Legend Di Stefano dies, aged 88

Stefano

Real Madrid legend Alfredo Di Stefano, regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, has died.

The 88-year-old suffered a heart attack on Saturday and had been in an induced coma in Madrid’s Gregorio Maranon hospital.

Real Madrid confirmed the news, saying Di Stefano, their honorary president, died at 17:15 CET (16:15 BST).

The forward won five straight European Cups, scoring in each final between 1956 and 1960.

Former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson told BBC Radio 5 live Di Stefano was “without question in that group of great, great players.”

He recalled Di Stefano’s “wonderful balance and poise” when he watched him at Hampden Park in the 1960 European Cup final.

“In the semi-final Eintracht Frankfurt beat Rangers and we looked upon Eintracht Frankfurt as almost certain to win the cup – but of course Real Madrid were a special team,” he said.

“I had the pleasure as a young man of being influenced by the great Real Madrid and Di Stefano. His head was up all the time. He was such a fantastic footballer.

“For Real Madrid it is a terrible loss because his presence was always there.”

Sir Bobby Charlton, who played against him for Manchester United, said Di Stefano was one of the best players he ever saw.

“The footballing world has lost a great player and a great man,” Charlton, a director at United, said.

“I have many fond memories of my time with Alfredo and feel privileged to be able to call him a good friend.”

Former England captain Jimmy Armfield, a contemporary of Di Stefano, described him as “the all-purpose footballer”.di stefano

“He could chase back, he could set the play up, he could score goals and he made other players,” he said. “I think he made them into world-class stars.

“Gento was another big name of Real Madrid at the time and he told me that he thinks Stefano was the greatest footballer he’d ever seen.”

Real president Florentino Perez said he and the club’s board would “like to express deepest condolences and all their love and affection to his children, their families and friends”. In a statement   the club said Di Stefano was “the greatest player of all time”.

In addition to the European Cup glory, the Argentina-born player won eight Spanish league titles and was voted European player of the year in 1957 and 1959.

He left Real in 1964 at the age of 38, having scored more than 300 goals across 11 seasons.

Di Stefano played at international level for three nations but never appeared at the World Cup.

He won six caps for Argentina and played four times for Colombia during a spell in that country’s league. However, his Colombia caps are not officially recognised by Fifa.

In 1954 Fifa said he could not play for Spain but reversed that decision in 1957 after he gained citizenship and he went on to win 31 caps, scoring 23 goals.

As a manager, Di Stefano led Boca Juniors and River Plate to Argentine league titles, and won La Liga and the Copa del Rey with Valencia.

He had spells at Sporting Lisbon, Rayo Vallecano and Castellon before taking over at Real in 1982.

During his two-year tenure at the Bernabeu, the club were runners-up in five competitions, including the 1983 Cup Winners Cup, in which they lost the final to an Aberdeen side managed by Ferguson.

“He was a great influence on Scottish football at that time,” Ferguson added. “I was quite apprehensive about meeting this great man. His generosity after they lost the game to us was outstanding. He said Aberdeen had a team that money can’t buy – they had a soul, they had a spirit built on family values.

“That was as generous a comment as you can possibly make for a losing manager.”

Di Stefano managed the club again for five months from 1990, winning the Spanish Super Cup against Barcelona. He then became honorary Real president in 2000.

Football world reacts to Di Stefano’s death

Sepp Blatter, Fifa president: “Sad to learn of Di Stefano’s passing, the most complete player I’ve seen. My favourite player. A legend is gone. RIP.”

Uefa president Michel Platini: “He was superb technically, possessed outstanding speed, and was a splendid goal scorer. Together with his gifted team-mates, he helped invent modern football. He embodied all that is magical about football. He was blessed with a truly special rhythm and grace which was a thrill to behold.”

Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo: “It’s a very sad day. For me, for all the Madridistas, for the world of football.”

Diego Simeone, Atletico Madrid manager: “Don Alfredo has left us, one of the greats of world football. Goodbye maestro, that you are never without a football up there.”

Jose Mourinho, Chelsea (ex-Real Madrid) manager: “This is a very sad day for football and football fans when we lose a special person like this.”

Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos tweeted: “RIP Sir Alfredo Di Stefano. I will never forget each of the shared moments with such a football legend.”