As far as Real Madrid are concerned, there is no debate – Alfredo Di Stefano was, simply, "the best footballer of all-time".
So reads the headline the club put atop their profile of him on their official website.
It is easy to see why as Di Stefano, who died yesterday in hospital at the age of 88 two days after suffering a heart attack, could hardly have had a more successful time than he did during his 11-season stint as a player with the Spanish giants that came to an end in 1964.
With the forward as their inspiration, Real won the Primera Liga eight times over the period.
More famously, they claimed five successive European Cups from 1955/56 to 1959/60, Di Stefano scoring in each final and notching a hat-trick in the last one.
In total he netted more than 300 times for Madrid – although, in the words of the club, the 1957 and 1959 Ballon d’Or winner was not just a goalscorer but a player who could “attack, defend and play well everywhere”, as well as “a leader on and off the pitch”.
Even before he joined the club – victors of a hard-fought battle with Spanish rivals Barcelona for his signature – in 1953, Di Stefano had a considerable list of honours to his name.
Born in Argentina in 1926, he went on to make his breakthrough at River Plate and was soon winning the league with them.
Further titles followed after he departed his native country because of a football strike there to play in Colombia with Millonarios.
The move to Spain then came about and he was integral as Real established themselves as a fearsome force at home and abroad, before he concluded his playing days at Espanyol.
Curiously, although Di Stefano was capped by the national teams of all three countries he played club football in, for various reasons he never featured at a World Cup finals.
The most caps he won were for Spain, with 31.
Di Stefano also enjoyed success as a coach, guiding both Boca Juniors and River Plate to silverware in Argentina and then, having returned to Spain, taking Valencia to the 1970/71 Spanish title. After coaching spells at Sporting Lisbon, Rayo Vallecano and Castellon, he went back to Valencia and led them to victory in the 1979/80 European Cup Winners’ Cup.
Then came a return to Madrid in 1982 for a tenure that proved a series of near-misses over two seasons, with the club finishing as runners-up in five competitions.
But a further brief period with him in charge at the Bernabeu from November 1990 saw him oversee Madrid’s Spanish Super Cup victory against Barcelona.
It seemed only right that there was a trophy of some description included within this, his final stint on the front line for Madrid.
It was not the end for his association with Madrid, though.
He was very much a part of the club until his dying day, having been their honorary president since 2000 – a formal recognition of his status, already long secured, as a true great.
Tributes and condolences poured in from sporting personalities around the world and clubs including Barcelona, which wrote “Rest in peace” on Twitter.
Spain’s national coach Vicente del Bosque paid tribute to Di Stefano, who scored 23 goals for Spain.
“I had him as a trainer in the last stage of my career. I knew him well, so of course I am extremely sorry to lose him,” Del Bosque said.
Former Real Madrid striker Gonzalo Higuain, who scored Argentina’s goal in their 1-0 World Cup quarter-finals win over Belgium on Saturday, said on Twitter: “A great one has left us. Thanks for everything.”
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