Real rejects "honor" of hosting cup final
Football Federation says it cannot force Madrid to cede stadium Finalists Barcelona and Athletic still hopeful of Bernabéu deal
Representatives of Athletic Bilbao, Barcelona and the Spanish Football Federation met in Madrid on Tuesday to try to thrash out a solution to the question of where to host this year's King's Cup final. Both clubs favor Real Madrid's Bernabéu stadium, which holds 85,000 spectators and is an hour's flight from both Bilbao and Barcelona - but the capital club is reluctant to cede its ground for the occasion.
"We cannot make Real Madrid host the final," said RFEF spokesman Jorge Carretero on Cadena Cope radio. "If it can't be played in Madrid, it will be at [Valencia's] Mestalla. Valencia president Manuel Llorente has said his club is happy to hold the final at its stadium, but the clubs involved have not given up hope on a resolution with Real.
Real has told the federation that the dates - May 25 if Barça reaches the Champions League final, May 20 if it does not - are not compatible with its plans: Real intends to carry out a reform of its stadium involving 20,000 seats and 190 restrooms. In addition to the desire not to see Barcelona lift a trophy on its own turf, there is also the issue of the May 19 Champions League final, and the possibility of fans of Real, Barcelona and Athletic pouring onto the streets of Madrid at the same time in the event that Real should lift the trophy in Munich.
During last week's match against Levante the Bernabéu faithful chanted "the cup final will not be played here." Former midfielder Guti took to the social networks to vent his spleen: "Why does Madrid have to cede all the time? We are gentlemen, but at some point we have to think of ourselves because the Bernabéu is ours and we decide."
A tit-for-tat exchange over the 2004 King's Cup final has been ruled out. Real played Zaragoza in Espanyol's former Montjuïc stadium and not Camp Nou, but it has been made known this was agreed by all the semifinalists.
"It should be an honor for the Bernabéu, and for Spanish soccer, to have the final between two great clubs in a stadium like this," said Barcelona spokesman Toni Freixa after the Madrid meeting, adding that a neutral venue had been agreed upon by both sides, ruling out Camp Nou. Athletic president Jon Urrutia said he remained "optimistic," adding that the Bernabéu "is the ideal stadium" for the final.