Who founded Real Madrid?

Travel Destinations

By Felicity Long

Real Madrid is one of the most successful and popular football clubs in the world, boasting an impressive record of domestic and international titles. But who founded this Spanish giant? The answer to this question is not straightforward, as Real Madrid has a complex history that involves several key figures who played a pivotal role in shaping the club’s identity and success. In this article, we will explore the origins of Real Madrid and the people who contributed to its rise to fame.

Early days of Real Madrid

Real Madrid was officially founded on March 6, 1902, under the name Madrid Football Club. The club was set up by a group of students from the Institución Libre de Enseñanza, a progressive education institution that promoted secularism and social reform. The founders of Madrid FC were mainly interested in playing football as a leisure activity and did not have any ambitions of becoming a professional club. They played their first game against a team of British expats and lost 3-0.

The first president

The first president of Madrid FC was Julian Palacios, a well-known lawyer and sports enthusiast who had previously played football for a local team called Moncloa. Palacios was a charismatic and visionary leader who saw the potential of Madrid FC and worked hard to promote the club’s image and attract new members. He came up with the idea of changing the club’s name to Real Madrid in 1920, to reflect its royal patronage and give it a more prestigious image. Palacios also played a crucial role in securing the club’s first stadium, Campo de O’Donnell, which was located in the center of Madrid and had a capacity of 15,000 spectators.

The role of Juan Padros

Another key figure in the early history of Real Madrid was Juan Padros, a former player and coach who became the club’s second president in 1904. Padros was instrumental in organizing the first official tournament of Spanish football, the Copa del Rey, in 1905. Real Madrid participated in this competition from its inception and won it for the first time in 1905. Padros also introduced the idea of a youth academy for Real Madrid, which became the foundation of the club’s youth system and produced many talented players over the years.

The arrival of Santiago Bernabeu

One of the most significant events in the history of Real Madrid was the appointment of Santiago Bernabeu as president in 1943. Bernabeu was a former player who had a deep love for Real Madrid and a clear vision of what he wanted the club to become. He spearheaded a radical modernization program that included the construction of a new stadium, the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, which became one of the most iconic venues in the world of football. Bernabeu also introduced a new transfer policy that focused on signing the best players in the world, regardless of their nationality or cost.

Bernabeu’s impact on the club

Under Bernabeu’s leadership, Real Madrid enjoyed its most successful period, winning five consecutive European Cups between 1956 and 1960, as well as numerous domestic titles. Bernabeu also established a culture of excellence and professionalism at Real Madrid, which became known as "la Quinta del Buitre," a reference to the five-star players who led the team to glory in the 1980s. Bernabeu’s legacy continues to inspire and guide Real Madrid to this day.

The golden era of Real Madrid

The 1950s and 1960s are widely regarded as the golden era of Real Madrid, thanks to the unprecedented success of the team under Bernabeu’s leadership. During this period, Real Madrid became the first club to win five consecutive European Cups and established itself as the dominant force in Spanish and European football. The team included legendary players such as Alfredo Di Stefano, Ferenc Puskas, and Francisco Gento, who became household names and inspired a generation of football fans.

The modern era

Real Madrid continued to be successful in the following decades, winning numerous domestic and international titles and producing some of the best players in the world, such as Zinedine Zidane and Cristiano Ronaldo. However, the club also faced many challenges, such as financial difficulties, changes in ownership, and intense competition from other teams. Nevertheless, Real Madrid remains one of the most prestigious and respected football clubs in the world, with a global fan base and a rich history of success and tradition.

Ownership structure

Real Madrid is owned by its socios, or members, who elect the president and the board of directors every four years. The socios are also entitled to vote on major decisions affecting the club, such as transfers, stadium renovations, and sponsorship deals. Real Madrid is unique in the world of football for its democratic ownership structure, which reflects its roots as a club founded by students and intellectuals.


Real Madrid is more than just a football club; it is a symbol of excellence, tradition, and passion. Its origins can be traced back to a group of students who wanted to play football for fun, but it has grown into a global institution that attracts millions of fans and generates billions of euros in revenue. The people who founded and led Real Madrid over the years have left a lasting legacy of innovation, vision, and commitment to excellence that continue to inspire and guide the club to this day.


  • Real Madrid official website. https://www.realmadrid.com/en/about-real-madrid/history
  • "Real Madrid and the Spanish Civil War" by Richard Fitzpatrick. ESPN. https://www.espn.com/soccer/club/real-madrid/86/blog/post/2915369/real-madrid-and-the-spanish-civil-war
  • "Santiago Bernabeu: The man who built Real Madrid" by Sid Lowe. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2018/jan/18/santiago-bernabeu-real-madrid-builder-president
  • "How did Real Madrid become the most successful club in European Cup history?" by Andy West. BBC Sport. https://www.bbc.com/sport/football/44062520

Additional reading

  • "Real Madrid: The Most Successful Club in the World" by John Ludden
  • "Real Madrid: A History in Pictures" by Guillermo Balbona
  • "The Real Madrid Way: How Values Created the Most Successful Sports Team on the Planet" by Steven G. Mandis.
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Felicity Long

Felicity Long, a seasoned travel journalist with 15+ years of experience, specializes in exploring Europe, family travel, and skiing, as evident in her book "Great Escapes: New England" (The Countryman Press). She edits the Europe eNewsletter and contributes significantly to TravelAsker's destinations sections. Felicity has received esteemed awards, including the Cacique and Yo Leonardo Awards, in recognition of her outstanding international travel writing accomplishments.

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