In recent years, Real Madrid have consistently shown their pedigree by blowing away the competition to win European football's biggest prize: the Champions League. Their latest victims were Frank Lampard's Chelsea, and regardless of whether or not they win the 2023 edition of the knockout tournament (next up, they face Manchester City), their European record in recent years has been remarkable; they've won five of the last nine competitions, and have secured 14 European cups in their history.
So how exactly have Real Madrid been able to cultivate such a winning mentality, one that's replicated by their similar level of success in domestic football? Much like any other elite team, a big part of it comes down to the training ground and the vision that's developed there over an extended period of time. In this article, we'll be diving into that vision as part of our ongoing series on the world's best training grounds.
Here, you'll find out the name of the Real Madrid training ground, the facilities on offer at the site, recent developments that have taken place on the grounds, and how the Real Madrid training ground compares with other top centres around the world.
Outside the city of Madrid in the district of Valdebebas (just a stone's throw away from Terminal 4 of Madrid-Barajas Airport, which opened a few months after the training centre) sits the Real Madrid training ground. This is the main coaching facility of one of Spanish football's oldest and most decorated clubs. Not only do the first team train here, it's also used by the club's youth academy, known by many as 'La Fabrica', and by the women's team, too. But what's the whole complex called?
The grand-sounding name of this training centre is Ciudad Real Madrid, which translates as 'Real Madrid City'. Located on a huge amount of land outside Madrid (around eight kilometres away from the Bernabéu stadium), it certainly lives up to that name, containing a large amount of different facilities and features that reflect Real Madrid's status at the top of the global sport.
Opened in 2005, Ciudad Real Madrid has played an important role in shaping the success of several high-performing 'Galacticos' teams. So what exactly does the centre have on offer that has helped contribute to this success, and what recent developments have been made to enhance the players' performance?
The Sports City isn't a totally new concept for Real Madrid. In fact, they launched their first Sports City back in 1963, when the inaugural build became the largest sporting facility built by a European club. Back then, some of the club's greatest ever players, the likes of Alfredo di Stefano and Ferenc Puskas, were strutting their stuff in the famous white kit of Madrid, and behind the scenes, they were honing their skills at Sports City. The club moved from the old Ciudad Deportiva, in use until 2003, to Ciudad Real Madrid, in 2005. The sale of Ciudad Deportiva, led by Real Madrid president Florentino Perez, allowed the club to pocket around 480 million euros.
However, the original site pales in comparison to the centre Madrid are using now. At 110,000 m2, the original Sports City was just 9% of its current size. Now, Ciudad Real Madrid is huge, and a number of things have been done in recent years to ensure that that space is being used as well as possible.
One of the most important recent developments has been the installation of a large residential building for the first team, with 57 rooms spread across two floors, each holding a lounge area and a terrace. There's also a cinema, a dining room that can host 54 people, as well as a common room area, a climate-controlled pool, two guest rooms, several terraces and a reception. And the first team isn't the only group of players that get access to these kinds of resources — there's also a youth team residence for players whose families aren't in and around Madrid, with 40 double rooms (each with a balcony and private bathroom), a dining room, and various common room areas and classrooms for academic education for young players.
These residential areas help settle the players before and after big matchdays, while also offering a sense of homeliness to young players whose families live far away from the Valdebebas area. Other recent revamps include the building of new management offices that allow club officials to meet family members, players, agents, and more all in one location. But these details are worth fleshing out in full — read on to find out the facilities, size, and dimensions of the Real Madrid training ground.
In our training ground guides we've covered some pretty massive sites, with Chelsea's Cobham Centre and Arsenal's London Colney ground both standing out at over 140 acres. However, Ciudad Real Madrid blows those figures out of the water. Situated adjacent to the Valdebebas Park, the largest urban development project in the history of the Madrid community (designed to provide important green space for the city), Ciudad Real Madrid's 1,200,000 square meters of space (the equivalent of almost 300 acres), makes it one of the biggest training grounds in the world, by some distance. Ten times bigger than the old Real Madrid Sports City, 40 times bigger than the Santiago Bernabéu stadium, and 2.7 times bigger than the Vatican City, it's a whopping site. And that room is filled pretty effectively.
Designed by architect Carlos Lamela, with Emilio Butragueño acting as master of ceremonies at the opening of the ground, Ciudad Real Madrid is a genuine state-of-the-art facility. The main building is a sizeable T-shaped structure with 9,000 m2 of space, containing dressing rooms, gymnasiums, classrooms, various offices and conference rooms, a state-of-the-art hydrotherapy area with four swimming pools, two small baths, a Turkish bath and a sauna, plus a VIP room for players, a medical centre, and dedicated press areas.
Outside, there's also a wide selection of high-end pitches. In total, there are 10 grass and synthetic turf pitches, surrounded by stands that can hold, in total, over 11,000 spectators. Real Madrid's youth team alone has access to three full-size synthetic turf fields and four full-size natural grass fields, while three of the site's training pitches have the exact same grass and overall spec as the Bernabéu stadium. And before you get out onto the pitches, there's a warm up area with natural grass to stretch out on.
It would be remiss not to also discuss the Alfredo di Stefano Stadium. Opened in May 2006, the training ground's crowning jewel is the home stadium for Real Madrid Castilla and the Real Madrid women's team. Named after 'The Blond Arrow' himself, one of the club's greatest ever players, it's a 6,000-seater stadium within the training complex, with a grass pitch and state-of-the-art facilities including undersoil heating, eco-friendly solar panels, areas for TV pundits and commentators, and much more.
Visitors to the Ciudad will also be looked after well; the site's car park can hold 300 vehicles, and there's a large cafe-restaurant called 'La Cantera', where training sessions can be watched through the building's enormous windows. Unsurprisingly, this project was an expensive one. Phase I A of the building alone cost around 70 million euros, with the work being carried out over a period of roughly 15 months. However, no one can deny that the results are impressive.
According to the club website, this is "the greatest sports facility ever built by a football club." It's a pretty big claim! However, you can understand why they've made it. Ultimately, the scope of Ciudad Real Madrid's usage is a testament to how good it is. This site isn't only the home of the Real Madrid men's first team, it's also the place where Real Madrid Femenino (the women's team) and Real Madrid Castilla (the reserves team) play their home matches. These games take place in the 6,000 capacity Alfredo di Stefano Stadium, and if you consider how few teams are capable of hosting well-attended professional matches at their training ground, this highlights how the Real Madrid training centre is one of the best around.
The enormity of the site (almost 300 acres) makes it easily one of the world's biggest training grounds, and while a lot of this land is unused (allowing for future expansion), the centre is still absolutely packed with extremely impressive facilities. That being said, there are a large number of other training grounds across the world that offer decent competition on this front. In the Premier League, for example, some stunning new elite training centres have been developed in recent years, from Manchester City's Etihad Campus to the brand-new Leicester City FC Training Ground. Regardless, there are definitely only a handful of sites that can be talked about in the same breath as Real Madrid's primary coaching facility.
In total, Ciudad Real Madrid covers 1.2 million square metres of land, but a large chunk of that hasn't yet been developed, meaning there is plenty of scope for future expansion. What shape this might take is not entirely clear, and given the fact that a lot of cash has been invested into Real Madrid City over the last decade or so, it's understandable that the club are pretty happy with what they've got for now. However, as a wave of 'Galacticos' — the likes of Karim Benzema, Luka Modric, and Toni Kroos — make way for a new generation of young stars, Madrid will be looking to utilise the future potential of their elite training centre as much as possible.
If you'd like to find out more about how Champions League clubs such as Real Madrid gain key advantages and marginal gains on the training pitch, our training ground guides are the way to go. With Mikel Arteta reshaping Arsenal into serious title contenders who can go toe to toe with Pep Guardiola's Manchester City, why not start by reading our guide to the Arsenal Training Centre at London Colney?