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Where does Alfredo Di Stefano fit it among the all-time greats?

The achievements of Alfredo Di Stefano, when it comes to football are too many to count. Michel Platini referred to him as a ‘great among greats’. His rank among the all-time great is debatable.

Last updated: 01.07.2019
Alfredo Di Stefano | Sports Social Blog

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When it comes to football, few have amassed accomplishments to the extent of Alfredo Di Stefano; forget about surpassing.  He set the stage for deadly Argentinian and Spanish international football before Diego Maradona and his contemporaries. He also had a huge role in giving birth to Real Madrid’s status as an elite among elites. He was phenomenal in almost every team he played for throughout his career( Milonarios aside from the ones mentioned).  Michel Platini referred to him as a ‘great among greats’. Eusebio and Just Fontaine said he was the most complete player. And once you look at the older games, the stats and achievements you can more than see why. He used to fool defenders with stepovers and side breakers before both Ronaldos made them popular. He was agile with an unparalleled level of foresight. The way he read the plays and asserted himself into the attack was and will always be something of a rarity. Football that is so well done that it has to be planned to but so well executed it looks like improvisational bliss - that is what he championed.


The Numbers and Achievements


Alfredo Di Stefano’s stats are something to be marvelled at. Sure, there are great players where they might not have the greatest numbers despite being skilled at the game so it can bring an air of doubt as to whether they’re all that great in the first place. Not the problem with Di Stefano. He scored goals in the international scene for both Argentina and Spain (the rarities just don’t end with him). He scored 6 in 6 for the Argentines and 23 in 31 for Spain. Of course, this all leads to his legendary club tally. He scored 10 goals in 27 matches for Huracan, 55 in 75 for River Plate, 100 in 111 for Millonarios, a mammoth 308 in 396 for Real Madrid and 14 in 60 for Espanyol. His combined tally in the club scene was 487 goals in 667 matches(including competitions other than the primary domestic league). He scored a goal at the age of 35 against Morocco; in fact, all 23 of his Spanish goals were past the age of 30 proving that showing athleticism at the what is presumed to be the latter part of your career is not something new. He used to be Real Madrid’s all-time top scorer with a goals to matches ratio of 0.78 and was eventually dethroned by Raul who was in turn dethroned by Cristiano Ronaldo. Di Stefano scored the in the most number of European Cup finals(5) and scored a  hattrick in one of them. Along with being the 8th highest scorer in the European Cup (49 goals in 58 matches), he is famously known for lifting the coveted trophy 5 times in a row from 1956 to 1960. He won the Ballon d'Or 2 times, both past the age of 30 and the Super Ballon d'Or in 1989. As icing on the cake, he also won the Spanish League 8 times. 

The Competition

Goes without saying that Di Stefano is one of the greatest players of all time. But whether he is the absolute greatest is quite the debate thanks to certain other players. 

Pele’ is widely considered the greatest player of all time and it’s hard not to see why. He had an overpowering natural aptitude with superhuman levels of speed, dribbling, and finishing and as a result, garnered over 1000 goals and appearances including friendlies and 3 World Cups. The Brazilian stood at the top for nearly 2 decades. He is widely considered the ceiling for football greatness.

Diego Maradona has received a similar reputation and is certainly one of football’s most controversial players courtesy of the Hand of God goal. His aptitude for dribbling has consistently been considered to be one of, if not the best. His goal against England where he dribbled past 5 players over a distance of 60m is often dubbed and was actually voted the ‘Goal of the Century’. He scored 310 goals in his club career and 34 for Argentina and he lifted the World Cup in 1986. 

Johan Cruyff is considered to be one of the most intelligent footballers who have ever lived. He created the famous Cruyff turn and is considered to be highly influential both as a manager and a coach. He won 8 Eredivisie Titles and 3 European Cups. His passing, dribbling, and technique, in general, is considered to be the golden standard in football. He scored 383 club goals in his career and 33 goals in 48 matches in the international scene. He won the Ballon d'Or three times and is considered to be one of the most iconic ambassadors of Total Football.

The Messi and Ronaldo rivalry is perhaps the greatest sporting rivalry in modern times. Both have had broken and set more records that can be counted and are counted amongst the greatest of all time. Lionel Messi is probably the greatest dribbler of all time and his lane changes are a thing of beauty. He is the top scorer of all time in the La Liga with 419 goals with Ronaldo coming in 2nd with 311 and has scored the most number of goals in a year by any player. Cristiano Ronaldo is possibly the greatest and most quintessential goalscorer of all time with  450 goals in 438 matches for Real Madrid and over 600 goals in the international scene. Both have won 5 Ballon d’Ors(highest). Ronaldo has won the UCL 5 times with Messi winning it 4. Messi has also won the La Liga 10 times with Ronaldo winning it twice. 


Clearly, Alfredo Di Stefano should be in the top 10 best players of all time or at least in it’s vicinity. He was simply one of the best and signifies the pinnacle of the human condition. Pele had the better stats and had the iconic status with more goals and might’ve been the better player on the surface with his ability to score goals so effortlessly courtesy of his dribbling and finishing. Maradona had won the World Cup for Argentina and scored the Goal of the Century along with immense goal scoring stats. Johan Cruyff was an icon of football and invented and popularized many intelligent footballing strategies like Total football and won the Ballon d'Or 3 times. Ronaldo and Messi are pioneers of today’s football and are the only players who have won the Ballon d'Or as many as 5 times. You also have other competitors like Zidane, Maldini, Gerd Muller, Van Basten, Garrincha, Franz Beckenbauer, and Michel Platini to cast some more doubt as to who would top the list of greatest footballers. Personally, Di Stefano would rank 5th in the List of the  All-Time Greatest Players in between Cruyff(4th) and Cristiano Ronaldo(6th) with Messi, Pele, and Maradona at the top 3 because of the sheer status and iconic achievements and records, broken and set by those players. 

At the end of the day, Alfredo Di Stefano will always be one of the greatest athletes to ever grace the planets and the standard bearer for the most elite subjects that football will have to offer.


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