ALFREDO DI STEFANO is one of the game’s greatest-ever players.
A football pioneer whose performances in the European Cup helped launch a competition which was seen by many as dangerous — and transformed Real Madrid into the world’s first super club.
Di Stefano was the spearhead as Los Blancos won the first FIVE tournaments.
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He netted in every final, capping it off with a hat-trick in 1960.
But things could have been very different.
Di Sefano’s move to Madrid is shrouded in mystery — a story riddled with treachery, conspiracy theories and rumours of the personal intervention of Spanish fascist dictator, Francisco Franco.
In 1952, the Argentina-born 25-year-old was in Spain for a friendly tournament while playing for Colombian side, Millonarios.
Already boasting an impressive scoring record of almost a goal-a-game, Di Stefano shone — and immediately attracted the interest of Barcelona.
However, any deal to sign the man who had represented both Argentina and Colombia at international level, would prove complicated.
Di Stefano’s rights were also claimed by River Plate, who were less than delighted when the player fled to Millonarios three years earlier following a footballers’ strike in his homeland.
Barca used the help of a Catalan living in Colombia called Joan Busquets to negotiate the terms.
However, he was a director of Millonarios’ biggest rivals, Santa Fe, and his presence made the Colombians reluctant to agree a deal — and they rejected an initial surprisingly low offer.
Despite this setback, Barca saw River Plate as the only club they needed to do business with and proceeded with negotiations.
The Catalan giants refused to take the rejection seriously, and arranged for Di Stefano to move to Spain in 1953.
The Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) were forced to intervene on that grounds that Millonarios had not sanctioned the deal.
Barca argued they were now the legal owners of Di Stefano’s registration, having reached an agreement with River Plate.
In the meantime, Real president Santiago Bernabeu stepped in to take advantage of the uncertainty — and reached an agreement with Millonarios.
The RFEF then reached a bizarre verdict in the summer of 1953, stating the player could play for both clubs in alternate seasons, starting with Real.
Barca president Marti Carreto was forced to resign in the humiliation that ensued — and ripped up Di Stefano’s contract, freeing him to move to Madrid for good.
The fearsome attacker had featured in two friendlies for the Catalans.
But just why couldn’t Barca reach an agreement with Millonarios? And why wouldn’t the RFEF sanction a deal which had already been OK’d by Fifa?
One of the possible theories is the intervention of the Franco.
Enemies of the Spanish dictator claim Real Madrid were his favoured team — they were also known as the ‘Regime Team’ — throughout the 1950s.
Franco was anti-Catalonia and was proven to have had dealings with Real president, Bernabeu.
The dictator — who governed Spain from 1939 to 1975 — also had a great deal of influence on the RFEF.
Barcelona claim they were the victims of dark governmental forces.
Their official website claims “a strange federative manoeuvre with Francoist backing” scuppered the deal.
On top of all that, it is alleged that the Barca chief scout, Josep Samitier, was a Franco spy. The notorious playboy funded his lifestyle through the dictator’s bribes.
While one of the key reasons for the Catalans failing to agree a deal with Millonarios, appears to have been the intriguingly low offer made by Joan Busquets.
And he was later accused to have purposely bid so little as he was secretly working for men for the capital.
Di Stefano would play his first Clasico just a month after moving to Madrid — and netted four in a 5-0 victory.