Football loses its ‘Fantastic Four’


Pelé, the last of the greatest legends to die in just over eight years, after Di Stéfano, Cruyff and Maradona

In just over eight years, football has lost its ‘Fantastic Four’, those who are considered the greatest players of all time along with or after Leo Messi. Pelé is the last of the greatest legends to die, after Alfredo Di Stéfano, Johan Cruyff and Diego Armando Maradona, a mythical poker player who took football to a level of excellence on the pitch for more than half a century. Since Di Stéfano made his debut in the elite in 1945 until Maradona played his last match in 1997. All except Pelé were also coaches after retiring from professional football.

The greatest stars of the past, who have not stopped fueling the eternal debate about who is number one in history, passed away due to various circumstances. Pelé and Cruijff because of cancer, colon cancer in the Brazilian and lung cancer in the Dutchman. Di Stéfano and Maradona, due to cardiac arrest, although in the case of Pelusa his health deteriorated for years, until he died on November 25, 2020 at the age of 60. Di Stéfano died on November 7, 2014 when he had just turned 88, and in Cruyff’s case on March 24, 2016, when he was 68.

Only two years have passed between the deaths of Maradona and Pelé, emblems of Argentina and Brazil respectively, and greatest exponents of two generations who became world champions at the hands of the former footballer from Boca, Barça and Napoli, among others, and the ex-player from Santos. Di Sféfano, who defended the Argentina shirt in just six games for the Spanish, never won the planetary title, nor did Cruyff, world champion in 1974 in charge of the Netherlands. Di Stéfano (twice with Real Madrid) and Cruyff (three times, once with Ajax and twice with Barca) also boasted the Ballon d’Or, which recognizes the most outstanding footballers of the year active in Europe. .

None of the deaths of the four football geniuses were sudden, even though Maradona died at such a young age, after a life of excess. Di Stéfano could not bear a final heart attack in a hospital in Madrid; Cruyff did so surrounded by his family in Barcelona after his battle with cancer, which he announced he was suffering from five months before his death; Maradona, victim of his addiction to cocaine and other drugs, in a clinic in Buenos Aires for cardiac arrest after major surgery; and Pelé at a Sao Paulo hospital for the tumor discovered in September 2021. Before O Rei, football and sport were orphaned by three unrepeatable figures who showed a talent destined for the chosen few on the pitches and left a legacy that, in the case of Di Stéfano and Cruyff, marked the history of Real Madrid and Ajax respectively and Barça, and in the case of Maradona, those of Argentina and Napoli.

Alfredo di Stefano

When he died, he was honorary president of Real Madrid, with whom he won five European Cups as a footballer, the first five in history. The Spanish-Argentine player was the forerunner of total football, with an extraordinary physical performance that enabled him to play and dominate in any position on the pitch, where he also showed great goal-scoring ability. He revolutionized football in the 1950s and 1960s, becoming Real Madrid’s most legendary footballer, a deadly striker who commanded and directed as well as dedicating himself to defence. The Saeta Rubia had less technical quality than Maradona, but his physique and his ability to define in front of goal made him exalted at the time under the leadership of the fighting spirit, hard work and speed. He also won eight league titles with Real Madrid before ending his career as a footballer with Espanyol and later transferring his knowledge from the bench to Boca, Valencia or the Merengue team.

Johan Cruijff

Also with a strong personality, Johan Cruijff was unique as a footballer, leader of Clockwork Orange and as a coach, creator of the Dream Team. It was the Dutchman who guided Barça to their first European Cup victory in 1992 after winning three in a row as an Ajax footballer, where as an organizing midfielder and winger he amazed with his ability to control and overwhelm the wing with its class , projection offensive and vertigo towards the opposite target. With Ajax and the Netherlands, he represented total football that led his country to the final of the World Cup in Germany-74, and from the bench he was another revolutionary, lover of the touch that made Barca reach heaven, forever grateful for such a legacy dimension as Cruijff gave him. His philosophy of the game, the football that also embodied Pep Guardiola, will never be forgotten by Barcelona fans.

Diego Armando Maradona

The star who had the world at his feet left without warning, though his downfall presaged a tragic and untimely death after celebrating so much on and off the pitch. He made Argentina champion in Mexico-86 with the ‘hand of God’ and with the best goal in World Cup history, and also gave Napoli four titles, including the UEFA Cup, but he lived to the fullest. Alcohol and drugs ended a man who had always been successful, only to be abandoned when he chose the wrong path. Too many times, until his heart couldn’t take it anymore, after getting up so many times. Eternal hero in his country, who became the undisputed king of football out of poverty with a magical game and a miraculous left foot, could not win his last match. “I was wrong and I paid, but the ball does not stain,” Maradona tearfully announced in 2001 in the Bombonera de Boca, where a footballer from another dimension said goodbye.

Source: La Verdad


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