Barcelona and Alaves will face off in the 2017 Copa del Rey Final on May 27th at the Vicente Calderon Stadium in Madrid. Although the venue has already been selected, it’s incredible to think that a country that has been dominating European football in recent years can’t even set a location beforehand to play their domestic cup final.
This time around, the decision was made much quicker as Atletico Madrid had already offered to host the final months in advance, but the selection process in years past would sometimes take almost a month to determine a venue.
Alaves had requested to play it in Athletic Bilbao’s San Mames Stadium, but that was not feasible as the stadium would be hosting a concert during the time of the cup final. Despite the venue already being determined, all the talk continues to be about Barcelona’s request to once again play in Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.
The issue isn’t that Barcelona keep asking to play the final in the Santiago Bernabeu, it’s the constant reaction from Barcelona (club and pro-Barca media) that somehow always seem shocked that their arch rivals would somehow deny them the opportunity to play the Copa del Rey final in their stadium (surprise, surprise). Already, Real Madrid President Florentino Perez has gone on record saying the Copa del Rey final couldn’t take place there due to planned stadium work.
Let’s get something straight here. Barcelona doesn’t keep asking for the Bernabeu just to see if Real Madrid will finally crack. They are doing this because they love to play around with the situation. Barcelona’s president, directors, coaches, players, media and fans aren’t stupid. They all know that Real Madrid will not lend them their stadium to play a final in with the possibility of their most fierce rival winning a trophy in their home stadium.
Primarily because Barcelona would never lend Real Madrid the Camp Nou Stadium for such a purpose. By asking for the Santiago Bernabeu, it allows them to play the victim card, which they love so much to do, and put the blame on Real Madrid by accusing them of being unsportsmanlike, even though the Spanish Federation does not oblige any team to put up their stadium for selection.
Although all this is well calculated by Barcelona, their behavior is completely absurd and naive for one reason, and it has nothing to do with the poor sportsmanship or politics. Since the Copa del Rey was founded in 1903, do you know how many finals Barcelona and Real Madrid have played in each others home stadium?
Barcelona in the Santiago Bernabeu: 11 - 96-97, 87-88, 83-84, 77-78, 70-71, 67-68, 58-59, 52-53, 51-52, 50-51, 41-42
Real Madrid in the Camp Nou: 1 - 69-70
These are numbers that both Barcelona and the Catalan press don’t want anyone to know because it would debunk their theories and also take the fun out of everything.
How can the Spanish Federation solve this issue?
The reason the Spanish Federation doesn’t want to pick a stadium beforehand is because they want to assure that it is a neutral ground with a good capacity that’s also easy for both sets of fans to travel to. That’s understandable, but it makes little sense as Barcelona and Real Madrid have played Copa del Rey finals in their own home stadiums in the last five years. In order to solve this problem, the federation should do one of three things:
- Pick a stadium a year in advance and stick to it, regardless of whether the home team actually reaches the final in their own stadium.
- Make La Cartuja Stadium in Sevilla the permanent venue for the Copa del Rey final. It’s a UEFA category 4 stadium that fits 60,000 fans, not used by Sevilla or Betis and it’s even hosted the 2002-2003 UEFA Final between Celtic and Porto.
- Pick three stadiums at the beginning of the season and assure that those selected teams do not have any events planned the week before or after the final. Once the finalists are set, the federation can decide where to hold the final in order to assure that both teams play at a neutral ground.
If I can make a suggestion to the Spanish Federation, go with option two since La Cartuja is an ABANDONED UEFA approved stadium.