Since the demise of the all dominant Milan clubs, Barcelona and Real Madrid have emerged as arguably the two strongest teams on earth. These two have taken it in turns with Bayern Munich to secure a grasp of the Champions league trophy season after season. In doing so they have given a platform to great names; the likes of Ronaldo, Messi, Bale and Neymar serving to grow Real and Barca into global powerhouses with fans from the smallest African state to Malaysia.
Competing with such powerful brands in La Liga is a huge task given the resources, historical esteem and money available to both teams. Atletico Madrid have however grown to become a major player in Spanish football. In recent years they have won the title, the UEFA Europa League on two separate occasions and in doing so swotted away any lingering domestic challenge from traditional foes Valencia and Seville.
But while Germany, France, England and even neighbouring Portugal have hosted international football events it’s not since Copa Mundial ‘82 that Spain have hosted a FIFA event. Since that failure in its own backyard the national team has become one of the greatest international sides of all time with successive European Championship wins (2008, 2012) and a World Cup win in South Africa 2010.
Hosting a finals’ tournament has proved elusive.
For many years’ Spanish domestic stadia did not change since that tournament took place under the gaze of King Juan Carlos. Indeed, some of those venues have not changed much in shape or size with legacy entry points used in Spain ’82 still evident at many stadia. This statistic however might be about to change at least before 2030 with the emergence of new grounds across the Spanish peninsula.
On field success, if slowly, is now being followed with all important stadia development. While the Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid and the iconic Nou Camp continue to be central to the landscape of Spanish football a fine group of new stadia are emerging.
The previously outlined powerful challenge to Real and Barcelona by Atletico meanwhile made a further evolutionary statement of intent recently when the club announced it would have a new home ready for the 2017-18 season.
The Wanda Metropolitan stadium will be the new host venue. Its roots go back some years but officially during July 2007 Atlético Madrid, the Mahou brewery and the city of Madrid signed an agreement to reclassify the land that is currently occupied by the Vicente Calderón stadium.
Central to the agreement was that Atlético would move to the Estadio Olímpico de Madrid, also better known as the Estadio La Peineta. This ground would be renovated in preparation for Atlético’s tenancy and when finished would allow almost 75,000 fans to watch matches.
Club Homes – A Brief History
The Wanda stadium will be the fourth home of the club since its foundation in 1903. Originally the club played at the Ronda de Vallecas venue until 1923. After a few decades at the Estadio Metropolitano de Madrid the move to the Manazares – later the Vicente Calderón – came about in 1966.
While the ‘Metropolitano’ title for the new stadium hints tellingly at the past traditions of the club the ‘Wanda’ part makes reference to the Wanda Group; a Chinese multinational conglomerate corporation and the worlds’ biggest private property developer.
Since 2011 Wanda have been a big player in the growing Chinese football league. Through a number of programmes the company have strived to forge links between Chinese and Spanish football. More tellingly for the future potential of international football events in Spain, the company has close ties with FIFA. During March 2016 Wanda signed a deal with FIFA to provide sponsorship at the next four World Cups up until 2030.
This deal makes Wanda the first Chinese ‘Tier One’ FIFA Sponsor.
As seems to be a common marketing theme these days the movement to the new Atletico stadium will also be accompanied by the development of the club badge.
As with elements of the new stadia name the badge encompasses elements of the clubs’ past heritage. It chooses to maintain the established formal recognised structure as seen on the present shirt but now includes newer shades of blue, red and white.
Moreover, the links to the city of Madrid are maintained and reinforced through the use of the bear, strawberry tree and stars.
With this move we as fans have to say goodbye to one of European football’s most unique landmark stadia. Atmospheric, passionate (you could say old school) and home to the fanatical Frente Atletico, since October 1966 Atletico Madrid have played matches here on the banks of the murky inner city Manzanares.
Over the years the ground has witnessed some of the greatest feats in the clubs’ history these include the older and newer quests for an elusive European Cup title. Internationally it was a host venue for the World Cup 1982 hosting three matches.
Occupying approximately 35,000 square metres, work on the stadium commenced in 1961 and opened with a game between Atletico Madrid and Valencia. The scorer of the first goal was the man who set Spain on the road to its historic European Championship title of 2008 – and perhaps one of the greatest figures in the history of Atletico – Luis Aragonés.
It was here in the Vicente Calderon that maximum respects were show to Aragonés after his sudden death to leukemia. A large choreography was unfolded by the home Frente fans paying colourful respect to a great son. On the field the players wore his name on the striped shirt when it played in the 2014 Champions League final.
Conveniently located just outside the city’s central district on the southern side of the capital the most notable and spectacular features of the Vicente Calderón include its status alongside the M30 dual carriageway; a road that passes underneath one of the stands. The stadium is wholly comprised of open seating around three sides with a covered main stand set apart above the motorway.
Currently the plan is that the Vicente Calderón Stadium will be demolished, and a public park will be built in its place. This will be named the ‘Park Atlético Madrid’.
While many traditional fans have now reconciled themselves to the fact that the Vicente Calderon’s days are numbered, the decision to demolish the stadium was not well received initially. It is now likely that support for the club both in Madrid and Spain will increase substantially with the move.