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Real Madrid great Alfredo Di Stefano dies

Updated: Monday, 07 Jul 2014 18:16 | Comments

Alfredo di Stefano helped Real win the European Cup for five successive seasons between 1956 and 1960
Alfredo di Stefano helped Real win the European Cup for five successive seasons between 1956 and 1960

Former Real Madrid soccer star Alfredo Di Stefano, 88, has died in a Madrid hospital two days after suffering a heart attack, the Spanish club have announced.

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 kept in an induced coma following his admission to General Universitario Gregorio Maranon Hospital on Saturday but has since passed away.

Di Stefano was central to the club's domination of European football in the 1950s, helping them win the European Cup for five successive seasons between 1956 and 1960.

He played for Real from 1953 and 1964, winning eight Primera Division titles and remains Real Madrid's second highest scorer in history, behind Raul, with 307 goals in all competitions.

He also had two short spells as coach of the club and is their honorary president.

Having started his career at River Plate, Di Stefano also spent four years with Colombian side Millonarios before making his move to Spain.

He became an instant hit in Madrid, scoring 27 goals in 28 league games during his first season with the club and ending the campaign with a league winners' medal.

Di Stefano, who represented both Argentina and Spain at international level at different stages of his career, was the earliest star of the European Cup when it was first introduced in 1955.

He scored Real's first goal as they came from two behind to beat Stade de Reims in the inaugural final, starting an incredible run of personal and club success.

With goals in the 1957, 1958 and 1959 finals, Di Stefano had already etched his name into the history of the club before he lit up the 1960 final with a hat-trick in Real's 7-3 thrashing of Eintracht Frankfurt in Glasgow.

His long-standing record of 216 goals in 262 league appearances was only broken by Raul in 2009 and, although Raul - as well as Andrei Shevchenko and Ruud van Nistelrooy – have now scored more European Cup goals than Di Stefano, his ratio of 49 goals in 58 matches stands alone.

Madrid announced the news in a statement on their website, which read: "Real Madrid C. F. regrets to announce that Honorary President, Alfredo Di Stefano, passed away today at 17:15 in the General Universitario Gregorio Maranon Hospital in Madrid.

"The President of Real Madrid CF, Florentino Perez, and the club's Board of Directors would like to express their deepest sympathy and affection to his children, family and friends.

"Real Madrid CF extends these condolences to Madrid fans around the world and anyone who feels moved by the loss of the greatest player of all time."

By the time Di Stefano left the Bernabeu for Espanyol in 1964, he had collected eight Primera Division titles, five European Cups and a Copa del Rey winners' medal.

He moved into management following a less successful spell at Espanyol, winning Argentinian league titles with both Boca Juniors and River Plate.

A stint at Valencia brought more silverware in the shape of Primera Division and Copa del Rey success, before Di Stefano returned to take the reins at his beloved Real Madrid.

There was to be no repeat of the trophy-laden spell he had enjoyed during his glittering playing career at the club, with the 1983 season epitomising his time in charge.

Having finished second in the league, Di Stefano's side were beaten finalists in the European Cup Winners' Cup (to Alex Ferguson's Aberdeen), Copa del Rey, Copa de la Liga and Supercopa.

He returned as coach for one season in 1990/91 and this time claimed some silverware in the form of the Spanish Supercopa.

Having been named an honorary president of Real Madrid in 2000, Di Stefano's health suffered five years later when he suffered a heart attack.

He was fitted with a pacemaker, but his collapse on Saturday means Di Stefano passed away less than two months after seeing Real Madrid collect their 10th European Cup.

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