Real Madrid CF paid homage to the legendary Alfredo Di Stéfano, as his successors in the white shirt defeated CA River Plate 3-1 in the Trofeo Bernabéu on Tuesday night.
In the 25th edition of the tournament, Madrid took on the another of Di Stéfano's old clubs, Argentina's River Plate, at the Santiago Bernabéu. The Spanish champions had chosen this date for the match, rather than in its regular August slot, to mark the 50th anniversary of Di Stéfano's presentation as a Madrid player.
A virtuoso strike from Santiago Solari and two neat goals from Javier Portillo led Madrid to victory. Before the match the 77-year-old Di Stéfano, accompanied by his grandchildren, was presented with a commemorative plaque. Although Madrid rested several first-team players, several of Di Stéfano's modern-day counterparts were on show including Zinedine Zidane, David Beckham and Roberto Carlos as well as 17-year-old Jurado, who was making his senior debut.
Appropriately enough it was former River Plate midfield player Solari who opened the scoring with a brilliant solo goal ten minutes into the second half. Beating one defender with a neat drag-back, checking his way past another and finishing off with a powerful close-range shot high into the net - the Argentinian's effort was a goal worthy of the occasion. Five minutes later reserve striker Portillo, who was deputising for the absent Ronaldo, headed in at the far post from Jurado's free-kick to make it 2-0. Soon after he nodded in his second.
The Argentinian champions scored a consolation goal ten minutes from time when midfield player Luis González rifled in a shot from the edge of the area. The club's honorary president since 2000, Di Stéfano is regarded by many as Madrid's greatest player of all time, helping the Merengues to win eight Spanish titles and five European Champion Clubs' Cups.
'La Saeta Rubia'
Born on 4 July 1926 to Italian parents in Buenos Aires, Di Stéfano joined Argentinian champions River Plate at 15. He soon carved out a place in the forward line alongside strikers Adolfo Pedernera and Ángel Labruna, earning the nickname La Saeta Rubia - The Blond Arrow - for his darting runs in attack.
Having played for River Plate, CA Huracán and Colombian side CD Los Millionarios, Di Stéfano moved to Madrid in 1953, helping them to reach unprecedented heights in his eleven-year stay. In addition to those Spanish titles and European Cups, Di Stéfano's honours included two European Footballer of the Year awards, in 1957 and 1959.
He hung up his boots in 1964 but returned to the game in 1970 to coach CA Boca Juniors. After winning the Argentinian title in his first year he moved back to Spain to guide Valencia CF to their second league title in 1971. Di Stéfano stayed at the Mestalla until 1980 when he went back to Argentina to coach River. He said recently: "
My life is football - before, after and always."
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