Di Stefano leaves intensive care after heart surgery

January 3, 2006

MADRID, Jan 3 (Reuters) - Real Madrid's honorary president and record goal scorer Alfredo Di Stefano left the intensive care unit of a Valencia hospital on Tuesday after continuing to make good progress following quadruple heart bypass surgery.

'The patient is continuing to improve and his kidneys are functioning almost normally,' the medical services of La Fe hospital said in a statement.

'He has been transferred from the recovery unit to a normal hospital ward, although because he needs to rest visits to the patient will be restricted.'

The 79-year-old former player underwent the surgery last week after suffering a heart attack on Dec. 24.

Widely regarded as one of the greatest players in the history of the game, Di Stefano led Real Madrid to five consecutive European Cup triumphs between 1956 and 1960 and was voted European Footballer of the Year in 1957 and 1959.

As well as his European triumphs with Real, Di Stefano also won eight Spanish league titles, the World Club Cup and the King's Cup before joining Barcelona-based Espanyol after falling out with president Santiago Bernabeu in 1964.

Born of Italian parents in Buenos Aires, Di Stefano played for Argentina and Spain during his 22-year career and retired at the age of 40 in 1967.