x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Real Madrid worried Copa del Rey final could be messy at the Bernabeu

The match could be moved to a neutral venue to avoid anti-Real vitriol from Barcelona fans, writes Andy Mitten.

With an 80,000 capacity, the Bernabeu is an ideal venue for the Copa del Rey final.
With an 80,000 capacity, the Bernabeu is an ideal venue for the Copa del Rey final.

Spain, like Italy, Germany and the Netherlands, does not boast a national stadium.

International games are shared around the big stadiums outside Catalonia and the Basque Country, where the Spanish national team are not venerated, while the Copa del Rey final has made the occasional venture into Catalonia.

This year's final was scheduled for Real Madrid's Bernabeu and fans of finalists Athletic Bilbao began booking trips to the capital.

There is a problem. Barca are their opponents and Madrid does not want 40,000 Catalan flag waving fans singing the Barca anthem in their home before lifting the King's Cup. Nor do they want an equal number of flag-waving Basques making their views clear.

There will be all kinds of anti-Madrid vitriol and the Spanish national anthem will be booed – as it was when Barca and Athletic Bilbao met in the 2009 final in Valencia. Then, there was condemnation throughout Spain, but sneering delight in Catalonia and the Basque Country.

Madrid does not want to provide a platform for a repeat, yet the Bernabeu is the right venue, with an 80,000 capacity, good transport links and equal distance between the two finalists.

Florentino Perez, the Real president, has scratched around for excuses. He has claimed that unspecified "work" needs doing on the stadium, that there is a Bruce Springsteen concert. There is – on June 17, almost a month after one of the dates pencilled in for the final. Springsteen's crew require four days, not four weeks.

Pep Guardiola says he does not want the final to be played at the Bernabeu if Madrid does not want them there, that he does not want Barca to "disturb" the hosts and go where they are not wanted.

Of course, Perez always has the option of adorning the Bernabeu with "Real Madrid, champions 2012", as will surely happen now his club are 10 points clear.

Alternatives are being considered. Barcelona even offered Camp Nou and Athletic were surprisingly happy to go with that because they will receive a huge allocation of 40,000 tickets. That will not happen, with the Spanish federation likely to opt for Valencia's Mestalla or Sevilla's Cartuga.

The latter seats 65,000, is hardly used and is a neutral venue. It will be needed if petty obstacles continue to be raised.

sports@thenational.ae