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Real Madrid mourn passing of club legend Di Stefano

Published 08/07/2014 | 02:30

Real Madrid's President Florentino Perez gives a press conference following the death of Real Madrid's legend Alfredo di Stefano
Real Madrid's President Florentino Perez gives a press conference following the death of Real Madrid's legend Alfredo di Stefano
Alfredo Di Stefano backheels the ball past Harry Gregg during a 6-1 victory at Old Trafford in 1959

Alfredo Di Stefano, the player Real Madrid has hailed as being the most important component in its mid-20th century ascent to becoming a global powerhouse, has died. He was 88.

The club said in a statement that Di Stefano, its honorary president, died yesterday afternoon at Gregorio Maranon hospital, two days after a heart attack.

Di Stefano turned 88 on Friday. The following day, he had a heart attack on a Madrid street near the club's Santiago Bernabeu Stadium. Paramedics were able to resuscitate him after 18 minutes, but he spent the following days in a coma.

Renowned for his speed, versatility and strategic grasp of the game, he helped Madrid attain five straight European Champions Cups and was voted European player of the year in 1957 and '59. In a career spanning five clubs in three countries – Argentina, Colombia and Spain – from 1945-1966, Di Stefano scored 789 goals in 1,090 matches.

Those who knew him recall a straight-talking character who believed success on the field came through physical effort and dedication.

"I don't want to be idolised, I just want to play. And to do that you have to run and sweat," he said.

"I think he was one of the greatest, if not the greatest, football player ever," England great Bobby Charlton said.

Born July 4, 1926, in the Barracas suburb of Buenos Aires, Di Stefano learned the game while playing free-for-all soccer in what he called "the academy of the streets".

Irish Independent

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