Real Madrid 5-0 Barcelona, 5 October 1953
The transfer wrangle between Barcelona and Real Madrid for the signature of Alfredo di Stefano was one of the most complex in the history of the game. Indeed, both of the illustrious Spanish clubs thought they’d signed the man nicknamed as the “blonde arrow” at one point.
First it was Barcelona that looked to have tied down a complex deal. Di Stefano was playing for Colombian side Millonarios, having walked out on Argentinean club River Plate. But because the Colombian top flight wasn’t recognized by FIFA at the time, sorting out a transfer for the then 25-year-old was an administrational nightmare.
But such was Di Stefano’s talent—he had shone in a tournament at Real’s former home, the Estadio Chamartin in 1952, scoring two goals against Los Blancos—the Blaugrana were keen on getting a deal done. In 1953, the Catalonians agreed a deal in principle with Millonarios, but not with River Plate; nonetheless, Di Stefano set off for Catalonia, playing in some pre-season friendly games for what looked set to be his new club.
Real still made moves to accrue the Argentine’s services, though. They made their own bid to Millonarios for Di Stefano, Barcelona then made a substantial bid to River in an attempt to expedite the transfer process, but eventually the Spanish federation put a law in place banning the purchase of foreign players.
However, when Juventus looked to be on the cusp of landing Di Stefano, the regime changed their minds and such was the convoluted web of confusion surrounding the deal, they even suggested the two clubs share the player, with him altering allegiances between seasons.
Programming note: Soccer fans in the US, watch el Clasico between Barcelona and Real Madrid on Sunday, March 22 at 4PM ET on beIN SPORTS. If you don’t get beIN SPORTS, watch it live (and legally) via DishWorld for just $10/month for La Liga, Serie A, Ligue Un coverage and more. Watch DishWorld on your phone, computer, tablet or Roku. Plus, in addition to La Liga, Serie A and more, you’ll get Chelsea TV, Arsenal TV, Bayern Munich TV and more.
However, Barcelona eventually grew tired of the petty politics surrounding the player—which actually involved intervention from the Franco government, as noted in Sid Lowe’s fine book Fear and Loathing in La Liga—withdrew from the race and paved the way for Di Stefano to join Real.
As they say, the rest is history. The Argentine didn’t take long to show Barcelona what they had been missing either. Just a fortnight on from becoming an official Real Madrid player, the two rivals met at the Chamartin and Di Stefano ran the show, scoring four goals in a magnificent 5-0 win for Los Blancos.
The Argentine helped Madrid assert a longstanding dominance over Barcelona and the rest of European football too. Real took part in the maiden running of the European Cup in 1956 and after winning the inaugural edition of the competition, inspired by Di Stefano they romped to the next four trophies as well.
Di Stefano also won eight league titles during his time as a Real Madrid player, spending over a decade at the club and scoring in excess of 300 goals for the Spanish giants. He’s rightly revered as one of the finest footballers of all time, but as is abundantly clear, things could have been so much different had he ended up in Catalonia.
Follow Matt on Twitter @MattJFootball
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