From Madrid - The train into Madrid from Spain's south coast might as well be English, but for the rolling vistas of olive trees out of the window.

Two women with strong north London accents talk excitedly over each other as they share war stories of the season's away days in Ajax, Dortmund and the rest. They needle a couple of Liverpool fans in the seats behind about Mohamed Salah's 'diving' and the fact that many of the Reds fans en route are not from anywhere near Merseyside. It's all good-natured though, and the conversation inevitably turns to the topic of who has tickets and who doesn't.


There are many more trains like this one and even more flights from the UK and beyond. The number of fans expected in Madrid by Saturday night is estimated to be close to 100,000, with the impact of the added tourism ​tipped to boost the local economy by as much as €66mBy contrast, the final of last year's Copa Libertadores between River Plate and Boca Juniors raised €47m in the city.

Of those 100,000-odd fans, only around a third actually have tickets. The rest have come just to be here. The first all-English final in over a decade, in one of Europe's most accessible and appealing cities, supporters have flocked in ridiculous numbers, desperate to be as close as possible to the action, just to feel a part of it.

Puerta del Sol is claustrophobic with drinkers and singers, as the midday sun quickly turns exposed flesh pink. The queue to take a selfie alongside the ​Champions League trophy snakes around the square, stretching seemingly miles past a sign that reads '20 minutes from here'. Branded helpers pass down the line spraying sun cream on those waiting.

Anything from €5,000-12,000 is the going rate. It's the price of a house deposit in some parts of the country.

A South African ​Spurs fan named Reven tells me that he flew 17 hours, via Addis Ababa, just to be here. 

Far from the only one making the journey, his flight was packed with ​Liverpool fans, he says. He doesn't have a ticket and isn't expecting to get one. It's all about just being here.

A newly made friend of his, Stewart from Melbourne, who fell in love with the Reds during his time living in Europe, got his ticket two weeks ago and insists he wouldn't have travelled halfway around the globe without one. He spent close to 24 hours getting to Madrid. When I ask how much he paid for his ticket, he pauses and says "a lot, but not as much as they are asking here."

The touts' prices here on the streets of Madrid have burst many bubbles of ticketless fans who dared dream of chancing their luck and picking up a spare.

Anything from €5,000-12,000 is the going rate, depending on the category of the ticket. It's the price of a house deposit in some parts of the country.

A pair of tipsy fans from the West Midlands tell me they went to the World Cup final for £2,000. Here they are being quoted £10,000.

"I might pay £1,500-2,000," one of them tells me. "But that's not even an option."

At that moment he stops to take a picture with a street entertainer dressed as Mickey Mouse. After the photo op, Mickey holds out his hand for a coin, but the fans mimic ignorance until he eventually gives up and moves on. The awkward moment makes for an odd juxtaposition amid talk of paying thousands for a ticket.

Every tout that I manage to speak to says they have come from Germany. Most are reluctant to talk about anything other than whether or not I want to buy or sell a ticket. However, one tells me: "I buy for €2,000-3,000, depending on the category. Maybe €7,000 for category one and sell for a nice profit."

When I ask if there really are people willing to pay the five-figure prices whispered about in Puerta del Sol, he smiles dismissively, "I have clients who pay, don't worry."

I meet two Danish Liverpool fans, Morten and Morten, in the fanzone in Plaza Salvador Dali. They tell me that they have given up on the hope of being in the Wanda Metropolitano on Saturday night, and don't want to think about tickets lest they ruin their experience. The lowest price they have been quoted is €3,000 for two.

Morten one (a software business owner living in Spain) bemoans the number of corporates taking up stadium space, "It's ridiculous. It's such a shame that real fans don't get to go."

Hotel and Airbnb prices have increased by over 200% for the dates around the final.

Instead, he is more than happy just to be close to the atmosphere.

"I mean look at this. It's amazing," he gestures, beer raised aloft, to the hundreds of Liverpool fans as they break out into 'Allez Allez Allez'. Kids not yet teenagers are held aloft on shoulders, setting off red flares. A penny floater is booted back and forth across the plaza to cheers as if Mohamed Salah has just scored. 

Accommodation is another hurdle for those who have made the journey. The city is at an estimated 95% occupancy, while hotel and Airbnb prices have increased by over 200% for the dates immediately around the Champions League final. 

While many are paying €500+ per night, the second Morten tells me how he got extremely lucky on a house swap with a woman apparently unaware of the value of her apartment on this specific weekend.

He jokes, "She's getting my place in Amsterdam in September. It's a nice apartment but I think she thinks she got a very good deal. I don't think she has any idea there even is a Champions League final and what her property is really worth right now!"

Few are quite so fortunate. Steve, a Liverpool fan now living and working in Malaga as a teacher, is getting the 07:00 bus back down to the Costa del Sol on Sunday morning. 

"I didn't have a spare three grand sitting around for a room, unfortunately," he says.

He's not the only one. Many fans have made a road trip from the UK (and other parts of Europe) to be here, with reclined car seats substituting for a hotel bed. 

Steve is travelling for the day with his brother and another friend, all season ticket holders for 15 years. They went to every home match on the road to Madrid but needed at least one away game to be guaranteed tickets to the final.

"We applied for several away but didn't get any luck. Red Star was a small allocation. PSG and Barça, we just weren't successful," he says.

"You can't pass on an experience like this." 

The three of them have only one ticket between them this year. However, Steve promises it's not a bone of contention. Although, who will get it out of the three is unclear.

"If the chance to get tickets presents itself we would take the offer. However, we are just going to enjoy the experience and get one of the other two to the game."

Perhaps curiously, the official fanzones won't show the game on big screens on Saturday night, while there are rumours that several bars, fearful of hooliganism, won't have it on either in an attempt to deter to the drunkenly boisterous crowds.

The fact that all these fans bother with the travel, accommodation and the rest is a testament to the support of both Liverpool and Tottenham but also the pull of the Champions League final as the world's biggest football (and perhaps sporting) event.


There is a sense of duty for some and adventure for others. 'You've got to' and 'once in a lifetime' are stock phrases in nearly everyone's answer as to why they came even without hope of getting near the ground.

Steve, a veteran of Istanbul, adds: "Liverpool have the best supporters and when we travel we travel well. You can't pass on an experience like this. It should be once in a lifetime, only we have been lucky enough to experience a few in ours already."

Whether it will all have been worth the effort will be judged tomorrow.