Why is Real Madrid's stadium called the 'Santiago Bernabeu'?

Santiago Bernabeu

The Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, home of Spanish football club Real Madrid, is one of the finest football stadiums in the world. The stadium has witnessed some of the greatest comebacks by Los Blancos in the history of the UEFA Champions League over the years and it remains one of the most formidable grounds to play in.

It is located at the heart of the city of Madrid at the Chamartin district. It is currently undergoing renovation and once completed, it is expected to be an architectural marvel that would draw visitors from across the world. But why is it known as the 'Santiago Bernabeu'?

Why is Real Madrid's home ground called 'Estadio Santiago Bernabeu'?

The stadium is named after former footballer and Real Madrid president Santiago Bernabeu. It is built partly on the ground of a former stadium called Chamartin and Villa Ulpina. Bernabeu and Rafael Salgado took a loan from the Mercantil e Industrial Bank to buy the land adjacent to the Chamartin Stadium, the erstwhile home of Real Madrid.

Architects Manuel Muñoz Monasterio and Luis Alemany Soler gave shape to the stadium which was inaugurated on December 14, 1947, with a match between Real Madrid and Portuguese side Os Belenenses. But back then the stadium was known as the Nuevo Chamartin or the New Chamartin.

It was only in January 1955, after the completion of the first renovation works that saw the stadium accommodate 125,000 spectators, that the general assembly approved that the stadium would be known in the honour of the club president Santiago Bernabeu.

Who was Santiago Bernabeu?

Santiago Bernabeu was a Spanish forward who played for Real Madrid until 1926. After hanging up his boots he would go on to become the manager of the first team. Then he was appointed as the director of the club and even worked in the capacity of an assistant manager.

After the Spanish civil war, the club was in ruins and it was Bernabeu who started to rebuild his club right from scratch. In 1943 he was elected as the president of the club, a position which he held on to until his death on June 2, 1978.

He was a visionary and in the Ambassador Hotel in Paris, he chalked out a blueprint that would see the top footballing clubs lock horns in an exhibition tournament at the continental level. Subsequently, UEFA took interest and conceived a tournament called the European Champion Clubs' Cup which was later rechristened as the modern-day Champions League.

During his time as club president, Real Madrid won one Intercontinental Cup, six European Cups, 16 League titles, six Spanish Cups, two Latin Cups, and one Copa Eva Duarte. He breathed his last during the 1978 World Cup and FIFA decreed three days of mourning during the tournament.

What is the capacity of the Santiago Bernabeu?

The Santiago Bernabeu can host 81,044 fans in its current form. However, after the renovation, it will be able to hold close to 85,000 spectators.

What will be the key features of the renovated Santiago Bernabeu?

Remodeling Santiago Bernabéu stadium is one of Real Madrid's fundamental strategic objectives which would see the stadium put to use for close to 300 days a year for various purposes including concerts, large gatherings, and social functions.

One standout feature will be the stadium's wrap-around facade, which will consist of strips of steel and stripes that can be lit up and upon which images can be projected. The new arena will also offer the option for the pitch to be covered by a retractable roof, a feature that will ensure that all of the seating areas are covered. 

It will also see an underground greenhouse installed that will house the retractable pitch. It will ensure that the grass remains intact and unharmed while it is not in use.

It is expected to cost Madrid a total of 800-900 million euros and it is being financed by JP Morgan and Bank of America at a fixed interest rate of around 1.53%.