The never ending battle between those who thought the best player ever was Pele and the ones who argued it was Maradona has been on going since El Pelusa turned this planet upside down in 1986 from Mexico. However, in every conversation comparing the two greats, there seems to always be someone from an older generation willing to chip in: You argue about this because you never saw Alfredo Di Stefano play.
The Blonde Arrow, as the Argentine was know in his time at Real Madrid in the 50s, died in the capital of Spain at the age of 88, after suffering a heart-attack in the street a few days earlier.
Di Stefano had been battling heart disease for the better part of the last 20 years, and he already had overcome a very serious episode while visiting family in Valencia back in 2005.
He had bypass surgery back then, and then in April 2013 he was back at the hospital for more than a month due to a checkup that unveiled certain abnormalities.
The Argentine, who played for River Plate, Millonarios of Colombia, Real Madrid and Espanyol, was named Honarary President of Real Madrid in 2000, as he was, by far, the best player in the history of the club.
He would slowly stop appearing in many public functions for the club, as his frail health did not permit for too much stress; in this last year he was only present in the club’s big signings and the Christmas dinner.
Di Stefano won the five first European Club Championships with Real Madrid, between 1955 and 1960, among many other titles that crowned him as the best player in the world before Pele.
Ever since the eruption in the international stage of the Brazilian, Alfredo Di Stefano has been widely considered one of the top four players in history, alongside Pele, Cruyff and Maradona.
However, Di Stefano always had the benefit of the doubt from the debate around who was the best player in history–on the one hand because not many of the present day debaters actually saw him play, and on the other hand because he was a different kind of player to all the other ones.
Alfredo Di Stefano was the first true box to box player, a real commander on the field, being able to help both on defense as well as on the attacking front, but on top of that he could score. He could score a lot.
Alongside Puskas and Pele, Di Stefano is probably the only player in the world who has scoring records at the rate that Messi and Ronaldo are performing nowadays.
He was in a league of his own, and even after retiring and becoming a coach, Di Stefano won titles with Boca Juniors and Real Madrid.
Its said that Di Stefanos signing by Real Madrid changed the course of the game. Back in 1955, both Real Madrid and Barcelona battled for his signature, while he was playing in the non-affiliated Colombian league with Millonarios.
The battle was so fierce between the two teams that FIFA decided he would play one year in each team. But with the decision to share his rights, Barça actually decided to give them up and not go through the hassle of co-owning a player.
The rest is history, with Di Stefano becoming the emblem of the club, its top scorer until Raul overtook him– the man who led the team to victory in its first five Champions Leagues.
Alfredo Di Stefano suited up for both Spain and Argentina, but he never got to play in a World Cup. It seems ironic that he would pass away just days before Argentina could actually lift their third World title, but although he may not be among us anymore, Alfredo Di Stefano is a legend, and those never actually die.