Alfredo di Stéfano Laulhé (born 4 July 1926 in Barracas, Buenos Aires) is an Argentine - Spanish former footballer and coach. He is most associated with Real Madrid and was instrumental in their domination of the European Cup of Champions during the 1950s, a period in which the club won the trophy in five consecutive seasons from 1956. Di Stéfano also played international football for Argentina, Colombia, and Spain.
Di Stéfano, nicknamed Saeta rubia ("Blond arrow"), was a powerful forward with great stamina, tactical versatility, and vision. He could also play almost always anywhere on the pitch and despite being most well-known as a forward, was great in defense. He is currently the 3rd highest scorer in the history of Spain's top division, with 228 goals in 329 games, behind Hugo Sánchez (234 goals) and Telmo Zarra (251). Di Stéfano is also Real Madrid's highest league goalscorer of all time, with 216 goals in 282 league matches between 1953 and 1964.
In November 2003, to celebrate UEFA's Jubilee, he was selected as the Golden Player of Spain by the Royal Spanish Football Federation as their most outstanding player of the past 50 years. He was named by Pelé as one of the "top 125 greatest living footballers" in March 2004. Di Stéfano was voted fourth, behind Pelé, Diego Maradona, and Johan Cruijff, in a vote organised by the French weekly magazine France Football consulting their former Ballon D'Or winners to elect the Football Player of the Century
Di Stéfano is best known for his time at Real Madrid where he was an integral part of one of the most successful teams of all time. He scored a club record 216 league goals in 262 games for Real, striking up a fearsome partnership with Ferenc Puskás. Di Stéfano's 49 goals in 58 matches was for decades the all-time highest tally in the European Cup, until it was surpassed by Real Madrid's Raúl in 2005, and A.C. Milan's Andriy Shevchenko, and Real Madrid's Ruud van Nistelrooy in 2006. Perhaps the highlight of his time with the club was their 7-3 victory over Eintracht Frankfurt in the 1960 European Cup Final at Hampden Park, a game many consider to be the finest exhibition of club football ever witnessed in Europe. He was voted European Footballer of the Year in 1957 and 1959.
He moved to Espanyol in 1964 and played there until hanging up his boots at the age of 40.
In 1953, Di Stéfano signed a deal with FC Barcelona and FIFA, who didn't know anything about Di Stéfano having left Millonarios without permission, authorized the transfer from River Plate. The Spanish Federation, however, did not recognise the deal. According to Andres Ramírez, the Spanish Football Federation secretary, both Millonarios (who owned the rights of the player until the end of 1954, according to the agreements reached in the Lima Pact) and River Plate's consent were needed in order for Di Stéfano to sign up with a Spanish club. Indeed Millonarios had reported FIFA the anomalous situation of the Argentinian, so FIFA iteself demanded the Spanish Federation to solve the problem. On 13 May 1953, he arrived in Spain to conclude his contract with Barcelona but during the discussions with the Federation, Real Madrid's president Santiago Bernabéu, acting upon the apparent division within the Barcelona management, convinced him to sign for them instead.
During the parallel negotiations between the two Spanish clubs and Millonarios, the Spanish Federation issued a ban on foreign players in the Spanish league. On September 15, the Spanish Federation made public the decision, which club presidents Carreto and Bernabéu had signed, to allow Di Stéfano four seasons in Spain - two for each team, to be played alternately. The agreement created such a storm of protests by the rest of the Barcelona management and the fans that Carreto resigned a week later. The interim board succeeding him opted to scratch the agreement all together for a compensation of four million pesetas, announcing on October 23 that Real Madrid could have the player permanently. In the meantime, Di Stéfano had made his Madrid debut (on September 23) and played poorly in each of his first few matches for the club. The reasons for FC Barcelona's decision to let the player go to Madrid are disputed by the two clubs. While Real Madrid have always maintained it was a voluntary decision by F.C. Barcelona, their rivals held that it was a decision made under pressure from Franco's government. There are also those who feel Di Stéfano's poor form in his first few games led Barcelona to think they might be better off without him anyway. On July 1953 Barcelona's coach, Fernando Dancik, wrote a report expressing numerous doubts about the player's form. Kubala's health improvement also made the Barcelona directives lose the interest in the Argentine. Barcelona's decision having been announced, the two clubs met the following week - and Di Stéfano scored three goals against FC Barcelona. This incident exacerbated the traditional enmity between the two clubs.
He acquired Spanish citizenship in 1956, and played four World Cup qualifying matches for Spain in 1957, but the team failed qualify for the 1958 World Cup.
In 1961, Di Stéfano (36) who had already won 5 European Cups, helped Spain qualify for the World Cup of 1962. A muscular injury just before the competition prevented him from playing in the finals. He retired from international play after that.
On December 24, 2005, 79-year-old Di Stéfano suffered a heart attack, but made a full recovery.
Alfredo Di Stéfano once said of Diego Maradona "Technically, on an individual basis, he is far superior to me in what he can do with a ball; my ability to cover an entire field and versatility is what I hold over him, though with the right training he could easily do the same."
On the other hand, Maradona has also had words praising Di Stéfano. In comments made to RAI television in 1997, he said, "I don't know if I was a better player than Pelé, but I can say without any doubt that Di Stéfano was better than Pelé. I am proud when one speaks of Di Stéfano... I can say that Maradona could be worse than Pelé. But I emphasize Di Stéfano was better" .
On Tuesday May 9, 2006,The Alfredo Di Stéfano Stadium was inaugurated at the City of Real Madrid, where Real Madrid usually trains. The inaugural match was between Real Madrid and Stade de Reims, a rematch of the European Cup final won by Real Madrid in 1956. Real Madrid won the inaugural match in the Alfredo Di Stéfano Stadium by 6-1 with goals from Sergio Ramos, Antonio Cassano -2-, Roberto Soldado -2- and José Manuel Jurado.