Brilliant run without appearing in the World Cup | sports
tThe FIFA World Cup has taken everyone by storm. Apart from previews and reviews of the matches, there are discussions about the best player in the World Cup ever, the most successful players, the most influential in one edition, etc.
Who is the best player who has never played in a World Cup? Many names are mentioned including George Best (Northern Ireland), Duncan Edwards (England), George Weah (Liberia) and Ryan Giggs (Wales).
Alfredo Di Stefano, who has played internationals for three countries – Argentina, Colombia and Spain – is widely seen as one. He was born in Argentina in 1926. The Second World War lasted from 1939 to 1945. The first post-war World Cup was held in 1950, when Di Stefano was 24 years old. Argentina did not enter the competition in Brazil due to a conflict with the Brazilian Football Confederation. A goal by footballers in Argentina in 1949 forced Di Stéfano to look elsewhere. Di Stéfano played for Colombia from 1949 to 1953. During a break in the Colombian League in 1951, friendlies were organized under the combined name of the XI of the Colombian League. Di Stéfano – without holding a Colombian passport – took part in four matches for the Colombian national team, which do not appear in official FIFA records. Argentina did not enter the 1954 World Cup either. On the other hand, FIFA banned Di Stefano for playing for Argentina anyway, due to his participation in Colombia. While FIFA had already banned Colombia for luring players from a number of countries without the consent of the respective national federations; It was a mind boggling puzzle.
Subsequently, he moved to Real Madrid in Spain and became a naturalized Spaniard in 1956. Stefano played for Spain in the 1958 World Cup qualifiers. The mighty Spanish team surprisingly failed to qualify, finishing just one point behind group winners Scotland. At the 1962 World Cup, 36-year-old Di Stéfano played an outstanding role in helping Spain qualify. Again his luck ran out. A muscle injury just prior to the competition prevented him from playing in the finals. Thus, Di Stéfano could not appear in the World Cup for various reasons.
In his international career, Di Stefano scored 6 goals in 6 matches for Argentina, and 23 in 31 matches for Spain.
Di Stefano excelled on the club scene in all three countries. In Argentina, he made his debut in 1945 for River Plate, the country’s most successful team in domestic competition, against Huracan. Huracán’s manager was very impressed with the teenager and offered Di Stéfano a better deal to join his club. River Plate loaned him to Huracan. 1946 was the season Di Stéfano got noticed. He scored regularly including a goal against his former club River Plate which he scored in the tenth seconds of play – the fastest goal in Argentine league history. Huracán wanted him to stay with them permanently but was unable to pay the 90,000 transfer fee demanded by River Plate.
Returning to River Plate in 1947, he was initially deployed as a winger but later switched to the center forward position as Di Stéfano was so imposing that his teammates had to adapt to his game. River Plate won the Argentine Premier League title in 1947 and Di Stéfano was the league’s top scorer with 27 goals. The sharp shooter also earned himself the nickname Saeta Rubia (blond arrow).
At the international level, Argentina won the Copa América in 1947. Di Stefano scored 6 goals in 6 matches.
During the 1948 season, players’ protests for professional status led to a strike, and the Argentine Football Association suspended the tournament for a period. The strike lasted for eight months until 1949 and resulted in the departure of the top Argentine footballers to other leagues, particularly the Colombian League, one of the most lucrative leagues in the world at the time.
The Colombian league has attracted stars not only from South America but also from Europe. Di Stéfano joined the Millonarios from Bogota and along with other notable Argentine stars formed part of the famous team called Ballet Azul (Blue Ballet) which won its first ever title in 1949. The club had its most successful period. In Di Stéfano’s four seasons (1949-1952) they won the league three times and finished runners-up once. Millonarios was named by many football experts as the best team in the world in the early 1950s. Di Stéfano scored a total of 267 goals in 292 matches for Millionaires.
In March 1952, Real Madrid organized a friendly tournament in the Spanish capital and invited the Colombians to represent South America. Real Madrid and Barcelona scouts were present and were instantly enamored with this Argentine prodigy. Millonarios would start a world tour led by Di Stéfano, and they would even beat world champions Uruguay.
Shortly after Millonarios returned to Colombia, Barcelona directors visited Buenos Aires and agreed with River Plate, the last FIFA-affiliated team to acquire Di Stéfano’s rights, a 1954 transfer for the equivalent of about $200,000. A battle ensued between the two Spanish rivals for his rights. FIFA had to step in and appointed Armando Calero, former president of the Spanish Football Federation, as mediator. Calero decided to let Di Stéfano play in the 1953-54 and 1955-56 seasons in Madrid, and the 1954-55 and 1955-56 seasons in Barcelona. The decision did not go well with the Barcelona members. Barcelona sold Real Madrid half of his stake. Di Stefano moved to Real Madrid. Best known for his achievements with Real Madrid, he was declared the FIFA Club of the Century, where he was instrumental in the club’s domination of the European Cup, the world’s top club competition (now called the UEFA Champions League). He won the European Cup five times (1956-60) and his stats are incredible: his 49 goals scored in 58 matches remained a record until 2005. His goals-per-game average of 0.84 remains unmatched. He is also the only player to score in five European Cup finals. 216 league goals with Real Madrid was the club record at the time. It lasted about 40 years. Di Stefano played for Real Madrid for 11 years, winning eight Spanish championships. Barcelona may be remorseful even today.
In 2000, he was appointed Honorary President of Real Madrid. In 2006, the Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium in Real Madrid City, Real Madrid’s training complex, was inaugurated. He passed away in 2014.
Di Stéfano was a complete footballer (defending, attacking, stopping goals, scoring goals, setting goals with pace, vision, power and all with a fighting spirit). His tactical prowess meant he could play anywhere on the football field.
Di Stefano was awarded the Golden Ball for the best player in Europe in 1957 and 1959.
In 2003, he was named the Golden Player of Spain by the Royal Spanish Football Federation as the most outstanding player of the past 50 years.
In 2000, a FIFA-appointed “Football Family” committee comprising football journalists, officials and coaches voted Pele the Player of the Century, with Di Stéfano coming in second. Pele himself said that Di Stefano was the best player “ever”.
Alfredo Di Stéfano’s resume may seem patchy with no World Cup appearances, but many have called him “the most complete player in the history of the game”.