Some football teams need no introduction. Their success-laden past and recent glories speak for themselves, giving them a deserved place on the top table of world football. It’s not without good reason that Real Madrid were crowned as the FIFA Team of the Century with supporters all over the world – and the epicentre of all of this is the club’s iconic stadium: the Santiago Bernabeu – named after former player, manager and president Santiago Bernabeu Yeste.
The Bernabeu has played host to the final of the European Cup/UEFA Champions League on four occasions (in 1957, 1969, 1980 and 2010). The final matches for the 1964 European Nations’ Cup and the 1982 FIFA World Cup, were also held at the Bernabéu, making it the first stadium in Europe to host both a UEFA European Championship and a FIFA World Cup final.
Most recently, the stadium also hosted the second leg of the 2018 Copa Libertadores Final – following controversial scenes in the South American tournament in Buenos Aires.
The stadium in Madrid is one of football’s most iconic grounds, thanks to its imposing appearance, illustrious history and all the drama that has taken place on its hallowed turf.
As Real Madrid legend Juanito once said before a memorable comeback against AC Milan, “90 minutes in the Bernabeu seem to go on forever.” This particular game truly encapsulated the fear that the stadium puts into its opponents, or as former manager Jorge Valdano described it, “stage fright.”
Initially named The Nuevo Estadio Chamartín (New Chamartín Stadium), it was inaugurated on December 14, 1947 with a match between Real Madrid and Portuguese side Os Belenenses, which resulted in a 3–1 victory for Los Blancos. The stadium had an initial capacity of 75,145 spectators – 27,645 of which had seats (7,125 covered) and 47,500 for standing fans.
On January 4, 1955, the Real Madrid fans and members voted that the stadium adopt its present name in honour of club President Santiago Bernabéu. At present, the stadium can seat 81,000 people with plans for renovation in mid 2019.
Located in the Chamartin neighbourhood of Madrid, which lent itself to the stadium’s name until 1947, the Santiago Bernabeu is a timeless structure. It is situated on one of the main locations of the city, the Paseo de la Castellana, and, because of this, passers-by are constantly reminded of its formidable presence.
The Bernabeu also possesses one of the best football museums in the world, which is the third most-popular museum in the Spanish capital, with one and a half million people passing through its doors every year. It receives more visitors than the Thyssen museum, with only the Reina Sofia and Prado boasting greater figures.
In fact, over 10% of the 10 million tourists that come to Madrid annually visit the museum. The tour of the stadium offers fans a chance to see the best trophy collection in world football, sit in the fabled dugout and even get a photo with Real Madrid’s impressive collection of UEFA Champions League cups.
Estadio Santiago Bernabeu has seen Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane, Cristiano Ronaldo, Alfredo Di Stefano, Raul, Iker Casillas all perform at the peaks of their careers, as well as host memorable concerts by artists such as The Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen. It’s because of this, and the fact that the stadium is located in one of the most attractive neighbourhoods in Madrid, that the Santiago Bernabeu has been, is, and will always be one of the most iconic landmarks in the capital, whatever your affiliation.