Alfredo Di Stefano, Real Madrid's 'Blonde Arrow'
Alfredo Di Stefano, who died Monday at the age of 88, was one of the greatest footballers ever to grace the earth, held in the same esteemed regard as Pele, Diego Maradona and Johan Cruyff, and will forever be known as the "Blonde Arrow" of the all-conquering Real Madrid sides of the 1950s and 1960s.
Di Stefano died in Madrid's Gregorio Maranon hospital where he had lain in a coma after suffering a heart attack. He was struck down after having lunch at a restaurant with his family on Saturday, not far from his beloved club's Santiago Bernabeu stadium.
Di Stefano had been hospitalised seven times for similar episodes, and underwent emergency quadruple heart by-pass surgery after suffering a major heart attack in 2005 just after the death of his wife Sara.
A complete player capable of disorienting dribbles, pinpoint passes and a lethal threat in front of goal, Di Stefano combined exquisite technical ability with tactical nous and an irrepressible spirit.
Born in 1926 in Buenos Aires to a modest family, Di Stefano joined River Plate, one of Argentina's most storied clubs, as a teenager.
He made his debut for them in 1945 at the age of 19 against Huracan, the outfit with whom he would spend the following season on loan before returning to his parent club.
Upon his return Di Stefano would form part of a much-vaunted attacking trio alongside Jose Manuel Moreno and Angel Labruna.
- Short-lived Argentina career -
1947 was a pivotal year for Di Stefano as he helped River Plate to the league title before netting six goals in his country's triumphant Copa America campaign, which would mark both the beginning and end of his short-lived Argentina career.
A player strike prompted the Argentine championship to grind to a halt the following season, resulting in a mass player exodus that saw Di Stefano pack his bags and head for Colombia's Millonarios.
He won the Colombian title in his first season before adding the 1951 and 1952 titles to his list of honours and his individual displays prompted a host of big-name European suitors to come calling.
After a long, complicated transfer wrangle with bitter rivals Barcelona, it was ultimately Real Madrid, thanks in large part to then president Santiago Bernabeu, who won the race for Di Stefano's signature.
Di Stefano immediately flourished in the Spanish capital as he helped Madrid end a 21-year wait for the league title in his first season before collecting a further seven league crowns during his time at the club, during which he formed formidable partnerships with the likes of Ferenc Puskas, Francisco Gento and Raymond Kopa.
However, it was on the European stage that Di Stefano truly cemented his status as one of the game's greats, helping Real win the first five editions of the European Cup between 1956 and 1960, a record that stands to this day.
He was also a two-time European Football of the Year in 1957 and 1959, but despite all the accolades a World Cup finals appearance was to elude him.
Argentina didn't participate at either the 1950 or 1954 finals and having attained Spanish citizenship in 1956 Di Stefano then missed out on the 1958 finals as Spain failed to qualify.
La Roja reached the 1962 tournament in Chile but injury prevented Di Stefano, then aged 35, from taking part despite travelling with the team.
- Global Fame -
His global fame would serve to his detriment while on a pre-season tour to South America in 1963 as he was kidnapped in Caracas by a Venezuelan revolutionary group, seeking to divert attention towards their cause, before being released unharmed two days later.
He left Real after the 1964 season and would finish his playing days at Espanyol two years later before turning his focus to coaching.
He started in the dugout of modest Spanish side Elche in 1967 prior to spells at Boca Juniors, Valencia, River Plate and Real Madrid among others before calling time on his managerial career in 1991.
Di Stefano was named Real Madrid's honorary president in 2000 and the club has since named its reserve team's home ground in his honour.
A father of six children he was predeceased by his wife Sara who died in 2005. His daughter Nanette Norma passed away in 2012.