The magic and spirit of the beautiful game transcends age and time.
Stories are told and passed down through the generations of the great players, the most memorable matches and the most wonderful atmospheres.
Of course, this would not be possible without said great players and their respective teams and fans, but without a stadium to host and encapsulate all that sticks in our minds, the mere memories would be lost. Gone forever.
So, with that in mind, we’ll rank the top 20 stadiums in world football. To help me decide on where they should go, I will determine size of the stadium, atmosphere and visual appeal to rank them in order.
20. Azadi Stadium (Tehran, Iran)
Tenants: Persepolis FC, Esteghlal FC, Iranian national football team
Opened in 1973, the Azadi Stadium is part of a much larger sporting complex that includes several training pitches, swimming centres as well as an idyllic lake.
The stadium is home to two local sides as well as the national team, and is an example of Iran’s financial means as well as their desire to compete at the top level of world sport.
19. De Meer Stadion (Amsterdam)
Tenants: Ajax, the Netherlands national football team
Notable fixtures: 1998 Champions League final, 2013 Europa League final
Known as the Amsterdam ArenA, the Netherlands national football stadium is a fan favourite across the world.
Home to one of Europe’s elite clubs, De Meer Stadion has had some of the world’s greatest footballers grace its turf. The likes of Johan Neeskens, Johnny Rep, Frank Rijkaard, Marco van Basten, Ronald Koeman and, of course, Johan Cruyff have all donned the famous red-and-white strip over the years.
Though a relatively new stadium, the Amsterdam ArenA encapsulates all of the tradition, success and ingenuity that is so often associated with Holland’s finest club.
18. Estadio Da Luz (Lisbon, Portugal)
Notable fixtures: 2014 Champions League final
Portugal hosts a number of top European football clubs and their magnificent stadiums, but none compare to Benfica’s Estadio da Luz.
The work of art is the home of Portugal’s most successful club and was inspiration for Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium—the two stadiums designed by architectural firm Populous.
A large capacity with an electric atmosphere and stunning architecture, there’s nothing not to like about the Estadio da Luz.
17. Ibrox Stadium (Glasgow, Scotland)
Tenants: Rangers FC
Ibrox Stadium is the home to one of the world’s most famous clubs—Rangers.
The Old Firm club is currently experiencing the most testing time of its existence, having being relegated to the lowest tier of Scottish football following financial difficulty.
Irrespective of the club’s strife, Rangers fans continue to fill the stands for each and every home game. Rangers’ average attendance for the 2012/13 season was a staggering 45,750—some feat for a club battling it out with the minnows.
16. Juventus Stadium (Turin, Italy)
Notable fixtures: 2014 Europa League final
Although it’s by far the newest stadium on the list and has therefore not had the chance to secure a spot near the top, the Juventus Stadium still sits pretty high because of its incredible atmosphere and wonderful design.
Though just over two years old, the stadium already has two Italian scudettos to its name thanks to Juventus’ unbeaten 2011/12 season followed by another impressive league-winning campaign in 2012/13.
15. Celtic Park (Glasgow, Scotland)
Tenants: Celtic FC
Celtic Park is the oldest and largest stadium in Scotland and is a must-see for any football fan.
Celtic supporters are often referred to as some of the best in world football and are true appreciators of the game. Celtic Park is often at full capacity, regardless of the game’s importance—a testiment to the wonderful ground and wonderful fans.
Two of football’s great players, Barcelona’s Xavi and Iniesta recently paid tribute to Celtic Park and the fans that fill it.
14. Estadio Monumental Antonio Vespucio Liberti (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
Tenants: River Plate, the Argentinian national football team
Notable fixtures: 1978 World Cup final
The Estadio Monumental, as it’s known for short, is the home to Argentina’s most famous club, River Plate, as well as the national team.
The stadium is the largest in Argentina and is remembered for the ticker tape-covered, controversial World Cup final in 1978. Hosts Argentina inflicted the Netherlands’ second successive World Cup final defeat by lifting the trophy for the first time in the country’s history.
13. Estadio Alberto J. Armando (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
Tenants: Boca Juniors
It may not be as large as Argentina’s national football stadium, Estadio Monumental, but the ground known as La Bombanera—the chocolate box, because of its structure—is certainly the most famous.
Home to Argentinian giants Boca Juniors, the design of the stadium—with a “flat” stand on one side of the pitch and three deep stands around the rest—La Bombanera place as one of the most iconic stands in world football is secure.
The “flat” stand is said to shake when the diehard Boca fans are at their very loudest.
12. Estadio Centenario (Montevideo, Uruguay)
Tenants: the Uruguayan national team
Notable fixtures: 1930 World Cup final
Uruguay’s national stadium played host to the first World Cup final and is listed by FIFA as one of the world’s classic stadiums, along with the Maracana, Wembley Stadium, Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, Estadio Azteca and the Santiago Bernabéu.
In 1983 it was honoured by FIFA as the only historical monument in world football—the only stadium to be given such an accolade.
11. Anfield (Liverpool, England)
Though not a huge stadium in terms of capacity by any means, the legendary atmosphere at Anfield known throughout the world makes the home of Liverpool one of the great stadiums.
Home to the Reds, who have won five European Cup titles, Anfield is always a treat for members of any visiting team, though it continues to instil fear into any opposition.
From the famous “This Is Anfield” sign hanging in the tunnel, to the passionate home fans singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” Anfield will forever be a favourite amongst players and fans alike.
10. First National Bank Stadium (Johannesburg, South Africa)
Tenants: Kaizer Chiefs, the South African national football team
Notable fixtures: 2010 World Cup final
Opened in 1989, the First National Bank Stadium—known as Soccer City—was renovated in 2009 ahead of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
Although it is home to South African club side Kaizer Chiefs, the stadium is fondly remembered for hosting the showpiece event of the 2010 final, but also for hosting the opening game and goal of the tournament—Siphiwe Tshabalala finding the back of the Mexican net with a thumping effort.
The incessant noise of the vuvuzela can prove hard to ignore, but it should take nothing away from a truly wonderful football stadium.
9. Estadio Azteca (Mexico City)
Tenants: Club America FC, the Mexican national football team
Notable fixtures: 1970 and 1986 World Cup finals
Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca is renowned for its huge capacity and electric atmosphere when full, but it will go down in history as the only stadium to host two World Cup finals.
Unfortunately for England fans, it is also the venue for Diego Maradona’s infamous “Hand of God” goal.
The venue may not be fondly remembered by the enormity of England fans, but there is no denying that the stadium—the third-largest football stadium in the world—is one of the finest around.
8. Stadio Giuseppe Meazza (Milan, Italy)
Tenants: AC Milan, Internazionale
Notable fixtures: 1965 and 1970 European Cup finals, 2002 Champions League final
Known as the San Siro, the multipurpose stadium is home to two football heavyweights and archrivals AC Milan and Internazionale. It is the country’s most famous and largest ground.
With some of the game’s greatest footballers gracing its pitch and having hosted European Cup and Champions League finals, the San Siro is one of the most revered and respected stadiums in the world.
7. Signal Iduna Park (Dortmund, Germany)
Tenants: Borussia Dortmund
Notable fixtures: 1974 and 2006 World Cup group-stage matches
Formerly known as the Westfalenstadion, the home of Borussia Dortmund is the largest stadium in Germany.
Dortmund’s impressive form over the past four years, which has seen them win back-to-back Bundesliga titles and contest the Champions League final, has increased their popularity throughout Europe.
Signal Iduna Park is often one of the must-see stadiums on any football fan’s list, more so because of Die Gelbe Wand—or The Yellow Wall. Dortmund’s south stand is Europe’s largest free-standing grandstand in Europe with 24,454 filling it each and every home game.
6. Allianz Arena (Munich)
Tenants: Bayern Munich, 1860 Munich
Notable fixtures: 2012 Champions League final
The beautifully designed Allianz Arena is home to both Munich-based football teams: Bayern Munich and 1860 Munich. It is the only stadium across the Europe that is able to change colours to reflect which of the two teams are playing—red for Bayern and blue for 1860 Munich.
The stadium has been a huge hit with both sets of fans thanks to the fans being closer to the pitch—something that caused an issue at the previous site, the Olympiastadion, which had a running track around the pitch that made for a rather poor atmosphere.
The relatively new Allianz Arena will surely make a name for itself as one of the greatest stadiums in world football for years to come.
5. The Maracana (Rio de Janeiro)
Tenants: the Brazilian national football team
Notable fixtures: 1950 and 2014 World Cup finals, 2016 Olympic Games football final
The Maracana is one of the most notable stadiums in world football, situated in one of the most beautiful cities throughout the world.
The stadium hosted the 1950 decisive World Cup group-stage match (there was no final that year) between Brazil and Uruguay that saw a staggering capacity of 199,854. Although the hosts tasted bitter defeat, the match will go down as one of the classics in the game’s history.
4. Old Trafford (Manchester, England)
Tenants: Manchester United
Notable fixtures: 2003 Champions League final
Old Trafford’s tenants split opinion. You either love them or you hate them. But irrespective of your slant, there’s no hiding away from the fact that “The Theatre of Dreams” is a truly magnificent venue.
Opened in 1910, the home of the Red Devils now seats over 75,000 fans—after its 2006 renovation—and is England’s largest club stadium.
With former manager Sir Alex Ferguson recently leaving his post, Manchester United look set to embark on a new era. One thing’s for sure, however: Fans from around the world will continue flocking to the cosmopolitan Old Trafford to take in the magic of the stadium and to watch one of football’s most successful clubs.
3. Santiago Bernabeu (Madrid)
Tenants: Real Madrid, the Spanish national football team
Notable fixtures: 1957, 1969 and 1980 European Cup finals, 2010 Champions League final, 1982 World Cup final
The Santiago Bernabeu is home to one of Europe’s most successful club. With nine European titles to their name, Real Madrid’s place in the upper echelons of world football is secure, and there could be no more fitting venue for such a club to play.
Originally opened in 1947, the Santiago Bernabeu has since been renovated twice—in 1982 and 2001—in order to match the ambitions of the Galacticos.
The stadium has been home to many of the world’s greatest players over the years, with the likes of Ferenc Puskas, Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo and Cristiano Ronaldo all strutting their stuff in the famous ground. The world’s most expensive player, Gareth Bale, recently moved to the Santiago Bernabeu, reaffirming Real Madrid as a footballing giant.
Though overshadowed by the Camp Nou’s capacity, the Santiago Bernabeu has always been a first pick when it comes to hosting football events and, due to its prestige, is likely to do so for years to come.
2. Camp Nou (Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain)
Tenants: FC Barcelona
Notable fixtures: 1989 European Cup final, 1999 Champions League final
The Camp Nou is Europe’s largest football stadium and is home to one of the great football teams. Barcelona’s motto “mes que un club” (more than a club) is iconic throughout the footballing world, and their stadium is a huge part of everything Barcelona stands for. It truly is a special club—so much so that they even have a detailed history of their stadium on the club’s website.
The capacity of the Camp Nou once eclipsed 120,000 for the 1982 World Cup finals, but due to changes in laws regarding standing in stadiums, it has now been reduced.
Some of the world’s greatest footballers have graced the hollowed turf—most notably Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi—which is just another reason why the Camp Nou is one of the finest stadiums in world football.
1. Wembley Stadium (London)
Tenants: the English national football team
Notable fixtures: 2011 and 2013 Champions League final, 2012 Olympic football final
Wembley Stadium is, without doubt, the most iconic stadium in world football.
Reopened in 2007, the new Wembley was built on the site of the previous 1923 Wembley Stadium. Famous as one of the most electric atmospheres in world football, the new design has encompassed everything that was great about the original stadium and has added to that further. The famous Twin Towers may no longer be standing, but in their place is the Wembley Arch.
Holding some of the most prestigious events in European and international football is now commonplace at “The Home of Football.”