Born: Buenos Aires 4 July 1926
Club(s): River Plate, Huracan, Millonarios, Real Madrid, Espanyol
International Caps: 6 (4 for Columbia & 31 for Spain)
International Goals: 6 (0 for Columbia & 23 for Spain)
Regarded by many as the greatest Argentinean footballer of all time. Which is testament to the quality that ‘Saeta Rubia’ had when compared to the likes of modern compatriots Maradona and Messi.
But perhaps time does a disservice to Di Stefano who has more league titles and more champions cup winners medals than both Maradona and Messi put together.
Di Stefano began in 1946 as a 17 year old at River Plate (between a short loan at Huracan) where he would score 49 goals in 66 games twice winning the Argentine Primera Division. He moved to Millonarios of Columbia in 1949 scoring 90 goals in 101 league games winning three championships before a lucrative move to Real Madrid in 1953.
At the Bernabeu, ‘The blonde arrow’ forged a legendary strike force with the Hungarian Ferenc Puskas and scored over 300 goals in eleven years (a record standing near 50 years) before moving to Espanyol.
It was at Real where Di Stefano, a technically gifted number ten who controlled the flow of the game with skill, precision, goal scoring instinct, vision and flair would not only win five straight European Cups (1955-1960), he would score in all five of those finals too.
A blight in his copy book was that Di Stefano never played in a World Cup Finals. In fact he played for three national teams, capped six times by Argentina he was awarded Columbian citizenship during his spell at Millonarios and played 4 times for ‘los cafeteros’ before moving to Spain where he played 31 times scoring 23 goals for ‘la roja’.
Di Stefano won 8 league titles whilst at Real Madrid and was instrumental in the way ‘los blancos’ played. Often dropping deep to pick up the ball and creating play before charging in the box late to score goal after goal. A fierce striker of the ball, Di Stefano would use the outside of his foot and pirouette with never before seen trickery at a time when only kick with your instep was taught.
After two ageing seasons at Espanyol Di Stefano retired in 1967 and moved in to Management where he took Boca Juniors to the Primera Division title before moving to Valencia and repeating the feat in Spain. He eventually went on to Manage Real Madrid after a successful season at River Plate in 1982 but couldn’t quite reach the glory in coaching of his spectacular playing past.
An ambassador for Real Madrid, Di Stefano died aged 88 in 2014.