Alfredo Di Stefano Passes Away at Age 88

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJuly 7, 2014

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Legendary Argentine star Alfredo Di Stefano has passed away at the age of 88.   

According to Dermot Corrigan of ESPN FC, Di Stefano suffered a heart attack on Saturday and never recovered.

Real Madrid confirmed the passing:

The club released an official statement on Monday, which read:

Real Madrid C. F. regrets to announce that its Honorary President, Alfredo Di Stefano, passed away today at 17:15 in the General Universitario Gregorio Maranon Hospital in Madrid. The President of Real Madrid C. F., Florentino Perez, and the club's Board of Directors would like to express their deepest sympathy and affection to his children, family and friends. Real Madrid C. F. extends these condolences to Madrid fans around the world and anyone who feels moved by the loss of the greatest player of all time. The President of Real Madrid C. F. will appear in the Santiago Bernabeu today at 19:00.

Former England international Gary Lineker was one of many football luminaries who saluted the five-time European Cup winner:

Current and former Real Madrid personnel also honored Di Stefano:

"I send his family and friends a hug and, of course, to all the Real Madrid fans, who are experiencing a very sad day," said Vicente del Bosque, former Madrid manager and current Spain boss, per the Spanish federation's official website.

Di Stefano's impact on football can't even be quantified. It could be argued that no one player—even Pele or Diego Maradona—has a larger footprint in the sport's history than Di Stefano.

He first made his name in South America with River Plate and then Millonarios during the "El Dorado" era of Colombian football. After winning three league titles with the Colombian side, he moved on to Real Madrid, where he helped determine the trajectory of European football for good.

While Di Stefano isn't solely responsible, he's one of the biggest reasons Real Madrid are a world power in the game. Two seasons after Di Stefano's arrival, Los Blancos won the first-ever European Cup and proceeded to win the next four.

Santiago Bernabeu—the club's president during Di Stefano's playing dayswas a visionary ahead of his time, but more than anything else, those five European titles helped put Real Madrid at the apex of the club game, a position from which they haven't fallen.

Di Stefano has the second-most goals in club history, behind only Raul, per ESPN Stats and Info:

The Score's Richard Whittall thought that it was fitting that Di Stefano featured on two of the greatest teams in their continent's respective histories:

The one glaring omission on Di Stefano's resume is that he never appeared in the World Cup. FIFA's rules regarding nationalities were a bit more lax back then, so he was allowed to play for Argentina, Colombia and Spain at the international level.

None of those teams qualified for the World Cup, though, meaning that one of the greatest players in football was never granted an opportunity to show off his talents on the world stage.

It's a testament to Di Stefano's ability that he carries such weight in the game despite that fact. A player's World Cup record is often a determinant in his overall legacy, and without success in the tournament, one generally isn't considered to be one of the greats.

Di Stefano's talent and impact have never been in doubt, though. The football world has lost a giant of the game with his passing.