Real Madrid legend and one of the greatest players the: "beautiful game," has ever produced, Alfredo di Stefano, has sadly passed away in Madrid at the age of 88.
Di Stefano suffered a heart attack in the street very close to his beloved Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday, and after falling into a coma, the Honorary Real Madrid President's health deterioated, until eventually passing away on Monday.
One of the greatest
The Spanish capital will now go into mourning as they remember one of Los Blancos greatest players, and one that Pele acknowledged as the greatest ever.
Di Stefano is regarded as the most influential player in Real Madrid's history to grace the Bernabeu, after an 11-year career that saw the forward score an incredible 305 goals in 392 appearances, bettered only by Raul.
Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Di Stefano began his career as a 19-year old at River Plate, where he stayed for four years, scoring 49 goals in 66 appearances, before moving to Colombia to play for Millonarios.
Di Stefano's incredible scoring record gathered pace when over a three-year period he found the back of the net on 90 occasions in only 102 appearances, catching the attention of both Real Madrid and bitter rivals Barcelona.
Real Madrid decided to do a deal with Millonarios to bring the then 27-year old to the Bernabeu, however unbeknown to Real Madrid officials, Barcelona had done a deal with his previous club, River Plate, who according to FIFA still owned the rights to the player.
At the time the Colombian league was not recognised by FIFA and the Spanish Federation which led to a Spanish court making a bizarre decision that Di Stefano could play in Spain for four season's, two with Real Madrid and two with Barcelona.
The Catalans renounced their claim to the player, a dispute that rumbles on even today.
Di Stefano played international football for Argentina, Colombia and Spain and led Real Madrid to five straight European Cup triumphs, scoring in each of the winning finals between 1956 and 1960.
The Argentine born forward also won eight Spanish league titles at Real and was voted European player of the year in 1957 and 1959.
Retire the number 9 jersey
As the Bernabeu prepares to say goodbye to the Real Madrid legend, there have been calls to retire the number nine jersey. It is not a common practice in the world of football unless the player has been an exceptional talent with an unprecedented influence.
Ajax retired Cruyff's number 14 shirt. Napoli did the same with Maradona's 10, as did Inter with Zanetti's 4, Schalke the 7 of Raúl González. None of those legends had such a decisive role in the history of their clubs as Di Stéfano did at Real Madrid.
A true footballing legend
The footballing world have been united in their respects to Di Stefano with tributes flocking in from all four corners of the globe.
Current Real stars Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos and Cristiano Ronaldo took the opportunity of sharing their thoughts with the Marca alongside a host of other footballing greats that took to social media.
Casillas: "Don Alfredo's figure will always embody Real Madrid. Di Stéfano's name is synonymous with Real Madrid. We'll always be grateful for what he did and we will keep preaching his message".
Ramos: "We have lost an icon, a standard-bearer, someone who played a big role in making this badge what it is. Don Alfredo symbolised all the values represented by Real Madrid. Every future Real Madrid player will have the duty to know what Di Stéfano meant to this club. His spirit will live on forever. The words "give up" were never part of his vocabulary. My Décima-winning header had something of his spirit in it".
Ronaldo:"Don Alfredo leaves us, but his memory will last forever in our hearts. Legends never die. Thanks for everything Maestro"
Maradona: "A maestro has left us, someone who taught me a lot. I'd like to send his entire family a big hug. I'm feeling weak at the knees as I board this plane. Football is in mourning, we have lost a truly great player and person".
Pele: "Today the openness between Latin American players and European clubs is very much due to the work of Alfredo Di Stefano. He was a trailblazer, and most of all, he was a legend of the game. God rest his soul."
Sir Alex Ferguson: "Di Stefano was one of the greatest in my mind. He had fantastic balance and poise. He was always the focus of Real Madrid wherever they went. He had a fantastic life and I'm proud to have been associated with him in a small way."
Sir Bobby Charlton: "The footballing world has lost a great player and a great man ... I had never seen such a complete footballer."
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