The Northern Territory news Wed 9 Jul 2014
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42 SPORT WEDNESDAY JULY 9 2014 NTNE01Z01MA - V1 World mourns death of Real legend Di Stefano TRIBUTES flowed as quickly as the news of Alfredo Di Stefanos death spread across continents, with Pele joining modern stars Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi among the thousands praising the Real Madrid great as a luminary of the game. Di Stefano, the Argentine forward who helped lead Madrid in its glorious era in the 1950s and 60s, passed away yesterday aged 88, two days after he was hospitalised following a heart attack. Don Alfredo leaves us, but his memory will last forever in our hearts, Real Madrid star Ronaldo wrote on Twitter. Legends never die. Thanks for everything Maestro. Messi, the Barcelona star who is in Brazil preparing to lead Argentina into the World Cup semi-finals against Netherlands, said: The world lost a legend today, Don Alfredo Di Stefano. An amazing man on and off the field, Messi added in a Facebook post. My thoughts are with his family and friends. Pele posted a tribute on Twitter from Brazil, saying the the openness between Latin American players and European clubs is very much due to the work of Alfredo Di Stefano. He was a trailblazer, and most of all, he was a legend of the game. God rest his soul. Footballs official hierarchy responded swiftly to note Di Stefanos contribution to the game, with FIFA president Sepp Blatter describing him as his favourite player and the most complete player Ive seen. French great and European football chief Michel Platini praised Di Stefano for revolu tionising football. He won everyones hearts with his brilliance as part of the legendary Real Madrid team that left its indelible mark on European football, Platini said. He was superb technically, possessed outstanding speed, and was a splendid goalscorer. Together with his gifted teammates, he helped invent modern football. He embodied all that is magical about football, in Europe and across the world. In a club that has been home to some of the worlds leading players, Real Madrids website trumpeted Di Stefano as the best player of all time, putting him above other leading players and galaticos to have donned the clubs allwhite uniform, which include Ferenc Puskas, Raul Gonzalez, and Zinedine Zidane among others. Dubbed La Saeta Rubia or The Blonde Arrow for his speed, Di Stefano helped Madrid win five straight European club titles, from 1956-60, and eight Spanish league titles. He was voted European player of the year in 1957 and 59 and was named Real Madrids honorary president in 2000. The clubs president, Florentino Perez, said: Real Madrids best player has left us. He changed the history of this club and the history of football as well. He helped transform this club into the biggest sporting institution in the world. Spain coach Vicente del Bosque recalled playing for Di Stefano after he returned to coach Madrid. I had him as a coach at the end of my playing career, he said. I knew him well and of course I lament his passing away very much. Stars in semi-final hot seat Robben is ready to edge rival FORMER Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk is betting on Arjen Robben to outshine Lionel Messi as the Netherlands prepare to take on Argentina for a place in the World Cup final tomorrow morning. The diving controversies which have shrouded Robbens campaign in Brazil cannot mask the fact the Bayern Munich star has been Hollands most consistently effective attacker. And that leaves van Marwijk confident the Dutch are holding the trump card heading into the battle with Messi and Argentina in Sao Paulo. Argentina have got Messi, weve got Robben. And quite frankly, I think the better player is Arjen, said van Marwijk, Hollands coach at the last World Cup in South Africa four years ago. When I see how Robben is playing in this tournament, I have to admit Im a little bit jealous. Theres a big difference to 2010, van Marwijk told Dutch television. Four years ago, Arjen was injured just before the start of the tournament in a friendly against Hungary. He was carrying the injury for the whole tournament and was never really 100 per cent. But this year hes been unstoppable. With Robben in his current form, many believe the Dutch can dream of winning the World Cup after three previous defeats in the final. Dutch striker Arjen Robben is in the form of his life and could take Holland into the World Cup final by beating Argentina Argentina captain Lionel Messi has been leading by example at this World Cup and is the undoubted danger man for Holland Messi and his coach are magic WHEN Alejandro Sabella was handed the task of reviving Argentinas fortunes after a poor campaign at the 2011 Copa America, not everyone in his homeland was convinced he was the right man. I dont know why they chose him. I dont know what his project is, said the legendary 1978 World Cup-winning coach Cesar Menotti. Three years later and Sabellas appointment is starting to look like a stroke of genius by his bosses at the Argentina FA. Under Sabella nicknamed El Mago (the magician) during his playing days Argentina have developed into a formidable side. They may have won all their matches by just one goal margins but they have shown a mental strength that was singularly lacking four years ago under the unpredictable Diego Maradona. Some have queried if the team relies too much on fourtime world footballer of the year Lionel Messi, but if that is the case, it only goes to prove that Sabella took the right decision when he took over at the helm by swiftly installing him as captain. The results have been spectacular, with Messi for the first time consistently producing his sparkling Barcelona form in Argentinas colours, with four goals alone at the finals. Hes the water in the desert. He finds solutions when we think there arent any, Sabella said. Barca fans chomping for Suarez LUIS Suarez is yet to complete his 63 million ($A108 million) move to Barcelona, but that hasnt stopped one merchandiser in Spain pre-empting the Uruguayans arrival. The Liverpool striker is expected to leave Anfield this summer after being handed a four-month worldwide ban which means he is unable to play competitively until Octo ber, and Barcelona are reportedly in talks to sign the 27year-old. As negotiations continue, it appears that a sports shop in Barcelona, Futbol Mania, has taken a bold step in the shirtselling race to be the first ones to sell a Suarez shirt. Bold indeed, given that they are said to have printed shirts with Suarez 9 on the back which is currently Alexis Sanchezs shirt number. Meanwhile, Liverpool look set to sign Benficas Lazar Markovic and Lilles Divock Origi. Serbian winger Markovic could complete a move to Anfield in a deal understood to be worth about $A43 million. Belgian striker Origi could also be heading to Liverpool in a $A17 million deal with Lille. Free agent Cole secures Roma deal ROMA says veteran English defender Ashley Cole has joined the Italian capital club. The left back Cole, 33, was a free agent after his Chelsea contract expired. He had been restricted to 17 English Premier League appearances last season. Roma said yesterday on its website that Coles two-year contract has the option to ex tend it for a further season. Cole, who earned 107 caps for England, retired from international football in May after being passed over for the World Cup in Brazil. Cole won the Premier League, Champions League, Europa League and four FA Cups at Chelsea, which he joined contentiously from Arsenal in 2006. Meanwhile, former Blackpool player Tom Ince, who spent the end of last EPL season with Crystal Palace on loan, has joined Hull. Ince, 22, embarked on a trip to Italy in a blaze of publicity. But the player said that he rejected the chance of following in his father Pauls footsteps by playing for Italian club Inter Milan. CUP SCHEDULE 2014 FIFA World Cup Semi-Final: Argentina v Holland in Sao Paulo (5.30am)