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Alfredo Di Stéfano

Alfredo Stéfano Di Stéfano Laulhé[2] (Spanish pronunciation: [alˈfɾeðo ði esˈtefano]; 4 July 1926 – 7 July 2014) was an Argentine professional footballer and coach. He is regarded as one of the best footballers of all time, and is best known for his achievements with Real Madrid, where he was instrumental in the club's domination of the European Cup and La Liga during the 1950s. Along with Francisco Gento and José María Zárraga, he was one of only three players to play a part in all five victories, scoring goals in each of the five finals. Di Stéfano played international football mostly for Spain after moving to Madrid, but he also played for Argentina and Colombia.

Alfredo Di Stéfano
Di stefano argentina.jpg
Di Stéfano with Argentina in 1947
Personal information
Full name Alfredo Stéfano Di Stéfano Laulhé[1]
Date of birth (1926-07-04)4 July 1926
Place of birth Buenos Aires, Argentina
Date of death 7 July 2014(2014-07-07) (aged 88)
Place of death Madrid, Spain
Height 1.76 m (5 ft 9 12 in)
Playing position Forward
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1945–1949 River Plate 66 (49)
1945–1946Huracán (loan) 25 (10)
1949–1953 Millonarios 101 (90)
1953–1964 Real Madrid 282 (216)
1964–1966 Espanyol 47 (11)
Total 521 (376)
National team
1947 Argentina 6 (6)
1951–1952 Colombia 4 (0)
1957–1962 Spain 31 (23)
Teams managed
1967–1968 Elche
1969–1970 Boca Juniors
1970–1974 Valencia
1974 Sporting CP
1975–1976 Rayo Vallecano
1976–1977 Castellón
1979–1980 Valencia
1981–1982 River Plate
1982–1984 Real Madrid
1985 Boca Juniors
1986–1988 Valencia
1990–1991 Real Madrid
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

Di Stéfano, nicknamed "Saeta rubia" ("Blond Arrow"),[3][4][5] was a powerful, quick, skillful, and prolific forward, with great stamina, tactical versatility, creativity, and vision, who could also play almost anywhere on the pitch.[6][7][8][9] He is currently the sixth highest scorer in the history of Spain's top division, and Real Madrid's third highest league goalscorer of all time, with 216 goals in 282 league matches between 1953 and 1964. He is Madrid's leading goalscorer in the history of El Clásico, alongside Cristiano Ronaldo.[10][11][12]

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.[13] In 2004, he was named by Pelé in the FIFA 100 list of the world's greatest living players (in September 2009, he said Di Stéfano was the best Argentinian player "ever").[14] He was voted fourth, behind Pelé, Diego Maradona, and Johan Cruyff, in a vote organized by France Football magazine which consulted their former Ballon d'Or winners to elect the Football Player of the Century.[15]

In 2008 Di Stefano was honoured by both UEFA and Real Madrid with a special Presidents award issued by FIFA at a ceremony in Madrid, where a statue was also unveiled. Then UEFA President Michel Platini called Di Stefano "a great amongst the greats" while contemporaries Eusébio and Just Fontaine suggested that he was "the most complete footballer in the history of the game".[16]

Early lifeEdit

Di Stefano's youth membership card at River Plate.

Born in Barracas, a neighborhood of Buenos Aires, Di Stéfano was the son of Alfredo Di Stéfano, a first-generation Italian Argentine (his father Michele emigrated to Argentina from Nicolosi in the 19th century), and Eulalia Laulhé Gilmont, an Argentine woman of French and Irish descent with her relatives being from Swinford, County Mayo.[17][18][19]

Di Stefano's father, who a former defender of the River Plate, but prematurely retired in 1912 due to knee injury, introduced young Alfredo to football. Di Stéfano grew up playing street football, in oratories and in neighbourhood teams such as the Barracas "Unidos y Venceremos", and the Imán of the Flores district. People already had noticed his talent. But, in 1940 his family moves to the countryside and Di Stéfano started working with his father and playing football with his brother Tulio in the Club Social y Deportivo Unió Progresista until 1943, when the family returned to Buenos Aires.

Club careerEdit

Di Stéfano with La Maquina in 1947.
Di Stéfano scoring a goal for Real Madrid where he won 15 official titles

River PlateEdit

In 1944 his father wrote a letter of recommendations to River Plate and the club sent a reply telegram to invite him to an audition with the youth team. Di Stefano impressed on the trial and joined the squad of the second team of River Plate, the club his family supported. The next year he became part of the first team which was called La Máquina due to their unprecedented success and it was consisted of players like the legendary Pedernera, Labruna Muñoz, and Loustau. One of the main stars of the team Moreno had just left for the Mexican Real Club España and it seemed like a good opportunity for young Di Stefano to fight for a place in the first squad. Di Stéfano, whose idol was Paraguayan Arsenio Erico , the striker of Independiente, learned from the qualities of the big stars especially Pedernera. His coach, and first mentor Carlos Peucelle, taught him how to play the ball low and soon he made his first team debut in 1945, at the age of 19: on July 15 of that year he debuted against Huracán in 2-1 defeat for the twelfth day of the 1945 Argentine championship. That was the only game Di Stéfano played in that year, but at the end of the season he won his first title as River Plater won the championship, leaving Boca Juniors four points behind.

He began his career at Argentina's River Plate aged 17, in 1943. For the 1946 season he was loaned to Club Atlético Huracán, but he returned to River in 1947. Due to a footballers' strike in Argentina in 1949, Di Stéfano went to play for Millonarios of Bogotá in the Colombian league.[20] He won six league titles during the first 12 years of his career in Argentina and Colombia.[21][22]

Di Stéfano was 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 216 league goals in 262 games for Real (then a club record, since surpassed by Raúl and Cristiano Ronaldo), 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. It has since been surpassed by seven players, initially Real Madrid's Raúl in 2005 and most recently by Karim Benzema in 2016 and Robert Lewandowski in 2018.

Di Stéfano scored in five consecutive European Cup finals for Real Madrid between 1956 and 1960, including a hat-trick in the last. 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.[20]

He was awarded the Ballon d'Or for the European Footballer of the Year in 1957 and 1959.[21] He moved to Espanyol in 1964 and played there until retiring at the age of 40.[22]

Loaned to HuracanEdit

During the only match Di Stefano played in the previous season, the president of the Huracan was impressed by his potential and Di Stefano agreed as he saw the chance to make the first team in River Plate were limited. Former Argentine striker and World Cup winner Guillermo Stábile who was the Huracan and the Argentine national team coach also at that time gave Di Stefano his first real opportunities in the 1946 season. The first two goals of his career are scored in the match won 3-1 against Estudiantes (LP) . He later scored against his former team River Plate, netting the fastest goal in the history of the Argentine championship, after about ten seconds of play. He would score 10 goals in 25 appearances for Huracan who would try to sign him permanently at the end of a successful eight-placed season, but could not afford the 90.000 pesos River Plate asked for the transfer.

Return to River Plater 1947-1949Edit

Upon his return to River Plate, Di Stéfano became integral part of La Máquina taking on the role of the departing Adolfo Pedernera who had signed for Club Atlético Atlanta. Peucelle initially put Di Stefano on the flank, a position in which Di Stéfano struggled to play; in a game against Atlanta of Pedernera, Peucelle decided to place him as a center forward and River eventually won by 6-1. Soon, Di Stéfano imposed himself as the center forward and his team mates adapted to his game. This is when he obtained the nickname of Saeta Rubia, coined by journalist Roberto Neuberger. Though he had to leave the team for some time due to the compulsory conscription, Di Stefano contributed significantly to the victory of the 1947 Argentine Primera División, and became the top scorer of the league with 27 goals.

In February of 1948, champions River Plate participated in the inaugural South American Championship of Champions in Santiago facing the other South American champions finishing second behind Vasco da Gama and Di Stefano scored 4 goals in 6 games. During the Argentinian championship of 1948, the Football Association suspended the tournament for a short time due to the protests of the players led by Adolfo Pedernera and Alfredo Di Stéfano and materialised with a player's strike in a bid to gain a professional footballer's status and rights. Despite that upheaval Di Stefano scored 13 goals in 23 games and River Plate finished third. The strike last for 8 months until 1949 and it eventually meant the departure of the best Argentine footballers towards other championships, in particular towards that Colombian, which was one of the lucrative in the world at the time. In one of his last games in Argentina, on 31 July 1949, Di Stefano played in the role of goalkeeper, replacing the owner Amadeo Carrizo for twenty minutes and keeping the clean sheet in a derby won against Boca Juniors.

Transfer to ColombiaEdit

After the Superga air disaster, in May 1949, a friendly match between River Plate and Grande Torino was played and Di Stéfano was promised to the Granata. However the Argentine forward was soon after contacted by Adolfo Pedernera who had already agreed terms with the Colombian Bogota-based club of Millonarios F.C. F.C.. On 9 August 1949, after another one of his team mates, Néstor Rossi signed for the Colombian club without the president of River Plate receiving any compensation for the transfer of the players as the Colombian FA was still not affiliated with FIFA, Di Stefano signed for the Colombians. Millonarios who anyway could not afford not to pay the transfer fees, offered him a salary clearly higher than that received at River Plate, and the Argentine forward started a new chapter in his career in Colombia, in period called El Dorado. Many international stars like the Hungarians Béla Sárosi, László Szőke, Lithuanian Vytautas Kriščiūnas, the Argentines René Pontoni, Héctor Rial, English Charlie Mitten from Manchester United, Neil Franklin from Stoke City, French-Hungarian Ferenc Nyers, Italian Luigi Di Francothe Brazilian Heleno de Freitas and others had joined the league after legendary Perdenera first signed.

The Colombian league had turned professional in 1948 started the El Dorado period on 25 April 1949. Di Stefano, Perdenera and Nestor Rossi who joined Millonarios in the summer helped them win their first title ever beating Deportivo de Cali in the 1949 final, with Di Stefano scoring 16 goals in 14 games. Di Stefano scored 23 goals in 29 games the following 1950 season, but Millonarios finished 2 points behind eventual champions Deportes Caldas. Di Stéfano who was kept in an excellent condition excelled his games and led Millonarios to the other second title in 1951 leaving runners-up Boca Juniors de Cali by 11 points behind on the final table and scoring 32 goals in 34 games, more than any other player in the league. The 1952 league had the same outcome: Milionarios overtook Boca Juniors de Cali, won their third title and Di Stefano was once again top-scorer with 19 goals. In 1953 DIMAYOR agreed the Pacto de Lima with the FIFA, with the requirement that the foreign players would return to their countries the next year. He totally scored 267 goals in 292 goals for Milionarios and is considered still as one of the best footballers the history of the Colombian League.

International careerEdit

Di Stéfano played with three different national teams during his career.[5] He most notably played six times with the Argentine national team, and 31 times with the Spanish national team, scoring 23 goals. However, he never played in the World Cup.[5] The player also played four times for Colombia, during the Dimayor period of Colombian football. The team at the time was not recognised by FIFA as the league had broken transfer rules in signing players while still under contract.[23][24][25]

Di Stéfano scored 6 goals in 6 games as Argentina won the 1947 South American Championship, his only games for the country.[26] The first World Cup in which he would have been able to participate was the 1950 tournament. As Argentina refused to participate, Di Stéfano (aged 24) missed his first chance at playing in the World Cup. For the 1954 World Cup, Argentina again did not enter.[27]

Di Stéfano acquired Spanish citizenship in 1956 and made his debut for them on 30 January 1957 in a friendly in Madrid, scoring a hat-trick in a 5–1 win[28] to become one of only a few players born outside Spain to have appeared for their national team. He played four World Cup qualifying matches in 1957, but the team failed to 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.[29] He retired from international football afterwards.

Kidnapping in CaracasEdit

On the night of 24 August 1963, the Venezuelan revolutionary group Armed Forces of National Liberation (FALN), kidnapped Alfredo Di Stéfano at gunpoint from the Potomac Hotel in Caracas while his team, Real Madrid, were on a pre-season tour of South America.[30] The kidnapping was codenamed "Julián Grimau", after the Spanish communist Julián Grimau García, executed by firing squad in Spain in April 1963 during Francisco Franco's dictatorship.[30] Di Stefano was released unharmed two days later close to the Spanish embassy without a ransom being paid, and Di Stefano stressed that his kidnappers had not mistreated him.[30] Di Stefano played in a match against São Paulo the day after he was released and received a standing ovation.[20][30]

A Spanish movie entitled Real, La Película (Real, The Movie), which recounted these events, was released on 25 August 2005. In a bizarre publicity stunt at the premiere, kidnapper Paul del Rio, now a famous artist, and Di Stefano were brought together for the first time since the abduction, 42 years before.[30]

Managerial careerEdit

Di Stéfano's memorabilia at the Real Madrid museum

After retirement, he moved into coaching. He guided the Argentine club Boca Juniors to league title,[21] and won La Liga and the Copa del Rey with Valencia as well as the European Cup Winners' Cup with the side in 1980. He also managed Sporting in the 1974/75 season and Real Madrid between 1982 and 1984. The 1982–83 was catastrophic for Real, they finished third in La Liga and were defeated finalists in the Supercopa de España, Copa de la Liga and Copa del Rey.[21] Madrid were also beaten by Aberdeen, managed by Alex Ferguson, in the European Cup Winners' Cup final.[21]

After retirementEdit

Di Stéfano resided in Spain until his death in 2014. On 5 November 2000 he was named Honorary President of Real Madrid.[21]

On 24 December 2005, 79-year-old Di Stéfano suffered a heart attack.[31]

On 9 May 2006, the Alfredo di Stéfano Stadium was inaugurated at the City of Real Madrid, where Real Madrid usually train. Its 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 6–1 with goals from Sergio Ramos, Antonio Cassano (2), Roberto Soldado (2), and José Manuel Jurado.[32]


Following another heart attack on 5 July 2014, the 88-year-old Di Stéfano was moved to intensive care in the Gregorio Marañón hospital in Madrid,[33] where he died on 7 July 2014.[34][35][36]

On 8 July, his coffin was placed on public display at the Bernabéu Stadium. Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez and captain Iker Casillas were amongst those in attendance.[37] Following his death Di Stéfano received tributes from many famous football personalities including Alex Ferguson, Johan Cruyff, Pelé, Cristiano Ronaldo, Diego Maradona and Bobby Charlton.[38] During the 2014 FIFA World Cup semi-final between Argentina and the Netherlands on 9 July, Di Stéfano was honoured with one minute of silence, while the Argentine team also wore black ribbons in a matter of respect.[39]

The Club Atlético River Plate from Argentina and Millonarios Fútbol Club from Colombia organized a friendly match in homage of their former player. The match was played on 16 July 2014, at the Millonarios' Estadio El Campín.[40]

Personal lifeEdit

Di Stéfano married Sara Freites in 1950, they had six children: Alfredo, Ignacio, Sofia, Silvana, Helena and Nanette; she died in December 2012. At the time of her death he was dating his Costa Rican girlfriend Gina González,[41] his former secretary.

Career statisticsEdit


Club Season League Cup Continental Total
Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
River Plate 1945 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0
Huracán (loan) 1946 25 10 2 0 0 0 27 10
Total 25 10 2 0 0 0 27 10
River Plate 1947 30 27 0 0 2 1 32 28
1948 23 13 1 1 6 4 30 18
1949 12 9 0 0 0 0 12 9
Total 66 49 1 1 8 5 75 55
Millonarios 1949 14 16 0 0 0 0 14 16
1950 29 23 2 1 0 0 31 24
1951 34 32 4? 4? 0 0 38? 36?
1952 24 19 4? 5? 0 0 28? 24?
Total 101 90 10 10 0 0 111 100
Real Madrid 1953–54 28 27 0 0 0 0 28 27
1954–55 30 25 0 0 2 0 32 25
1955–56 30 24 0 0 7 5 37 29
1956–57 30 31 3 3 10 9 43 43
1957–58 30 19 7 7 7 10 44 36
1958–59 28 23 8 5 7 6 43 34
1959–60 23 12 5 3 6 8 34 23
1960–61 23 21 9 8 4 1 36 30
1961–62 23 11 8 4 10 7 41 22
1962–63 13 12 9 9 2 1 24 22
1963–64 24 11 1 1 9 5 34 17
Total 282 216 50 40 64 52 396 308
Espanyol 1964–65 24 7 3 2 0 0 27 9
1965–66 23 4 4 1 6 0 33 5
Total 47 11 7 3 6 0 60 14
Career totals 521 376 70 54 78 57 669 487


Year Apps Goals
1947 6 6
Total 6 6
Year Apps Goals
1957 7 7
1958 4 1
1959 5 6
1960 8 6
1961 7 3
Total 31 23

International goalsEdit

For ArgentinaEdit

Scores and results list Argentina's goal tally first.[42]
# Date Venue Opponent Score Result Competition
1. 4 December 1947 Estadio George Capwell, Guayaquil, Ecuador   Bolivia 6–0 7–0 1947 South American Championship
2. 11 December 1947 Estadio George Capwell, Guayaquil, Ecuador   Peru 2–1 3–2 1947 South American Championship
3. 16 December 1947 Estadio George Capwell, Guayaquil, Ecuador   Chile 1–0 1–1 1947 South American Championship
4. 18 December 1947 Estadio George Capwell, Guayaquil, Ecuador   Colombia 2–0 6–0 1947 South American Championship
5. 18 December 1947 Estadio George Capwell, Guayaquil, Ecuador   Colombia 5–0 6–0 1947 South American Championship
6. 18 December 1947 Estadio George Capwell, Guayaquil, Ecuador   Colombia 6–0 6–0 1947 South American Championship

For SpainEdit

Scores and results list Spain's goal tally first.[42]
# Date Venue Opponent Score Result Competition
1. 30 January 1957 Santiago Bernabéu, Madrid, Spain   Netherlands 2–0 5–1 Friendly
2. 30 January 1957 Santiago Bernabéu, Madrid, Spain   Netherlands 4–0 5–1 Friendly
3. 30 January 1957 Santiago Bernabéu, Madrid, Spain   Netherlands 5–1 5–1 Friendly
4. 31 March 1957 King Baudouin Stadium, Brussels, Belgium   Belgium 1–0 5–0 Friendly
5. 31 March 1957 King Baudouin Stadium, Brussels, Belgium   Belgium 4–0 5–0 Friendly
6. 24 November 1957 Stade olympique de la Pontaise, Lausanne, Switzerland    Switzerland 2–0 4–1 1958 FIFA World Cup qualification
7. 24 November 1957 Stade olympique de la Pontaise, Lausanne, Switzerland    Switzerland 3–0 4–1 1958 FIFA World Cup qualification
8. 13 April 1958 Santiago Bernabéu, Madrid, Spain   Portugal 1–0 1–0 Friendly
9. 28 February 1959 Stadio Olimpico, Rome, Italy   Italy 1–0 1–1 Friendly
10. 28 June 1959 Stadion Śląski, Chorzów, Poland   Poland 2–1 4–2 1960 European Nations' Cup qualifying
11. 28 June 1959 Stadion Śląski, Chorzów, Poland   Poland 4–1 4–2 1960 European Nations' Cup qualifying
12. 14 October 1959 Santiago Bernabéu, Madrid, Spain   Poland 1–0 3–0 1960 European Nations' Cup qualifying
13. 22 November 1959 Mestalla, Valencia, Spain   Austria 1–0 6–3 Friendly
14. 22 November 1959 Mestalla, Valencia, Spain   Austria 5–2 6–3 Friendly
15. 13 March 1960 Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain   Italy 2–1 3–1 Friendly
16. 10 July 1960 Estadio Nacional, Lima, Peru   Peru 1–0 3–1 Friendly
17. 14 July 1960 Estadio Nacional, Santiago, Chile   Chile 1–0 4–0 Friendly
18. 14 July 1960 Estadio Nacional, Santiago, Chile   Chile 2–0 4–0 Friendly
19. 17 July 1960 Estadio Nacional, Santiago, Chile   Chile 1–0 4–1 Friendly
20. 17 July 1960 Estadio Nacional, Santiago, Chile   Chile 2–0 4–1 Friendly
21. 19 April 1961 Ninian Park, Cardiff, Wales   Wales 2–1 2–1 1962 FIFA World Cup qualification
22. 11 June 1961 Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán, Sevilla, Spain   Argentina 2–0 2–0 Friendly
23. 23 November 1961 Santiago Bernabéu, Madrid, Spain   Morocco 2–1 3–2 1962 FIFA World Cup qualification


Di Stéfano’s Golden Foot award in “The Champions Promenade" on the seafront of the Principality of Monaco


Boca Juniors

River Plate

  • Torneo Nacional: 1981


Real Madrid


  • Scored in most European Cup finals: 5.[49]
  • Scored in most consecutive European Cup finals: 5.
  • Most goals scored in European Cup finals: 7 (shared with Ferenc Puskás)
  • Only player to be awarded the Super Ballon d'Or[50]


  • (Autobiography) Di Stéfano, Alfredo (2000). Gracias, Vieja: Las Memorias del Mayor Mito del Futbol. Madrid: Aguilar. ISBN 84-03-09200-8.
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Further readingEdit