Barcelona’s humiliating defeat in the Champions League semi-final a few weeks ago to Bayern Munich, coupled with Real Madrid’s exit to Bourissa Dortmund, told us a lot about the future of European football and what we can expect to see over the next few years. The golden era of Spanish football, which Barcelona created, looks like it could be coming to an end and with it Europe is on the verge of a change of power. Step forward German football.
Not since Bayern Munich won the trophy in 2001 (and before that, Dortmund in 1997) has a German side tasted success in Europe’s premier competition. On 25th May at Wembley stadium, the long wait for a German winner will come to an end and a new champion will be crowned under the famous arch.
Bayern Munich will go into the game as slight favourites, given their recent form in both the Champions League and in the Bundesliga, where they have already wrapped up the title and hold a massive lead over second placed Dortmund. The two teams drew 1-1 at the weekend to give little away ahead of the showpiece final in two weeks’ time.
They have been runners up in two of the last three years of the Champions League, underlining just how competitive they remain and this year I expect them to finally get their hands on the Champions League trophy…(not that I was disappointed last year being a Chelsea fan!)
So where does this leave Spanish football?
Barcelona were completely outplayed and outclassed over the two legs against Bayern Munich and without Messi they looked void of ideas. Xaxi, Iniesta and Villa were largely ineffective and without a recognised number nine they struggled to create a clear cut chance in 180 minutes of football. Tito Vilanova has been absent through illness and without him they have consistently lacked identity, something that Bayern Munich are set to gain in abundance with the arrival of former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola (and something you have to think was on the minds of some of the Barca players over the course of the two legs).
I’m not saying it’s the end for Barcelona or the tiki-taka football we have become accustomed to watching over the last few years but the way Barcelona play requires tempo, energy and enthusiasm. Now the team is starting to age, with the likes of Xavi, Puyol and Alves becoming less effective. Against a younger, more efficient team like Bayern who know how to attack but also defend with masterful authority and leadership… I’m afraid there was only ever going to be one winner.
There is no getting away from the fact that German football is increasingly on the rise, both in the standard of play and in the support it is receiving all over the world. But write Barcelona off at your peril. They are still a world class team and will have the capacity to attract big name players in the summer in their quest to become the greatest again.
Bayern are on the crest of a wave at the moment and their superiority should shine through against Dortmund and see them triumph to finally become the champions of Europe again.