Wednesday, September 23, 2009

23 September 1953 - The Beginning Of A Beautiful Friendship

On 23 September 1953, center forward Alfredo di Stéfano debuted for Real Madrid in a friendly against AS Nancy. The French side won 4-2.

Nicknamed "the Blond Arrow," Di Stéfano is considered to be one of the greatest footballers in history. He was born in Buenos Aires on 4 July 1926 and signed his first professional contract in 1944 with River Plate. He stayed with River Plate until 1948, including a brief loan spell with Hurucán. In 1948, as the result of players' strike in Argentina, he moved to Colombian side Los Millonarios.

In 1952, Millonarios were invited to Madrid to play in a tournament celebrating Real Madrid's 50th anniversary, which the Bogotá club won. Di Stéfano impressed the scouts in attendance and initially signed with Barcelona, but issues arose over his contract rights. Real president Santiago Bernabéu took advantage of the delay and convinced di Stéfano to sign instead with the Meringues. The incident aggravated the already-strained relations between the two Spanish giants.

Di Stéfano, who had already won both accolades and silverware with River Plate and Millonarios, reached greater heights with Real, including eight La Liga titles (1954-55, 1957-58, 1961-64) and five consecutive European Cup trophies (1956-60). He also won the Ballon d'Or in 1957 and 1959.

At the international level, di Stéfano played for three different sides--Argentina (four appearances), Colombia (six), and Spain (31), but never played in the World Cup.

He left Real after the 1963-64 season, accumulating 418 goals in 510 matches for the Spanish club. He retired from playing in 1966 after two seasons with Espanyol.

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