Top Ten World Football (aka Soccer) Cities - Page 2

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Barcelona's Camp Nou stadium
FIELD OF DREAMS: FC Barcelona's Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain  (courtesy, Wikimedia Commons)
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5. London, England
To some it may seem misguided to include London on this list ahead of other soccer-mad English cities like Manchester and Liverpool. But the truth is, few other cities in the world can boast the sheer number of top-quality clubs, each with their own culture, histories, rivalries, and legions of diehard fans. The country's top league, the English Premier League (considered by many to be the world's best) boasts five London-based clubs: Arsenal, Chelsea, Fulham, Tottenham, and West Ham. Even looking to the second-tier Championship, you'll find big London clubs featuring current, future, and former stars, as well as trophy rooms filled with some of the game's most coveted silverware. Then there's the newly-remodeled Wembley Stadium just off the city's North Circular, host to the 1966 World Cup Final that England won in a thriller against West Germany.

4. Buenos Aires, Argentina
British newspaper The Observer has listed the clash between Buenos Aires rivals, Boca Juniors and River Plate, as one of its top sporting events to see before you die—and judging by the commitment and passion of the opposing sets of fans, the (right) result could well be a matter of life and death. Both teams, each of which started out in the same working-class La Boca neighborhood, carry century-old sporting heritage into their annual superclásico matchup, an encounter that Argentine soccer great (and current national-team manager) Diego Maradona has likened to "going to bed with Julia Roberts." Soccer is the game in town, though it must be said that the Argentine domestic league has lost most of its superstar players to more lucrative leagues in Europe. La Boca continue to play in the La Boca barrio at 49,000-seat La Bombonera (the "Chocolate Box"), while River Plate have long since relocated to Buenos Aires's more ritzy Núñez neighborhood in the north of town, home to the 65,645-seater Estadio Monumental Antonio Vespucio Liberti.

3. Madrid, Spain
With the possible exception of the English Premier League, Spain's top-tier La Liga is currently the world's most glamorous domestic league, hosting superstar players such as Lionel Messi (Argentina), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), and Thierry Henry (France). Undoubtedly, Real Madrid is the league's show pony, a club that coined the term Los Galácticos to describe its squad of fantastically skilled and fabulously wealthy footballers (among them, Zinedine Zidane, David Beckham, and Luís Figo). The real rivalry here is not technically inter-city but with the other big Spanish club, FC Barcelona (see below); however, even the matchup between Real and Atlético Madrid sees its share of fireworks. And irrespective of the team you support, the experience of watching a live game mirrors that of nightlife in the Spanish capital, with games that start late and run into the next day. Real play at the storied Santiago Bernabeu, an 80,354-seat "cathedral to football," according to FIFA.com, in the heart of Madrid's financial district. Atlético play at the impressive 54,851-seat Vicente Calderón Stadium on the banks of the Manzanares River, also in central Madrid.

2. Milan, Italy
Soccer may be a working man's game throughout much of the world, but the actual people who play it at the top level are millionaires and playboys of the highest order. Witness Milan, a capital of fashion and football that attracts the likes of David Beckham and his clotheshorse wife, Victoria (aka, Posh Spice). But the football that's played in the city's cacophonous San Siro—85,700-capacity home ground to both Inter Milan and AC Milan—is anything but effete, with regular incidents of incandescent flares being tossed onto the pitch and militant tactics by hardcore fan groups like Inter's "Ultras." Inter Milan and AC Milan are the city's two top clubs, giving Milan a city-soccer pedigree that receives even more spice when you mix in another storied northern Italian club, Juventus, which plays just down the road in Turin.

1. Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona is one of the world's most atmospheric cities, and its soccer culture only serves to bolster this claim. Two teams, FC Barcelona and Espanyol, call the city home, though it's the former that truly elevates the Catalonian capital to the top of this list. A string of footballing greats have played for this famously socialist club, including Dutchman Johan Cruyff, Brazilian Ronaldo, and Argentinean Diego Maradona. Camp Nou, FC Barcelona's broad-shouldered, 98,787-capacity stadium, is Europe's largest stadium, not to mention being home to some of the continent's noisiest and most demanding fans. Smaller Espanyol plays at the newly opened 40,500-seater Estadi Cornellà-El Prat, following a disappointing spell out of the 55,926-capacity Olympic Stadium up at Montjuic (remember the scenic diving photos from the 1992 Summer Olympics, anyone?).

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