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  • They Played At Paradise - Alfredo Di Stefano

    They Played At Paradise - Alfredo Di Stefano

    By: Joe Sullivan on 28 Mar, 2020 12:01

  • HERE we revisit a Celtic View series that looked at just some of the famous names that have graced the hallowed turf of Paradise with visiting teams down through the years.

    First up is Real Madrid legend, Alfredo Di Stefano.

    When did he play at Paradise?
    On September 10, 1962 in a special match between Celtic and Real Madrid to raise money for the Jewish National Fund Charitable Trust, while helped refugee women and children in Europe and North Africa. The teams played for the Blue and White Cup and a total of £10,000 was raised for the charity. As well as Di Stefano, Real also boasted the likes of Ferenc Puskas and Paco Gento in their ranks and it was no surprise they ran out winners by three goals to one, Stevie Chalmers netting Celtic’s consolation strike. He also had another goal disallowed.

    So how good was Di Stefano?
    For those who saw him play, he was among the best, and perhaps even the greatest of them all. He won five consecutive European Cups with Real Madrid between 1955-60, including the famous 7-3 victory over Eintracht Frankfurt at Hampden in 1960, and played top-flight football until he was 40. He was twice voted European Player of the Year – in 1957 and 1959. Diego Maradona said of him: “I don’t know if I had been a better player than Pele, but I can say without any doubt that Di Stefano was better than Pele.”

    He could have worn the Hoops?
    Apparently so. In August 1964, Celtic manager Jimmy McGrory, accompanied by defender, John Cushley made the trip to Spain in a bid to sign Di Stefano, who was now 38. Cushley acted as translator during the visit. Unfortunately, Celtic were unable to persuade Di Stefano to end his career at Paradise.

    The Real legend could have been a Barcelona player?
    A decision up there with the infamous Decca Records one to reject an unknown beat combo from Liverpool called The Beatles. Both Barcelona and Real Madrid owned shares in Di Stefano following ‘negotiations’ in South America with his former clubs, but Barca, unimpressed by the player’s early performances, proposed they both sell their shares to Juventus. Real disagreed and eventually bought out Barca. The day after the deal was finalised, Di Stefano played for Real against Barca – scoring four goals in a 5-0 victory.

    He was a man of many nationalities?
    Di Stefano represented three countries – his native Argentina and then Colombia, for whom he played four times. And’ after moving to Real in 1954, he played for Spain, though because of his previous record, it would be a further two years before FIFA cleared him to play for Spain. For such a great player, however, he never appeared in the World Cup finals.

    And another thing …
    When Alfredo Di Stefano retired at the age of 40, a special farewell match was arranged in Madrid on June 7, 1967, and it was the newly-crowned European Champions who provided the opposition. Jock Stein took his triumphant Celtic side to Madrid to pay tribute to a great footballer. However, it was a diminutive genius in green and white Hoops who stole the show. Jimmy Johnstone put on a breath-taking performance that had the Spanish crowd chanting “Ole! Ole!” and the Madrid players reluctant to go near him in the second-half. Celtic won 1-0 thanks to a Bobby Lennox goal. It may well have been Di Stefano’s night, but it was definitely Jinky’s game

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