There has been talk of a new stadium for Barcelona’s reserve side for nearly 15 years. Their existing home, the Mini Estadi, has been the perineal fall guy as Barça drafted, published and withdrew a number of plans for the expansion of the Camp Nou. Eventually, in January 2014, the club announced a €600m redevelopment of their home stadium, and whilst this plan was subject to further delays, the one constant was the demise of the Mini Estadi. Two months prior to this announcement the club had purchased a plot of land next to their training complex in Sant Joan Despí for €8.27m. On this land would stand the new home of Barcelona B & Barcelona Femeni.
In May 2015, Battle & Roig Architects Studio won the tender to design the new stadium. Their winning entry featured a twin-decked main stand, inspired by the club’s old Campo de la Calle Industria, whilst the remaining three sides featured six rows of seats under a shallow cantilevered cover. On 24 March 2017, the first anniversary of the death of Johan Cruyff, Barça announced that the new stadium would bear the club legend’s name. The first ground at the site was officially broken on 14 September 2017 at a ceremony attended by club president Josep Maria Bartomeu, captain Andrés Iniesta, representatives of Barcelona B & Barcelona Femeni and the mayor of Sant Joan Despí.
The Estadi Johan Cruyff was officially inaugurated on 27 August 2019. President Bartomeu was again in attendance, along with Cruyff’s widow Danny and son, Jordi. The first team was represented by Messi, Busquets & Piqué, as well as recent signing from Ajax, Frenkie de Jong. Barcelona B captain, Sarsanedas & Femeni captain Torrejón were also in attendance. Jordi Cruyff was given the honour of kicking-off the first match, a friendly between the youth sides of Barcelona & Ajax. Ajax won the match 0-2, with Nacir Unuvar scoring both goals for the young Dutch side. Five days later, on 1 September 2019, Barcelona B played the first official match at the stadium, with Barça’s Jorge Cuenca scoring the first goal after 2 minutes, in a 2-2 draw with Gimnàstic de Tarragona.
Barça describes the new stadium as the crown jewel at the Ciutat Esportiva. It is a fitting tribute to the man who did so much as a player and manager and one that emphasises the club’s commitment to youth development. The stadium has a capacity of 6,000 seats, 5,000 of which are in a continuous lower ring, with the remainder housed in the upper tier of the main stand. It has a UEFA Category 3 Status licence, which means it can stage UEFA Youth League matches, as well as UEFA Women’s Champions League matches. It is also sanctioned by the LFP for Spanish Second Division matches.
The stadium cost €12m, which comes in at €2,000 per seat. Not cheap for a reserve-team stadium, but it does have many of the features that are now commonplace in a stadiums 5-times its size. The pitch, lighting, seating are all state of the art, whilst environmental issues are addressed with recycling rainwater and planting trees to match those lost when the site was cleared (although 700 parking spaces does seem to go against this policy!). The Estadi Johan Cruyff is a modern take on the classic Iberian stadium design and one that does justice to the great man.