Alfredo Di Stefano: Real Madrid legend dies at the age of 88

Real Madrid legend Alfredo Di Stefano, regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, has died.

The 88-year-old suffered a heart attack on Saturday and had been in an induced coma in Madrid's Gregorio Maranon hospital.

Real Madrid confirmed the news, saying Di Stefano, their honorary president, died at 17:15 CET (16:15 BST).

The forward won five straight European Cups, scoring in each final between 1956 and 1960.

Former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson told BBC Radio 5 live Di Stefano was "without question in that group of great, great players".

He recalled Di Stefano's "wonderful balance and poise" when he watched him at Hampden Park in the 1960 European Cup final.

"In the semi-final, Eintracht Frankfurt beat Rangers and we looked upon Eintracht as almost certain to win the cup - but Real Madrid were a special team," he said.

"I had the pleasure as a young man of being influenced by the great Real Madrid and Di Stefano. His head was up all the time. He was such a fantastic footballer.

"For Real Madrid, it is a terrible loss because his presence was always there."

Alfredo Di Stefano's honours

Five European Cups

1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960 (Real Madrid)

Eight Spanish leagues

1954, 1955, 1957, 1958, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964 (Real Madrid)

One Spanish Cup

1962 (Real Madrid)

One Intercontinental Cup

1960 (Real Madrid)

Two Argentine leagues

1945, 1947 (River Plate)

One America Cup

1947 (River Plate)

Four Colombian leagues

1949, 1951, 1952, 1953 (Millonarios Bogota)

Sir Bobby Charlton, who played against him for Manchester United, said Di Stefano was one of the best players he ever saw.

"The footballing world has lost a great player and a great man," Charlton, a director at United, said.

"I have many fond memories of my time with Alfredo and feel privileged to be able to call him a good friend."

Uefa president Michel Platini said Di Stefano had helped revolutionise football. "He won everyone's hearts with his brilliance as part of the legendary Real Madrid team. Together with his gifted teammates, he helped invent modern football. He embodied all that is magical about football."

Brazil legend Pele added:  "He was a trailblazer, and most of all, he was a legend of the game. God rest his soul."

Alfredo Di Stefano

As Real honorary club president, Di Stefano oversaw signings such as Ronaldo in 2002

Real president Florentino Perez said he and the club's board would "like to express deepest condolences and all their love and affection to his children, their families and friends". In a statement   the club said Di Stefano was "the greatest player of all time".

In addition to his European Cup successes, the Argentina-born player won eight Spanish league titles and was voted European player of the year in 1957 and 1959.

He left Real in 1964 at the age of 38, having scored more than 300 goals across 11 seasons.

Di Stefano played at international level for three nations but never appeared at the World Cup.

He won six caps for Argentina and played four times for Colombia during a spell in that country's league. However, his Colombia caps are not officially recognised by Fifa.

Alfredo di Stefano

Argentina-born Alfredo Di Stefano won 31 caps for Spain

In 1954 Fifa said he could not play for Spain, but reversed that decision in 1957 after he gained citizenship and he went on to win 31 caps, scoring 23 goals.

As a manager, Di Stefano led Boca Juniors and River Plate to Argentine league titles, and won La Liga and the Copa del Rey with Valencia.

He had spells at Sporting Lisbon, Rayo Vallecano and Castellon before taking over at Real in 1982.

During his two-year tenure at the Bernabeu, the club were runners-up in five competitions, including the 1983 Cup Winners' Cup, in which they lost the final to an Aberdeen side managed by Ferguson.

Di Stefano managed Real again for five months from 1990, winning the Spanish Super Cup against Barcelona. He became honorary Real president in 2000.

Football world reacts to Di Stefano's death

Fifa president Sepp Blatter: "Sad to learn of Di Stefano's passing, the most complete player I've seen. My favourite player. A legend is gone. RIP."

Argentina and Barcelona forward Lionel Messi: "The world lost a legend today. An amazing man on and off the field."

Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo: "It's a very sad day. For me, for all the Madridistas, for the world of football."

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho: "This is a very sad day for football and football fans when we lose a special person like this."

Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos: "RIP Sir Alfredo Di Stefano. I will never forget each of the shared moments with such a football legend."

Alfredo Di Stefano

Di Stefano spent eight years playing for River Plate in Argentina and Millonarios in Colombia before moving to Madrid in 1953

Alfredo Di Stefano

Di Stefano's Real side is regarded as one of the greatest club teams of all time

Alfredo Di Stefano

Di Stefano scores Real's second in the 7-3 win over Eintracht Frankfurt in the 1960 European Cup final at Hampden Park

Alfredo Di Stefano

Di Stefano has said that Zinedine Zidane is the modern-day player most like him in his prime