LIBERATING FOOTBALL TRAVEL

Real Valladolid

On your bike, Ronaldo – Pucela exploit prompts trek

A fan’s guide – the club from early doors to today

Having spent half their near century-long history in Spain’s top flight, Real Valladolid have remarkably little to show for their endeavours. A solitary piece of silverware won in 1984, the short-lived and long-forgotten Spanish League Cup, is all that stands in the trophy cabinet. 

Valladolid have also made two finals of the Copa del Rey, undertaken two brief campaigns in Europe and finished in the top half of the top flight on a handful of occasions, the last being in 2000.

Top-flight status was then lost in 2014, with another relegation to follow. So why, then, did one of the biggest names in world football, all-time Brazilian great Ronaldo, step in to invest in the club as a majority shareholder in 2018? 

Estadio José Zorrilla/Harvey Holtom

Precisely because there’s so much to improve upon. The oft-criticised Estadio José Zorrilla, its moat now built over, the youth-team set-up, the training facilities… for €30 million, long retired and his body hampered by injury, Ronaldo can be involved in the day-to-day life of a football club. How many ex-footballers take over clubs in one of Europe’s big five leagues?

Having overseen Real’s return to the Primera in 2022,  the Brazilian stuck to his promise of cycling from Valladolid’s stadium to Santiago de Compostela, the 450km journey clearing the cobwebs for the season ahead.

Every other weekend, some 20,000 locals make their way out west to the soulless surroundings of the José Zorrilla, the stadium built for the 1982 World Cup that replaced the original ground of the same name right in the city centre.

Estadio José Zorrilla training pitch/Harvey Holtom

Real Valladolid had been founded close by, playing beside the city’s bullfighting arena, the merger of the city’s two most prominent clubs, Real Unión Deportiva and Club Deportivo Español, in 1928. Twelve years later they moved to the Estadio José Zorrilla, today known as the Viejo (‘Old’) Zorrilla, first named simply as the Estadio Municipal.

The Blanquivioletas, whose violet stripes were taken from the red of Real Unión and blue of Club Deportivo, first made the top flight in 1948. Their coach, for a short time at least, was Helenio Herrera, later to make his name at Barcelona and Internazionale.

This first ten-year spell in the Primera Liga included a cup final appearance in 1950, taking a strong Atlético Bilbao side to extra-time. During a further top-flight stint, Valladolid achieved a highest-ever fourth-place finish in 1963. Top goalscorer Delló Morollón won a league title with Real Madrid two years afterwards.

Real Valladolid shop/Harvey Holtom

La Pucela, as Real Valladolid are also known, enjoyed another decent spell in the 1980s. It coincided with the opening of a new Estadio José Zorrilla, where later Real star Fernando Hierro started his career. 

He bowed out with a cup-final appearance against his future employers, a 1-0 defeat that led to Valladolid’s best run in three European campaigns. Arsène Wenger’s Monaco required penalties to beat them in the quarter-finals of the Cup Winners’ Cup.

Valladolid-born Javier Baraja captained his home-town club during another consistent spell in the early 2000s. His brother Rubén, a Spanish international, had also started here before collecting silverware with Valencia. With 200-plus appearances, Baraja the younger led the team that won the promotional play-off back to the Primera in 2012.

Real Valladolid shop/Harvey Holtom

This time, the stay was short-lived, and Valladolid needed the goals and midfield savvy of Óscar Plano to overcome Gijón and Numancia in the promotional deciders of 2017-18. Sticking with former Dépor midfielder Sergio as coach, Real were preparing for a relegation struggle by the time Ronaldo had his gilded feet under the desk.

Relegated and lacking gate revenue in 2020-21, Valladolid must have given the Brazilian a few second thoughts about this €30 million investment, but to his credit, he and his much-travelled coach, newly arrived Pacheta, rolled up their sleeves and battled it out in an extraordinarily tight Segunda campaign.

Rarely in an automatic promotion spot until the very end, Valladolid notched a vital win at Eibar to edge out their main rivals. Fittingly, it was Israeli international Shon Weissman who hit the clincher in the Basque Country, Real’s record signing at €4 million coming good just when it mattered, then scoring both goals at Ibiza and the opener in the final game at home to Huesca.

Valladolid were back in the Primera – and Ronaldo had a long bike ride to make.

Stadium Guide

The field of dreams – and the stands around it

Set between the Autovía A62 and a Carrefour hypermarket in the city’s south-western outskirts, the Estadio José Zorrilla was one of Europe’s first out-of-town stadiums. Built for the 1982 World Cup – it staged the Spanish Cup final weeks before – this 26,500-capacity ground stands open to the fierce winds that blow across this part of Spain.

The Estadio José Zorrilla is, in fact, the Estadio Nuevo José Zorrilla, the downtown original from the 1940s knocked down for commercial use. This was the only venue to be built from scratch for the Mundial.

It was also where the great France side of the 1980s played two group matches, the first featuring the farcical sight of Kuwaiti players leaving the pitch in protest before being ordered back by FA chief Sheikh al-Sabah.

Today’s VIPs are placed high up in the Fondo Norte, under the private boxes behind the goal. Home fans are below at the lowest level, the Grada Fondo Norte and, mainly, in the Grada Fondo Sur behind the opposite goal. Visiting fans are allocated half the Zone Este along the other sideline, facing the Zone Oeste, where more VIPs may occupy the best seats.

Ronaldo’s kept his promise to improve the place when everyone pitched in cover over the moat that had separated spectators from players, a hangover from the security-conscious days of the 1980s. The space is now occupied by three extra rows of seating around each side, the so-called Grada Fosa.

getting there

Going to the stadium – tips and timings

On match days, six special bus lines run to the stadium from 1hr before kick-off – the F1 goes via the bus station, F2-F5 via Plaza Mayor.

Of the regular city buses, the 8 runs every 12-15mins ten stops from Plaza de España to Mon. S. Lorenzo de El Escorial, by the Miguel Delibes Cultural Centre, the closest bus stop to the ground. The 9 runs every 15-30mins from Plaza Madrid to Calle Hernando de Acuña/21 esz Juan de Valladolid at the shopping complex behind the stadium a ten-minute walk away. Going back from Calle Hernando de Acuña, the 9 calls at the bus and train stations.

A taxi from the city centre to the stadium should cost around €8-€9.

getting in

Buying tickets – when, where, how and how much

Tickets are available at the stadium taquilla (Avenida del Mundial 82, Mon-Fri 10am-2pm, 5pm-8pm, Sat 10am-2pm, match days), though given promotion in 2022 and the Ronaldo factor, availability will certainly be an issue for the visits of bigger clubs.

For most games, tickets are only available for the Zona Este and Zona Oeste along the sidelines, at €35-€50. For the visits of Real Madrid and Barcelona, this rises to €70-€100, if any seats are available at all. 

Although this is the email address for season-ticket information, they should be able to help with general ticket enquiries: abonados@realvalladolid.es.

what to buy

Shirts, kits, merchandise and gifts

Real Valladolid’s club shop is in the business quarter of the city centre at Calle Héroes de Alcántara 3 (Mon-Sat 10am-2pm, 5.30pm-8.30pm, Sat 10am-2pm), with merchandise also available at the stadium on match days. 

The current iteration of the violet-and-white stripes features gold markings. Second kit are darker shades of purple in two halves, while third choice is white with a violet chevron and gold sleeves. 

Ronaldo needs to up his game as far as merchandising is concerned as you won’t find much more than scarves and caps – with Valladolid surrounded by vineyards, a few branded labels wouldn’t go amiss.

Where to Drink

Pre-match beers for fans and casual visitors

Home fans gather at the match-day Territorio Pucela bar between the Fondo Sur and Zona Oeste – otherwise there are no bars or cafés in the immediate vicinity. 

Note that the bar also opens on Sunday mornings when there’s a flea market set up in the car park behind the stadium.