October 25, 2009

Real Madrid Legends

Santiago Bernabéu Yeste (1911-1928)

Santiago Bernabéu Yeste was born June 8 , 1895 in Almansa , province of Albacete , Spain and died June 2 , 1978 in Madrid . He was chairman of Real Madrid from 1943 to 1978. No other president kept the job for so long or led the club for so many titles as Bernabéu did.

Bernabéu first joined the club as player in 1912 . He retired from playing in 1927. In 1929 he joined the board of Real Madrid as secretary, job he would fulfill until 1935. In 1943 he was elected president, which he would remain until his death in 1978. As president of Real Madrid he is considered to have been one of the major forces behind the club's successes. He was responsible for the building of a large new stadium for the club in Chamartin. The stadium was finished in 1947 and renamed in 1953 in his honor: Estadio Santiago Bernabéu .

He was one of the creators of the European Cup, a competition which Real Madrid would dominate in its early stages thanks to the star players that Bernabéu had brought to the club. He died in 1978, while the World Cup was being played in Argentina . In his honor the FIFA decreed three days of mourning during the tournament. In 2002 he was posthumously awarded FIFA's Order of Merit.

Alfredo Di Stéfano (1953-1964)

Alfredo Di Stéfano (born July 4 , 1926 , at Barrancas , Argentina ), is a former Argentine-born footballer who played international football for Argentina , Colombia , and, most famously, Spain . Di Stéfano was a powerful forward with endless stamina and great tactical versatility, able to switch positions with ease, although he nominally played as an attacking forward. Di Stéfano considered by many to be one of the greatest players of all time. Today, he is honorary president of Real Madrid.

Born to a family of Italian immigrants, Di Stéfano's career started with River Plate in Argentina, in 1943 . He won six league titles in the first 12 years of his career in Argentina and Colombia (playing for the Millonarios in Bogota) before moving to Spain.

Di Stéfano's move to Spain was controversial. Barcelona originally signed the player from River Plate but the then Spanish government of Francisco Franco did not like the Catalan nationalism associated with the club, and decided to block the move. Barcelona bought out Di Stéfano's contract from River Plate, who he was actually contracted to, while Real Madrid, helped by the government, negotiated with the Millonarios that he was playing for. Enric Martí , the then president of Barcelona, was also reputedly threatened by the government, leading to Di Stéfano's "release".

Di Stéfano actually played three friendly matches for Barcelona before being moved to Madrid; Barcelona supporters are still upset at the fact that government maneouvering led to this move . The Spanish FA was also used by the government to help Di Stéfano move to Real Madrid, and they publically decided that the two clubs should share Di Stéfano. Barça refused, and he became part of one of the most successful club sides of all time, winning 5 European Cups in a row with Real Madrid and scoring in each final. After retirement, he moved into coaching. With Di Stéfano as coach, Valencia won the Spanish Cup in 1979, but he led Real Madrid to second place in five tournaments in 1983, losing the league title on the last day and being defeated in four cup finals! Di Stéfano is currently the 3rd highest scorer in the history of Spain's top division , with 228 goals in 329 games, behind Hugo Sánchez (234 goals) and Telmo Zarra (251). Di Stéfano is also Real Madrid's highest league goalscorer of all time, with 216 goals in 282 league matches between 1953 and 1964. Di Stéfano was named by Pelé as one of the top 125 greatest living footballers in March 2004.

Francisco Gento López

Francisco Gento López (born October 21 , 1933 in Guarnizo, Santander ) was a Spanish football player.

He débuted in the Primera División with Racing Santander in the 52-53 season. In the following year, he signed for Real Madrid and became a legendary player there, in the number 10 shirt. The Galerna del Cantábrico (The Storm of the Cantábrico ), as he was known, played outside left and was noted for his considerable ability when running with the ball. But he was not just gifted with immense speed, but also great skill. He captained a young side, known in Spain as Ye-yé , because of the popularity of The Beatles at that time.

Among other honours, he won the European Cup 6 times with Real Madrid, scoring 30 goals in 95 European games during his career. He also played for Spain from 1955 to 1969, winning 43 caps and scoring 5 times. He had a 62.79% win rate at international level. He has won six European Cups with Real Madrid (56-60, 65-66), competing in eight finals. 1Intercontinental Cup in 1960, won the league twelve times with Real Madrid. Twice won the Copa del Rey with Real Madrid.

After he retired from football in 1971 , he decided to take up coaching. He took charge of various lower-league teams, such as Castilla, Castellón, Palencia, and Granada. In the end, he accepted a post working as an embassador for Real Madrid throughout Europe.

Ferenc Puskás (1958-1967)

Ferenc Puskás (born April 2 , 1927 in Budapest ) was a Hungarian football player, nicknamed Puskás Öcsi ( öcsi means "little brother"). Puskas is a Real Madrid legend.

Also known as the "Galloping Major" because of the post he once held in the Hungarian army, Puskás possessed a ferocious left-footed shot (some claimed it was the most powerful ever seen on a left foot) and was the star of the Hungarian national team of the late 1940s and early 1950s (nicknamed the "Magnificent Magyars"), which many regarded as the finest national team of its time.

Although he left school at the age of 12, he was a professional football player as a teenager. Puskás started his club career with Budapesti Honvéd in 1943 . He moved to Real Madrid in 1958 , and played for them when they won the European Cup three times (1959, 1960 and 1966), including the classic final in 1960 when they beat Eintracht Frankfurt 7-3. Puskás scored four goals, with Alfredo Di Stefano scoring three. This Madrid team was considered one of the finest teams to ever assembled to play the game. In his club career, he apparently totalled 511 goals, a number believed to be third all-time behind Pelé and Josef Bican .

Because of political reasons Puskás left Hungary in 1956 and immigrated to Spain where he played in Real Madrid . Puskás also appeared four times for the Spanish national team in 1961 and 1962 , but did not score. His 83 international goals in 84 appearances were an all-time record (for men) until 2003 , when it was broken by Iran 's Ali Daei .

Puskás, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease , is one of the most famous living Hungarians and lives now in Budapest in a special care home. Hungary 's national stadium was renamed in his honor in 2001.

José Antonio Camacho Alfaro (1973-1989)

José Antonio Camacho Alfaro was born on 8th of June 1955 in Cieza (Murcia). He was the biggest star in Defense, Real Madrid ever had, when he was playing there for 15 years between (1974 and 1989) comming up from Castilla, RMs youth team in 1974. He played 698 (414 first division) games for RM and won with them 8 league titles (1975,1976,1978,1980,1986,1987,1988,1989), 2 UEFA Cups (1985,1986)..as he was part of the famous 'Quinta del Buitre', 5 Copas del Rey (1974,1975,1980,1982,1989), 1 spanish Supercopa (1988) and 1 Liga-Cup (1985).

In 1989 he finnished his active carreer but kept faith to football in becomming the coach of RMs youth, before he was sorted out to support Di Stefano coaching one year later. His coaching career led him to Rayo Vallecano, Espanyol (that he lead to promotion to La Liga) and Sevilla till he was supposed to give his come-back at the Bernabeu as coach. But after a row with now ex-president Lorenzo Sanz he stepped down after only 22 days.

His highlight has been so far the caretaking of the spanish national team (he himself was holding a record field games played for the national team with 81, only Hierro could overtake him in 2002 during the WC 2002), which he lead to the final stages in EC 2000 and WC 2002, still he was missing luck in these turnaments. After WC 2002 he went to coach Benfica to win the portuguise cup with them in 2004. Now he finally returned to the Bernabeu for the next 2 seasons.

Fernando Ruiz Hierro (1989-2003)

Fernando Hierro (born 23 March 1968 in Vélez-Málaga ) is a former Spanish player. He played as a defender for the Spanish national team and Real Madrid football club. He was also the captain of both teams. At his peak, Hierro's ability to combine solid defensive play with a near-unlimited passing range made him one of the world's most sought-after players.

With Real Madrid, Hierro won the Liga championship five times and the Champions League three times: 1998, 2000, and 2002.

He was released by Real Madrid at the end of the 2002-03 season. After playing for one year for Qatar club Al Rayyan , Hierro returned to Europe for the 2004-05 season, signing with English Premiership side Bolton Wanderers on the advice of his English team-mate at Real Madrid, Steve McManaman . He announced his retirement after one season in England and finished playing football on May 15th 2005. Hierro had made a great impact at Bolton playing in an anchor midfield role and consigning compatriot Ivan Campo to bench duty and manager Sam Allardyce would have loved him to stay on but Hierro had made up his mind to hang up his boots.

Hierro has been capped 89 times for Spain, a record for a Spanish outfield player, and has scored 29 goals. He played for his country in the 1994 , 1998 , and 2002 World Cups , as well as Euro 96 and Euro 2000 . At the time of the 2002 World Cup, he was the leading goalscorer for the Spanish national team. He retired from the national team in 2002 and was since replaced both as captain and as leading goalscorer by Raúl.

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