El Clásico is without a doubt the biggest club game in the world. Across Spain, and indeed around the globe, millions tune in their TV to watch some of the greatest players display their skills as Barcelona play Real Madrid. Apart from those lucky enough to be in the stadium watching it, of course! Could that be you?
It is a fixture steeped in history. Over the years Real Madrid just hold the edge in victories – but only just. And in recent times the mighty Barcelona have more than held their own. One thing is for sure – with a mouthwatering cast list of players it will never be dull, and to experience it is a once in a lifetime dream for many fans.
We take a look at the clubs and stadiums ahead of their clashes in the 2015/16 season.
El Clásico, Santiago Bernabéu, Real Madrid, November 22, 2015 – book it, click here!
To be in the vicinity of Real Madrid is to be in the presence of footballing royalty. There will be a handful of clubs who claim to be the biggest, the richest, the most popular in the world. But when it comes to being the most successful side in history.. all Real supporters need to do is to hold up 10 fingers and thumbs and say ‘La Décima’.
‘La Décima’ refers to their ten European Cups (or Champions League titles). They won the first five ever held, back in the sixties, and the next four through the decades. Then in the summer of 2014 Madrid’s two major clubs decamped 300 miles west to Lisbon and it was Real, via extra time, who bagged the tenth cup at the expense of Atletico. And it gained some revenge for Atletico pipping them to the La Liga title a week earlier.
Never mind just Real. As cities go Madrid, the grand home of the Spanish royal family, has been the crowned king of football. At the beginning of June 2014 it was home to the reigning La Liga champions, Champions League winners, and technically as Spanish capital the European Championship and World Cup holders. And with Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale playing their trade there, all in all it’s not a bad footballing city I guess.
Outside the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium before a Real match it feels like a major final even if it’s just a league match. The sheer numbers make every game an event in itself and it must be surreal to be a regular here.
There is more than a smattering of tourists – English, European and many from the Far East, clutching a Real branded bag. And then there’s the ‘it’ crowd. The young señors and señoritas are sporting gleaming white Real tops showing their affinity with Spain’s most fashionable club. It’s cool to be with Real if you’re rich.
Once you get inside the stadium the Santiago Bernabéu is a venue fit for kings. Holding an impressive 81,000 it’s not quite the biggest in Europe. But there is no doubt it is a colosseum.
It soars up to the skies, banks of seats stretching steeply to the gods. Built in 1947 and improved several times since, officially there are three tiers, but these split into six sectors all the way. And they’re not finished yet. There are plans to make it even grander and more spectacular, complete with a retractable roof.
Going to watch Real is an experience. Yes, it can feel you are part of a giant corporate affair, there’s a certain showbiz feeling about it. But there no denying the stadium is an awesome sight, and the talent on show never fails to catch the eye.
A certain Jose Mourinho once said that if you wanted to be regarded as a great manager, sooner or later you had to take charge at Real Madrid. Perhaps, to be a true European football supporter, you need to visit the Santiago Bernabéu, at least once.
El Clasico 2, Camp Nou, Barcelona, April 10, 2016 – book it, click here!
No doubt your club will always have a proud boast. The usual scream from what used to be the terraces, ‘we’re by far the greatest team the world has ever seen’, always seems a bit unlikely unless you happen to have Pele in your side.
Barcelona has a claim. It’s ‘more than just a club’, according to its slogan. But for once such a big statement may be justified. The club is part of the fabric of the city and its region of Catalonia, and has played a focal part in its history. The club logo features the red and white cross of St George – the patron saint of Catalonia.
In the seventies the super side led by Dutchman Johan Cruyff saw Barca return to the spotlight. The appointment of Josep Nunez saw the Barca brand continue to grow on and off the field. ‘El Tel’ Venables managed the side to the league in 1985 – then Cruyff landed four successive titles in the early 90s.
Bobby Robson continued the roll of honour and the trophies have continued to fill the Barca cabinet including Champions League trophies in 2006, 2009 and now 2015 following success over Juventus. You don’t need me to tell you the line-up – one led by the amazing Lionel Messi speaks for itself.
The Camp Nou has the biggest stadium capacity in Europe. A temple to football that seats 99,000 fans. The wow factor about the Camp Nou is certainly its size. There are posher, plusher, grander, more modern – definitely more modern – stadia on the continent. But this is still one that blows your mind.
You don’t necessarily grasp how vast it is from the outside. Approached from some sides it just appears to be a big concrete mass in the heart of a nondescript business neighbourhood. Amazingly it’s hard to spot the ground from any of Barcelona’s major vantage points.
You only begin to get a feeling that you’re in the vicinity of something special when you walk around it. It takes a long, long time to circumnavigate the Camp Nou complex. But once you’ve found your way in, the view is awesome.
The most striking thing you notice on a first visit is just how open it is. You don’t appreciate that on TV, particularly as most Spanish games take place after nightfall. Only the main stand is covered, the rest of the stadium is open to the elements.
The view of the stadium is breathtaking – although even on the middle tier you are further from the pitch than you can get at most Premier grounds. The openness means the noise levels are not the loudest you’ll hear but the crowd is passionate nonetheless. Two gigantic screens, the biggest in Europe, dominate each end.
It’s got a bit of the old Wembley Stadium feel about it. It’s old, built in 1957, and is not particularly spacious underneath. You can pretty much wander round the concourses on each level with a food and drink kiosk at every turn. It’s not beautiful, but it’s vast and must be visited by any serious football fan.
Changes are expected on the horizon. After years of debate it’s likely the stadium will be remodelled, with the capacity increased to 105,000. The biggest stadium in Europe is set to grow!