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 Posted by Dermot Corrigan
Jul 8, 2014

Ronaldo, Bale pay tribute to Di Stefano

ESPN FC's Raf Honigstein pays homage to Real Madrid great Alfredo Di Stefano who passed away at age 88.

Real Madrid captain Iker Casillas and galacticos Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale have continued the tributes to club legend Alfredo Di Stefano, who has died aged 88.

- Alvarez: Alfredo Di Stefano: 1926-2014
- Rigg: Di Stefano's lasting legacy in Madrid
- Vickery: Di Stefano: South America's greatest

Di Stefano passed away in a Madrid hospital on Monday, having suffered a heart attack while celebrating his 88th birthday last weekend.

Blancos president Florentino Perez called the Argentine-born former Spain international "the greatest player ever," while leading figures from Spanish, Argentine and world football have also been quick to remember a player who won five European Cups, eight La Liga trophies and two Ballon d'Or awards.

Thousands of fans are expected to say a final goodbye to Di Stefano at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, where his remains will be on public view all day Tuesday. Madrid players including Casillas will also be present, and the long-serving goalkeeper tweeted his thoughts on hearing the news on Monday evening:

"Rest in peace Don Alfredo, the greatest," Casillas said. "Legend of madridismo, with us always. I will always remember you maestro."

Cristiano Ronaldo also used twitter to communicate his sadness on hearing the news.

"It's a very sad day," Ronaldo said. "For me, for all the madridistas, for the world of football."

Gareth Bale said Di Stefano had been an inspiration during his first season at Madrid.

"Sadly another great leaves us," Bale said. "Don Alfredo was an inspiration to me,his spirit & memory will always be with us! Rest in peace #EternoAlfredo"

The news has also dominated the Spanish sporting press. Marca's front cover on Tuesday was a simple tribute, while AS showed Di Stefano celebrating a goal as a player with the headline: "Di Stefano -- from Madrid to heaven."

In Catalonia there was also an outpouring of support, with Mundo Deportivo bidding 'Goodbye to a Legend'.

Such widespread tributes were fitting for a man who had also played for River Plate, Millionarios of Bogota and Espanyol, and coached Elche, Boca Juniors, Valencia, Real Madrid, Sporting Lisbon, Rayo Vallecano, Castellon and River Plate.

Alfredo Di Stefano (July 4, 1926 - July 7, 2014)

• 308 goals in 11 seasons for Real Madrid.
• Two-time Ballon d'Or winner (1957, 1959).
• Eight La Liga titles, five European Cups with Madrid.
• Scored 50 goals in 60 European Cup matches.
• 31 international caps for Spain, scoring 23 goals.
• Argentina born, he also played six times for the Albiceleste
• Also played for River Plate, Millionarios (COL). Espanyol (ESP).
• Coached eight teams, including Real Madrid and Valencia.
• Real Madrid Castilla play at Alfredo di Stefano Stadium.

Madrid's rivals Barcelona and Atletico Madrid offered their condolences, as did many leading figures from the world of football including Lionel Messi, Pele, Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho, Diego Simeone and Sepp Blatter.

Among the tributes is a collection of archive footage compiled by Real Madrid TV which shows Di Stefano through six decades of association with the club, and ends with a moving clip taken from a biopic made in 1956.

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