theScore's Gianluca Nesci spent five days in Catalonia leading up to Sunday's El Clasico between Barcelona and Real Madrid. You can find the complete collection of stories from the trip here.
BARCELONA - What's it like to take a stroll through every nook and cranny of Barcelona's famed Camp Nou, and then sit alongside over 90,000 fans to watch arguably the biggest domestic match in world football?
A little overwhelming, honestly.
Get up close and personal with the pillar of Catalan society by taking in our first-hand look at everything from the Camp Nou museum to the view from the stands during Barca's beatdown of Real Madrid.
Prior to taking up a seat for the Blaugrana's memorable 5-1 victory this past weekend, a visit to the stadium began in the museum, a large two-tiered room that houses all of the club's greatest mementos.
Our tour guide for the day, Albert, was quick to acknowledge that, yes, he could be Diego Godin's stunt double. Only, shorter.
the Atletico Madrid defender Albert started the excursion, naturally, at the beginning, with a look at the striking piece of silverware that recognizes Barcelona's first Spanish league crown. The trophy, one of Barca's 25 to date, was captured in the inaugural season of the top flight, 1928-29.
To say that Lionel Messi's vast collection of individual accomplishments are well-represented in the museum would be quite the understatement. The Argentine has his own wing inside the trophy-filled vault.
(Those are just replica Ballon d'Or trophies, in case you were wondering.)
Sure, Messi is the GOAT, but how many goals could he score wearing boots like these?
All five of Barcelona's European Cup titles - captured in 1992, 2006, 2009, 2011, and 2015 - couldn't fit in this photo:
In the bowels of the stadium, adjacent to the tunnel, you'll find a tiny chapel. The perfect place to ask your deity of choice for a helping hand before you set foot on the pitch.
Down at pitch level, you can feel the size of the stadium, which holds 99,354 people.
As William Mannarelli, director of real estate for the club's ambitious Espai Barca project, explained, the stadium is set to become even more grandiose: The renovation project, slated for completion by 2023, has been approved.
In addition to several other elements of the redevelopment, Mannarelli notes the Camp Nou will eventually house 105,000 seats.
"Barca is a club from 1899, it has a certain tradition - we're very proud of this tradition - and the idea of staying home, staying where Barca is, is something that resonates," Mannarelli replies when asked about deciding to revamp the 61-year-old stadium instead of building a new home.
The calm before the storm on matchday. In the case of the Real Madrid defense, we mean that quite literally:
Imagine if he was playing ...
Minutes prior to kickoff, with Messi looking on from the crowd, the Barcelona faithful delivered a typically rousing rendition of the club anthem. You can sense a little extra gusto, given the opposition on the day.
Quite the welcome to the pitch for both sides.
And, spurred on by their club's dominance, the singing didn't subside throughout the 90 minutes.
Sitting in the lower tier, in the east end of the stadium - section 137, row 28, seat 5, to be precise - you begin to understand the thinking behind Barca's plans to replace seats like this in the bottom ring with private boxes.
"These people are living in the shadow. They see the players, but they don’t experience this," explains Mannarelli, gesturing to the clear blue sky. Indeed, the view from the enormous stadium's middle tier gives a sense of openness. "I would prefer to be in the open architecture."
He adds, "We're going to make (the lower stand) steeper so that fans will have a better view, but we're actually going to create a VIP section all the way around. Our VIPs are going to be more or less three metres below where the president watches the match."
They'll have a perfect view of moments like this:
No matter where you're seated, pre- or post-renovation, you can feel the stadium vibrate when it breaks into an adoring "Uruguayo" chant like this one:
As those cheers reverberated Sunday, this was a common sight that accompanied them ...
And so was this ...
With the match already won, and some 90,000 partisan supporters mocking Real Madrid with some late-game "Ole!" chanting, Arturo Vidal put the icing on the cake with his unmarked header. Here's what it sounded like:
What a night.