2017 Champions League final: World's biggest football stars dream of trip to Wales

Gareth Bale
Gareth Bale helped Real Madrid beat neighbours Atletico on penalties in last season's final as the Spanish side became European champions for a record 11th time

Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo, Pep Guardiola and Carlo Ancelotti have one thing in common.

They all want to be in Wales on Saturday, 3 June 2017.

The 2017 Champions League final at Cardiff's Principality Stadium will be the biggest sporting event to have been staged in Wales with an estimated 200m people in more than 200 countries likely to watch the game on television.

Not only will it bring an estimated £45m into the Welsh economy, but it is hoped the world's most watched annual sporting event will push Wales further into world football's corridors of power after an historic Euro 2016 campaign.

The 2017 Champions League draw

'We're all going on a European tour... to Wales'

The eyes of the world will be on Cardiff next summer with the likes of Manchester City manager Guardiola, who helped Barcelona win the Champions League in 2009 and 2011, and Bayern Munich boss Ancelotti, a three-time European Cup winner, eyeing up the trophy.

But the final could have a Welsh flavour with winger Bale aiming to lift a third Champions League trophy after Real Madrid's successes in 2014 and 2016.

"After winning the first Champions League, I knew the Super Cup was in Cardiff, so it was an amazing moment for me personally," he said, in reference to the 2014 Super Cup final at Cardiff City Stadium, where Madrid beat Sevilla 2-0 thanks to two Ronaldo goals.

"But to have the Champions League final in my home town is an even bigger motivation."

Principality Stadium
The Principality Stadium - then known as the Millennium Stadium - hosted Olympic football matches during London 2012

Wales is still riding a wave of euphoria with Welsh football fans excited to see what Chris Coleman's national team can achieve in their 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign after the side reached the last four of Euro 2016.

"Everybody is mad for football, especially after the European Championship where we were able to perform so well," Bale, 27, said.

"Football is hopefully on the rise more than ever. And I think the city of Cardiff itself is growing and is now attracting big sporting events."

Cardiff hosted the 1999 Rugby World Cup final and six FA Cup finals while the new Wembley was being built, but hosting an event that draws a larger TV audience than American football's Super Bowl cements the city's status as a sporting capital alongside the likes of Milan, Berlin and London.

And with Cardiff City Stadium also hosting the Women's Champions League final on Thursday, 1 June, it is set to be a real festival of football.

200,000 supporters to descend on fan zone

The Football Association of Wales' 2017 Champions League project director Alan Hamer says Thursday's group stage draw has made the size and importance of the event hit home with teams like Barcelona, Juventus and Borussia Dortmund involved in the competition.

"Seeing the draw and the teams that could make it to Cardiff brings it all to life which is great and exciting," he said.

Wales fans were able to watch their team's Euro 2016 games at a Cardiff fan zone in Cooper's Field, which had a capacity of 6,000 people.

But Hamer says Cardiff's Champions League fan zone will be "much bigger".

"We're expecting at least 200,000 people to visit the fan zone," he said.

"The biggest attraction is the trophy... It's there for four days and there's no charge to go to the fan zone and people can have their photo taken with the trophy.

"Discussions are still ongoing, but hopefully we will be able to confirm a location [for the fan zone] fairly soon, but it is going to be in Cardiff within close proximity of the stadium."

Alan Hamer of the Football Association of Wales
Alan Hamer was previously chief executive of Glamorgan County Cricket Club

Hamer has admitted staging such a big event will be a challenge, but is confident transport problems which affected fans travelling to games in Cardiff during the 2015 Rugby World Cup would not be repeated.

"The National Stadium of Wales"

The 74,500-seat Principality Stadium will be referred to as "The National Stadium of Wales" in the build-up to the Champions League final with European football's governing body, Uefa, unwilling for the venue to be named after a sponsor.

The same happened to Munich's Allianz Arena in 2012 when it was re-branded as the Football Arena München.

The Welsh government says the nation "will gain the largest television exposure ever for an event" when it hosts the Champions League final and Hamer hopes the event will help build on Wales' success at Euro 2016 - their first major tournament for 58 years.

"One of the reasons the FAW wanted to stage the Champions League final was purely to develop football, to get more children and adults involved," he said.

"The Euros have been fantastic for us because it means that we're starting from a very high level, we've got the entire country enthused in football.

"We need to make sure that the Champions League takes it to the next level, that by the end of June next year we've got record numbers of people involved in football across Wales.

"Hopefully some of the activities that we have planned as part of our bid, taking the competition around Wales, lots of community football competitions and educational programmes will build on all the good work that has taken place over the last 12 months with the Euros and Welsh football will never be in a stronger position come end of June next year."

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