Real Madrid Stadium: Taylor Swift, bright Florentino Perez, Kylian Mbappé move and look for more UCL glory

If events go as expected on Saturday at Wembley, Real Madrid will become champions of Europe for the fifteenth time, a second Champions League title in three years. The promise of more to come is evident in Carlo Ancelotti's vibrant young team.

And yet for many in the Spanish capital, this week is all about the eras of Red, Speak Now and Evermore, rather than Jude Bellingham and Vinicius Junior. An estimated 120,000 fans will descend on the Santiago Bernabeu this week to see Taylor Swift, the world's biggest football club, host the most lucrative concert tour in history. It's the kind of union that Madrid hopes will never go out of style.

How to watch the Champions League final and odds

  • Date: Saturday June 1 | Time: 3:00 PM ET
  • Place: Wembley Stadium – London, England
  • TV: CBS | Live stream: Biggest+
  • Chances: Borussia Dortmund +420; Sign +330; Real Madrid-165

Champions League final broadcast schedule

Always US/East

  • Morning Footy, 11am (CBS Sports Golazo Network)
  • We need to talk, 12:30 (CBS, Biggest+)
  • UEFA Champions League Today, 1:00 PM (CBS Sports Golazo Network, Biggest+)
  • UEFA Champions League Today pre-match, 1.30pm (CBS, Biggest+)
  • CBS Sports Golazo Match Day, 1:30 p.m. (CBS Sports Golazo Network)
  • Borussia Dortmund vs. Real Madrid, 3 p.m. (CBS, Biggest+)
  • UEFA Champions League Today after the match, 5.30pm (CBS Sports Network, Biggest+)
  • Result, 5:30 PM (CBS Sports Golazo Network)
  • The Champions Club, 6:30 p.m. (CBS Sports Golazo Network)

On Wednesdays and Thursdays, the newly renovated venue's tills will ring during a three-and-a-half-hour show as Swifties stock up on merchandise, drinks and snacks. Analysis from Barclays shows that a quarter of fans would travel to another city to see the world's biggest pop star, while one in five travel across the country. The average concertgoer of the American part of the Eras Tour would have spent more than $1,300 on an evening, according to his wildest dreams. If fans do the same in Madrid, experts estimate that the hosts could earn around $4 million, although in this particular case not all that money would go to the club.

This had been Florentino Perez's vision all along when he announced plans in 2010 to renovate Madrid's home of the past 63 years. When work began nine years later, he promised “a great avant-garde and universal icon.” The Santiago Bernabeu would be “a modern stadium, with maximum comfort and safety, with the latest technology, where fans can experience unique sensations and also be a new and important source of income for the club.”

That last line was crucial. A ground that had held almost 130,000 visitors in the 1950s would see capacity reduced to 80,000, but there would be more space for VIP bars, restaurants and premium seating. A stadium that was rarely used for football matches – even when Madrid were making deep Champions League runs – is now playing host to the first international concerts in a decade. Swift's two-night stand will be followed by eight more shows this summer, including Karol G's first four nights in Spain since her emergence as one of the biggest artists in the world. Next year, Spain's first regular-season NFL game will take place at the Santiago Bernabeu, an even bigger coup Los Merengues as they beat local rivals Atletico Madrid to the prize.

Not bad for a club that has already been rated the most valuable brand in world football, whose revenue rose 16 percent to over $900 million in 2023, making them the richest in the sport. And all without feeling the full financial power of the new Bernabeu.

“We're not even seeing the full impact of the stadium on the balance sheet yet,” said Chris Wood, deputy managing director at Deloitte's Sports Business Group. “These clubs now see their stadiums as assets that they can use all year round, not just on home match days: getting people to drive F1 cars, see concerts, visit museums, all these things that make your stadium more than just a football field, more of an attraction open all year round.”

The money generated by the Bernabeu will have to be shared. A $380 million deal with Sixth Street and Legends in 2022 gave the latter company the right to host events at the site and ensured the two parties earned 30 percent of new profits (excluding season ticket sales) at the site for 20 years. If this is anything like the kind of levers Barcelona pulled two summers ago, it's worth noting that a larger portion of the cash injection Real Madrid received was used for infrastructure. A 21st century stadium is a much better source of long-term revenue than Robert Lewandowski.

Unlike their great rivals, Madrid emerged from the COVID-19 forest relatively unscathed. They had exited the Cristiano Ronaldo business at an opportune time and for years a team of serial European champions only needed investment on the margins. Rebalancing a squad around Vinicius and Rodrygo, among other young talents, required significant fees, but lower wages overall. Although more and more young talent is being attracted, Perez keeps a close eye on the wallet. According to analysis from Swiss Ramble, Madrid's wage-to-turnover ratio of 49 percent is the best in La Liga. They should have no problem adhering to UEFA's selection fee regime.

For all the intriguing questions about where Kylian Mbappe would fit on the pitch in Madrid, the balance sheet answer is much simpler. Very cozy. Sources consider it unlikely that the club will feel compelled to make a major sell-out this summer to clear the books, although the cases of Casemiro and Raphael Varane are a reminder that there is always cold-blooded play at the Bernabeu clarity. If anyone wants to offer stupid money to high-earning veterans, the heads of Madrid will rule their hearts.

Their own belongings are handled in a similarly robust manner. Only one player who could reasonably be called homegrown has earned Barcelona more than $30 million, namely Cesc Fabregas when he joined Chelsea in 2014, three years after his boyhood club paid a similar fee to bring him home from Arsenal. Madrid, meanwhile, continue to rake in big money, either from academy graduates such as Achraf Hakimi, Marcos Llorente and Sergio Reguilon, or from players they picked up in their early years and moved on for big money: Martin Odegaard and Varane are two of the standout players . .

Perez learned lessons from the debauchery of his first Galactico era as the superteam that culminated in the arrival of David Beckham in 2003 barely got to know each other before transitioning to post-prime. If a lot of money was spent, it went to players whose prime years were ahead of them. Trusting Bellingham with the bulk of $150 million seems pretty smart considering the first year of what might be a decade-long reign at the pinnacle of world football.

Madrid perhaps uses the attraction they have better than anyone else. This summer, Bayern Munich are over the line, a situation they know all too well from four years ago with David Alaba. Do they sell Alphonso Davies to the Spanish champions for whatever they can get or keep him for the final year of his contract, hoping to get an extension, but risk losing him to Madrid for nothing? Outside the Premier League, even clubs that once considered themselves virtually equal to the fourteen-time European champions do not seem capable of much resistance.

Swift and Madrid could therefore be a perfect match for each other. They have moved with the times more adeptly than many contemporaries who were unable to make their success last. Both exist at a level of fame and commercial power that sets them apart from the industry for which they are the poster child. And given that their enormous revenue-generating power only seems to be increasing, it's hard to shake the feeling that their imperial age has only just begun.

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