Alfredo Di Stefano

Full name: Alfredo di Stéfano Laulhé
Date of birth: 04/07/1926


Introduction

Alfredo Di Stefano was born to Italian parents in the Argentinian capital Buenos Aires on 4th of July 1926. He was from a farming family and had a gruelling upbringing. Being the oldest son in the family he had a heavy workload on the farm but still found time to indulge his love for football. It was perhaps this gruelling physical work from a young age that helped him develop his levels of fitness and made him such a devastatingly agile and fit player on the football field later in life. His achievements, both for the most successful teams of his era and on the international stage, were huge. Despite never reaching a World Cup Final, he is arguably one of the greatest footballers ever to have played, with Pele being his closest rival.


Early Years

Di Stefano’s first club at 12 was Los Cardales, with whom he won the amateur championship. Three years later, he was playing for the second team of then-giants River Plate and at 16 he took up a place on the right wing in the first team. At that time the team had one of the most feared sets of forwards in Argentinian football, La Maquina, meaning “The Machine”. As a result he began playing on loan for another team, Huracan, where he scored one of the fastest goals in Argentinian football against his own club River Plate.

His high scoring record continued and he returned to River Plate aged 20. He was moved to centre-forward to take the place of Pedernera who had moved to Atlanta. In a fiercely contested match against Atlanta, Di Stefano scored the winning goal. He was set upon by the Atlanta fans and was hospitalised.

At 21 Di Stefano made his international début for Argentina in 1947. An injury in the first team allowed him to play throughout the cup and he was the second highest goal scorer, helping Argentina retain the South American Championship.


Strikes and Transfers

1949 saw the footballers of Argentina go on strike and so Di Stefano moved to play for Columbian side, Millonarios. He dominated the midfield of the Columbian league, scoring 267 goals in 294 games over his four year spell there. His impressive record attracted the attention of the Spanish teams and soon a transfer was being discussed. Ramon Trias Fargas, son of a Millonarios shareholder, was trying to source Di Stefano for Barcelona. The Barcelona chief scout then inadvertently threw a spanner in the works by introducing his Columbian friend, Joan Busquets. Busquets was director of CF Santa Fe, one of Millonarios’ main rivals, and allegedly tried to sabotage the move. Busquets put pressure on Millonarios to accept less than Di Stefano was worth, despite the player also owing his old club money. Fargas claimed that the Barcelona president Cerreto had allowed him $20,000 for the move, but then dropped the figure to $10,000 plus the player’s debts to Millonarios.

The debacle continued when Di Stefano signed a deal to transfer to Barcelona from River Plate. FIFA had authorised the move, but it was blocked by the Spanish League, as they said both Millonarios and River Plate had to be in agreement. In a bizarre twist of fate, Di Stefano eventually signed to Real Madrid on his arrival in Spain, owing to the infighting within the Barcelona camp.

The confusion did not stop there. The Spanish government first issued a ban on foreign players in the league, and then went on to announce that Barcelona and Madrid had agreed to share Di Stefano for four seasons. The idea of him alternating between the two clubs angered fans so much that Carreto was forced to resign. Barcelona accepted a figure of four million pesetas to allow Di Stefano to play exclusively for Madrid, a decision that they claim was made under pressure from Franco, the Fascist leader. The situation clearly took its toll on Di Stefano and he played uncharacteristically poorly for his first few games with the club.


Di Stefano’s Spanish Career

It did not take long for Di Stefano to overcome his poor start and he scored in the majority of his matches in the first season. He went from strength to strength at the club and also for the Spanish national team whom he represented on 31 occasions. He is perhaps most famous for his performance in the European Cup, where he scored four goals in four consecutive winning finals, and then a hat trick in the fifth.

Sadly he did not get a chance to make such a name for himself in the World Cup. Argentina did not compete when he represented them in 1950 and 1954. Di Stefano was granted Spanish citizenship in 1956, but Spain failed to qualify in the following World Cup. Four years later injury prevented him from competing in the championship proper, after scoring in the qualifiers.


Retirement

Di Stefano took up various coaching roles after retiring. He led his old club River Plate and Boca Juniors to title victories. In 1982 to 1984 he took up the position of manager with another of his old sides, Real Madrid. Despite suffering a heart attack in 2005, he played in an inaugural match between Real Madrid and Stades De Reims. Real Madrid won the rematch of the 1956 European Cup Final.


Titles and Records


Team Titles

  • 1 World Cup
  • 15 National Championships
  • 5 European Cups
  • 1 European Cup Winner’s Cup
  • 1 South American Championship
  • 1 Domestic Cup
  • 2 International Club Competitions Championships (Intercontinental Cup)


Personal

  • 5 National Athlete of the Year Awards (Pichichi)
  • Argentine League Top Scorer 1947
  • Columbian League Top Scorer 1951 and 1952
  • European Footballer of the Year 1957 and 1959
  • Super Ballon d’Or 1989
  • 282 goals in 218 games in Spanish League
  • Over 800 goals in official matches, 4th highest in the world, highest for a midfielder
  • Member of FIFA Hall of Champions (Top Ten Players of All Time)
  • Selected for Mastercard’s Team of the Century


Player Statistics

Senior Club and National Team Statistics
Period Team Appearances (Goals)
1943-1949 River Plate 65 (49)
1946-1947 Huracán (on loan) 25 (10)
1949-1953 Millonarios 102 (88)
1953-1964 Real Madrid 282 (216)
1964-1966 Espanyol 47 (11)
1947 Argentina 6 (6)
1949 Colombia 4 (0)
1957-1961 Spain 31 (23)