Seeing teams play in empty stadiums has been once of the weirdest aspects of the 2020/21 season, but Real Madrid have gone one step further and are now playing in an entirely different ground.
The famous Santiago Bernabeu has been out of action all year, and it might be a while before fans get to see the players grace the normal ground again as it is currently being redeveloped.
Let’s take a deeper look at what’s going on.
Real have been playing their home games at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano, a 6,000-seater stadium in the team’s training complex named after one of the club’s all-time greats.
Di Stefano was an Argentine forward who spent 11 years with Real between 1953 and 1964. By the time he left, he had won eight La Liga titles and five European Cups, and his 308 goals were enough to make him the team’s record goalscorer at the time. He has since been overtaken by Raul and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Real’s usual stadium, the Santiago Bernabeu, is undergoing a major renovation which is expected to run until 2022.
The £500m work, which was initially supposed to start in 2017, will see the Bernabeu retain its 81,000 capacity, but the stadium will see its height increased by ten metres to facilitate the addition of a roof.
Real hope to add a shopping centre, a hotel and more restaurants to the stadium in an attempt to increase tourist visits all year round.
Work on the stadium was expected to be stepped up in the summer of 2020 which may have led to Real moving out for a handful of matches, but with fans banned from going to stadiums because of the COVID-19 outbreak, the decision was made to move out in June 2020.
When Real returned after the lockdown, they finished the 2019/20 season at the Alfredo Di Stefano, where they remain to this day to give the builders all the space they could possibly need to accelerate their work.
The plan is for the new-and-improved Bernabeu to be ready in time for the 2022/23 season, but Real are prepared to return earlier once fans are able to come in and watch.
The plan is to use ‘Roman techniques’ to raise the roof without actually impacting the playing surface or the stands. It’s a time-consuming and complicated process, which is why Real are making the most of the period without fans to get the work done in a simpler fashion.
Until Real need the 81,000 seats on offer in the Bernabeu, they are expected to remain at the Alfredo Di Stefano.