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Argentine soccer great Alfredo Di Stéfano won two European Player of the Year awards and led Real Madrid to a record five straight European Cup championships.
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Born on July 4, 1926, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Alfredo Di Stéfano starred for Argentine and Columbian soccer clubs from 1945 to 1953. His move to Spain brought more success, as he twice won the Ballon d'Or Award while leading Real Madrid to eight league titles and five straight European Cup championships. After managing for two decades, Di Stéfano was named honorary president of Real Madrid in 2000.
"Football's not designed for silent types. Being a genius won't make any difference if you don't gel with your teammates."
Alfredo Estéfano Di Stéfano Laulhé was born on July 4, 1926, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The grandson of an Italian immigrant, he grew up playing soccer with a rubber ball on the streets of Barracas. After stints with local teams Unidos y Venceremos, Imán and Los Cardales, the talented teenager joined Buenos Aires' Club Atlético River Plate.
Alfredo Di Stéfano played one game for River Plate's senior club in 1945 before spending the 1946 season on loan to Club Atlético Huracán. The striker blossomed upon his return to River Plate in 1947, leading the league in scoring while helping his team win the Primera División. That same year, Di Stéfano starred for the victorious Argentinean national team at the Copa America in Ecuador with six goals in as many matches. Known by this point as "La Saeta Rubia" ("The Blond Arrow") for his hair color and speed, Di Stéfano was on his way to being recognized as one of the premier all-around talents in the world.
When Argentine soccer professionals went on strike in 1949, Di Stéfano was among the players who crossed the border to play in Colombia. He thrived for the Millonarios Fútbol Club in Bogotá, leading the club to Columbian league championships in 1949, 1951, 1952.
After the 1953 season, Di Stéfano was the subject of a complicated bidding war between Spanish giants Real Madrid and FC Barcelona. Real won the bidding, and Di Stéfano proved well worth the effort by leading the club to a whopping eight La Liga titles and a record five straight European Cup championships over an 11-year span. He had plenty of help from talented teammates Ferenc Puskás and Raymond Kopa during this period, but soccer writers acknowledged The Blond Arrow's brilliance by voting him the Ballon d'Or winner for European Player of the Year in 1957 and '59.
Di Stéfano emerged unharmed from a frightening incident in 1963, when he was kidnapped before a tournament in Venezuela to attract publicity for a guerrilla organization's campaign against government corruption. After celebrating one final La Liga title with Real in 1964, he spent two years with RCD Espanyol before announcing his retirement. Despite his staggering collection of accomplishments, the Argentine great never had the chance to display his skills in World Cup play.
Di Stéfano moved into the coaching ranks in 1967 as manager of Elche CF in Valencia, Spain. He led Boca Juniors to Primera División and Copa Argentina titles in 1969, and over the next two decades enjoyed varying levels of success with several clubs, including River Plate and Real Madrid.
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