. A player like De Stefano not featuring in World Cup is surely one of the shocking incidents in history. De Stefano played for Real Madrid till 1964 and retired from football in 1966 at the age of 40.
Alfredo Di Stefano: The Greatest Footballer ever?
While Alfredo Di Stefano is mostly famous for his Real Madrid career and his incredible performance in European Cup, at the same time he is not as much appreciated as Pele or Maradona due to his unglorified International career by many. But there are football critics who believe that the two times Ballon d’Or winner was the greatest footballer of all time. His gameplay was unique in his own style and he inherited a style of play that the world hasn’t seen after him.
Di Stefano was blessed with pace, mesmerizing skills, vision, great presence of mind on the field, extraordinary goal-scoring ability and was good with both left and right foot. When you think about all these abilities of a footballer, you won’t find many with such versatilities.
While the world mostly knows he used to play as a Secondary Striker, he was a game controller of Los Merengues who was given a free role and used to play everywhere on the field from bottom to opponent box.
“Di Stefano was simply the most intelligent football player I ever saw. Pelé was perhaps the better instinctive player, but Di Stéfano came onto the pitch and the game had been largely played out in his head. If I had one player to choose, out of all of them, to save my life, he’d be the one.Sir Bobby Charlton
When I first saw him, I was like, who is this man? He takes the ball from the goalkeeper, he tells the defenders what they have to do. Wherever he is on the field, he is in a position to get the ball. It is his influence on everything that he happens to see. I’ve never seen such a complete footballer. It was as if he had his own command center set up in the heart of the football game. He was as strong as he was subtle. The combination of his qualities was fascinating.”
At that time, there were many other star players in Real Madrid squad. Ferenc Puskás, Francisco Gento, Raymond Kopa all were lethal and deadly, but the one player who took the team to another level was Alfredo Di Stefano. Whenever he was on the pitch he was the playmaker if needed, he was the goalscorer when the team wanted goals and he was defensively capable as well.
It is hard to understand what he was capable of for people of current generation who haven’t seen him play, but to describe him in a nutshell he was more like a combination of Zinedine Zidane, Fernando Redondo and Marco Van Basten. Probably he was the most complete footballer to play the game ever.
“Di Stefano is the most complete footballer in the history of the game.”Eusebio
Do you think Don Alfredo Di Stefano was the greatest player ever? Let us know in the comment section below.