102. Alfredo Di Stefano

102. Alfredo Di Stefano

One of the game’s all time greats, a prolific goalscorer who could play in many different positions, Alfredo Di Stéfano began his career with River Plate as a teenager. He was on the fringes of the first team when they won the league title in 1945, although he played only one game. After spending the 1946 season on loan with Huracán, he returned to River Plate and played a much greater role in another title success in 1947, finishing as the league’s leading goalscorer. In December of that year, Di Stéfano had his only experience of international football with Argentina as he scored a goal a game in helping his country to win the Copa América in Ecuador.
 
In 1949 Di Stéfano moved to Millonarios in Colombia, where he won three league titles in four years and led the league in goalscoring twice. He also made a handful of guest appearances for the Colombian national team. Moving to Europe in 1953 to join Real Madrid, he became part of one of the game’s most legendary line-ups. Domestically eight league titles and one cup were won in eleven seasons, but it was Real’s achievements in the new European Cup which ensured their place in history. Di Stéfano starred as Real won the first five titles, culminating in a famous 7-3 win over Eintracht Frankfurt in 1960, a game in which he scored a hat-trick.
 
Success at club level was almost continuous, and twice Di Stéfano was named European Footballer of the Year, but an appearance in the World Cup was to elude him. With Argentina having not entered early in his career, and Spain having failed to qualify after he had taken Spanish citizenship, 1962 would be his last chance but injury denied him the opportunity to appear, and his international career ended in disappointment. His club career came an end in 1966, after a two year spell with RCD Espanyol.
 
Di Stéfano quickly moved into coaching and after a brief spell with Elche he returned to Argentina to join Boca Juniors, immediately leading them to a Nacional League Championship in 1969. Back in Europe by 1970, he spent time with Valencia, Sporting Lisbon, Rayo Vallecano and Castellón. In two spells with Valencia, he led them to a league title in 1971 and the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1980, with disappointment coming in a runners-up finish in the league in 1972 and two consecutive cup final defeats.
 
A return to Argentina brought another Nacional League Title with River Plate in 1981, before joining Real Madrid in 1982. Di Stéfano’s time in Madrid was one of more near misses, finishing second in the league twice and losing domestic and European Cup Winners’ Cup finals. After short returns to Boca Juniors and Valencia, he ended his managerial career back at Real in 1991, where he was later named honourary club president. Di Stéfano is regularly named among the contenders to be the greatest player in the game’s history, and achieved greater managerial success than many other top players.
 
Alfredo Di Stéfano died following a heart attack on 7th July 2014, aged 88.
102. Alfredo Di Stefano
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