Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema moved level with the legendary figure of Alfredo Di Stefano in La Liga’s scoring charts with a penalty against Villarreal on Saturday.
The reigning Ballon d’Or holder’s second-half spot-kick wasn’t enough to earn any points for Madrid. Carlo Ancelotti’s cosmopolitan side slipped to a 2-1 defeat away to Villarreal, squandering the chance to overtake Barcelona at La Liga’s summit.
While it may have been an afternoon of collective disappointment, Benzema departed with a significant feather in his cap. The Frenchman’s coolly taken penalty nudged his La Liga tally to a dizzying 227 goals in 424 appearances.
It only took Di Stefano 329 top-flight matches to rack up the same figure of goals, plundering his impressive haul between 1953 and 1966. 216 of Di Stefano’s La Liga strikes came while wearing the white shirt his exploits – and those of his fiendishly talented teammates – made famous. In the final two seasons of his career, Di Stefano scored 11 times in the league for Espanyol.
However, to limit any invariably inadequate appreciation of Di Stefano’s talent to just his goal tally would grossly overlook his impact all over the pitch.
As Di Stefano’s Brazilian teammate Canario explained: “I coincided with both Pele and Alfredo. And they were the best. But Alfredo was more complete. He was the number one.”
Juan Santisteban spent two decades as a player and coach at Real Madrid and was just as awestruck by the man known as the Blonde Arrow.
“Whatever people have told you about Alfredo Di Stefano,” he told Sid Lowe in Fear and Loathing in La Liga, “…ignore it. It is not enough. However good they say he was, he was better.”
In terms of pure La Liga goals, Benzema became Di Stefano’s equal on Saturday. Yet, the pair only find themselves joint-sixth on the all-time list of leading scorers.
Real Madrid’s former number seven Raul is perilously perched on 228 goals. The former Real and Atletico Madrid striker Hugo Sanchez (234) and Athletic Club icon Telmo Zarra (251) occupy fourth and third respectively behind the two greats of the modern era.
Cristiano Ronaldo racked up 311 La Liga goals (in just 292 games) before heading to Juventus in 2018. However, Lionel Messi sits in a league of his own at the top of the charts with an otherworldly 474 top-flight strikes – more than double the tally of Benzema and Di Stefano.