Legendary Argentine star Alfredo Di Stefano has passed away at the age of 88.
According to Dermot Corrigan of ESPN FC, Di Stefano suffered a heart attack on Saturday and never recovered.
Real Madrid confirmed the passing:
Real Madrid CF announce that its Honorary President, Alfredo Di Stefano, passed away today at 17.15 at the Hospital General Universitario Gregorio Maranon de Madrid,” the statement on the club’s website reads.
The Real Madrid CF President Florentino Perez and the Board of Directors of the club would like to express their deepest condolences and all their love and affection to his sons, his relatives and friends.
Real Madrid CF extend these condolences to Madridistas all around the world and to those who are feeling the loss of the best player of all time.
The Real Madrid CF President will appear at the Santiago Bernabeu at 19.00 tonight.
Former England international Gary Lineker was one of many football luminaries who saluted the five-time European Cup winner:
Di Stefano’s impact on football can’t even be quantified. It could be argued that no one player—even Pele or Diego Maradona—has a larger footprint in the sport’s history than Di Stefano.
He first made his name in South America with River Plate and then Millonarios during the “El Dorado” era of Colombian football. After winning three league titles with the Colombian side, he moved on to Real Madrid, where helped determine the trajectory of European football for good.
While Di Stefano isn’t solely responsible, he’s one of the biggest reasons Real Madrid are a world power in the game. Two seasons after Di Stefano’s arrival, Los Blancos won the European Cup and proceeded to win the next four.
Santiago Bernabeu was a visionary ahead of his time, but more than anything else, those five European titles helped put Real Madrid at the apex of the club game, a position from which they haven’t fallen.
The Score’s Richard Whittall thought that it was fitting that Di Stefano featured on two of the greatest teams in their continent’s respective histories:
The one glaring omission on Di Stefano’s resume is that he never appeared in the World Cup. FIFA’s rules regarding nationalities were a bit more lax back then, so he was allowed to play for Argentina, Colombia and Spain at the international level.
None of those teams qualified for the World Cup, though, meaning that one of the greatest players in football was never granted an opportunity to show off his talents on the world stage.
It’s a testament to Di Stefano’s ability that he carries such weight in the game despite that fact. A player’s World Cup record is often a determinant in his overall legacy, and without success in the tournament, one generally isn’t considered to be one of the greats.
Di Stefano’s talent and impact have never been in doubt, though. The football world has lost a giant of the game with his passing.