While we all know, to an extent, the kind of influence that Alfredo di Stefano had on shaping Madrid in to the world leader and sporting powerhouse that they are today, Alfredo's route to the Bernabeu was not as smooth as his transition from Madrid new boy to Galactico hero was. The times you have heard his name mentioned probably failed to mention that he actually wanted a move to Barcelona before some of the strangest happenings intervened and landed him to Madrid.
Even prior to his love affair with Spain his services were highly sought after, and from being a River Plate player with a contract with another club – Millonarios of Colombia – it took Alfredo quite some time and endless hassle before he started breaking records in Madrid.
Most past players go out of their way to mention that the rivalry was not political and for them it probably wasn't, but it's definitely one of the fiercest rivalries in the history of football, and just like any feud there are escalating points to bring a rivalry to what it is today. My first piece focused on the 11-1 defeat that Madrid put on Barecelona in 1943 and moving one step forward we come to a man that history will never forget, Alfredo di Stefano.
With Barcelona missing their great white hope in Laszlo Kubala due to a lung infection, they turned their attention to di Stefano who, at this point, was ready for pastures anew. When he landed in Spain, he told his previous employers that he would rather retire than return to Argentina or Colombia to play football and wanted a switch to Barcelona immediately.
Real Madrid were still in the hunt, but it was still some time before they got fully involved – although many claim that with Franco bribing anyone and everyone involved, they were already heavily involved. Franco was said to have bribed the negotiators to low-ball the colombian Club Millonarios in order for them to grow frustrated and look to Madrid instead. Whether or not it is true – and history books say that it is – it certainly worked that way.
Millonarios were tired of Barcelona's bullying tactics and were not interested in the figures that Barcelona had been throwing their direction. Due to lack of communications back in 1953 – we can only assume they were disastrous, given the fact that even today in the age of technology they are still piss poor – FIFA signed off on the deal but were unaware that Millonarios had flatly rejected Barcelona's offer. Although he did line up for Barcelona in two friendlies before Franco again stepped in, this time in the form of the Spanish Federation, he had no control over FIFA and this is why they were not and could not be influenced by Franco's demands.
So, when the Spanish Federation (Franco) found out about this, they forbid the transfer and all foreign transfers for that matter. But Real Madrid had already taken advantage of Barcelona's stalling and reached an agreement with Millonarios and River Plate for the player, thus involving them completely in the whole saga and giving them the upper hand given the fact that all monies and agreements had been arranged.
With Madrid now in the driving seat, The Spanish Federation then decided that di Stefano COULD play in Spain but he would have to timeshare between both clubs, one or two years with Madrid and then up north to play for Barcelona for a year or two. In reality, everybody knew this would not happen, and when the Board of Directors in Barcelona refused to agree to this arrangement there was only one option and that was for Santiago Bernabeu to step in and offer di Stefano a permanent home in the Spanish capital.
The "blond arrow" as he was known went on to score 216 goals for Real Madrid on his way to winning 8 La Liga titles and 5 european cups in a row. Needless to say, this is a record that has never been broken. I wish to weigh in and say that it never will be broken either.
The squabbling between Madrid and Barcelona and the knowledge that somewhere behind the scenes Franco was placing his influence on negotiators and lawyers meant the rivalry became that little bit more bitter and did a lot to turn El Classico into the rivalry we know today.