Real Madrid legend Alfredo Di Stefano dies aged 88

2014-07-07 18:29

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Former Real Madrid soccer star Alfredo Di Stefano has died aged 88 in a Madrid hospital two days after suffering a heart attack.

Argentina-born Di Stefano, who helped turn Real Madrid into a leading side in the 1950s and is considered one of the greatest footballers of all time, was taken to the intensive care unit of the Gregorio Maranon hospital on Saturday.

Emergency services sources said he had suffered an 18-minute respiratory arrest, Spanish newspapers reported.

Frequently bracketed with Pele and Diego Maradona among the greatest exponents of the game, Di Stefano was one of the most complete footballers of all time.

An accomplished defender, a midfield workhorse, a playmaker and a prolific striker, he could be seen covering back in defence, charging through the midfield, laying on goals for the forwards and smashing shots into the net all in the same game.

Known as "La Saeta Rubia" (the blond arrow), Di Stefano's achievements as a player helped turn Real Madrid, the Spanish club he joined in 1953, into one of the world's leading sides.

He transformed them from insignificant underachievers into the kings of the continent when he guided them to five successive European Cups between 1956 and 1960, scoring in each of the finals.

"People argue between Pele or Maradona," Pele was quoted as saying in Spanish media in late 2009. "For me, Di Stefano is the best. He was much more complete."

Di Stefano was the progenitor of "total football" and years ahead of his time in terms of his approach to his professional career. In modern parlance, he was the first "Galactico".

Prepared to play for the highest bidder, he was also accused by some of being a footballing mercenary.

He mixed with the rich and famous, was the star of a film about himself and the victim of a dramatic kidnapping in Venezuela.

Gruff, egocentric, impatient and with a wry sense of humour, he did not suffer fools gladly.

But above all Di Stefano was a brilliant footballer and fierce competitor who left an indelible mark on the history of the game.

"I always felt like I had a job to do and that means you have to perform to perfection," Di Stefano said in an interview with Spanish soccer weekly Don Balon in October 2010. "I tried my hardest and people rewarded me with applause."

Twice European Footballer of the Year in 1957 and 1959, Di Stefano scored 418 goals in 510 official games for Real Madrid.

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