Former Real Madrid player ALFREDO DI STEFANO died on Monday at age 88 in Madrid's Gregorio Marañón hospital, according to J.L. Guerrero of AS. Di Stefano, appointed an honorary president by Real in '00, "had been hospitalized since Saturday following a heart attack." The "world of football is tinged with grief over the death" of one of the "best footballers in history." Di Stefano "was the most successful player in Real Madrid's 111-year history -- and this is not an opinion, it is a fact." In Di Stefano's 11 years with Real, from '53-64, the club won eight Spanish league titles and five European Champions Cups and was voted European player of the year in '57 and '59. The French journalists "described his game best by calling him omnipresent." He was a "genius with the spirit of a guerilla." Di Stefano, nicknamed the "Blond Arrow," played for five years with Argentine goalkeeper ROGELIO DOMINGUEZ at Real. Domínguez said of Di Stefano, "He was the best player in the world because he did not have 100 percent of one thing, but he had 85 percent of everything." Prior to playing for Real Madrid, Di Stefano "grew into a star" with Argentine side River Plate and Colombian side Millonarios (AS, 7/7). In London, Huw Tubervill reported a medical team "had battled for nearly 20 minutes to revive the 88-year-old after his heart and breathing stopped while he was eating with his family near Real Madrid's Bernabeu Stadium." He had been hospitalized "seven times for similar episodes, and underwent emergency quadruple heart by-pass surgery after suffering a major heart attack" in '05. He was the "complete player, adept in defence, midfield or attack, and is spoken of in the same breath" as PELE and DIEGO MARADONA. Pele said in '09, "People argue between Pele or Maradona. For me, Di Stefano is the best. He was much more complete." Born in Buenos Aires to Italian parents, Di Stefano also managed River Plate as well as its Argentine rival Boca Juniors and La Liga side Valencia, among other clubs, after his playing career (TELEGRAPH, 7/7).
TRIBUTES POUR IN: ESPN's Dermot Corrigan wrote Di Stefano was "one of the greatest players of the 20th century, and an outstanding personality in the history of one of the world's biggest clubs." The Spanish FA, Argentine FA, Barcelona and "many other clubs also issued statements of condolence." Real Madrid said on its official website that FIFA President SEPP BLATTER and UEFA President MICHEL PLATINI had contacted Real President FLORENTINO PEREZ over the weekend to "pass on their support and concern after Di Stefano fell into a coma." Spain coach VICENTE DEL BOSQUE said, "I had him as a coach in my last stage as a player, I knew him well so of course I am so sorry for the loss. Of course I send my best wishes to his family and his circle and also to all madridismo, for whom it is such a sad day." CRISTIANO RONALDO tweeted, "Don Alfredo leaves us, but his memory will last forever in our hearts. Legends never die. Thanks for everything Maestro. #EternoAlfredo." (ESPN, 7/7). AS reported many "well-known figures" from Real Madrid and the world of football "have paid homage to Di Stefano via Twitter."
La Liga side Espanyol's ÁLEX FERNÁNDEZ: "DEP Don Alfredo Di Stefano...mucho animo a familiares y amigos, se va una leyenda..." ("RIP Don Alfredo Di Stefano, a lot of encouragement to family and friends, a legend leaves").
Real Madrid basketball player NIKOLA MIROTIC: "Adiós, Don Alfredo. Leyenda blanca hasta la eternidad. Descansa en paz." ("Goodbye, Don Alfredo. White [Real] legend forever. Rest in peace").
The Argentine national team: "Murió Alfredo Di Stéfano, una gloria del fútbol mundial." ("Alfredo Di Stéfano, a delight of world football, died") (AS, 7/7).