Power shifts are an all too common idiom thrown about in the sporting world, particularly football, yet the Champions League semi-final first-legs have been so utterly dominated by the Germans, it feels rude not to give your two pennies worth.
Germany’s best, in Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, brushed aside the two teams widely considered as the best in the business – Barcelona and Real Madrid. Although it is only the half-way stage of the semi-finals, an all-German final at Wembley in late May is more than likely, with bookmakers offering odds of 8-1 ON.
Both first-legs were held in Germany and the hosts found the net four times apiece. Combined with the Spaniards paltry reply of one goal, the football world sat up and took notice – only a brave man would bet against an all-German final.
On Tuesday, a Barcelona side over-reliant on four-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi, saw their star man smothered by the Bavarians, who in turn, stunned the Catalans displaying an abundance of power and pace – particularly at set-pieces and counter attacks. Although two of their goals were questionable (Mario Gomez marginally offside and Thomas Muller fouling Jordi Alba), the overall 4-0 result did not flatter to deceive.
With Pep Guardiola joining the Bundesliga outfit next season, and Bayern seemingly marching towards a clean sweep this campaign, is there any hope for the rest of Europe? Those who sadly questioned Guardiola’s influence at Barcelona have been made to eat their words as the graduates of La Masia have struggled with their former mentor’s absence. Ominously, Bayern have already commenced their close season strengthening by announcing, on Wednesday, that Dortmund’s key playmaker, Mario Gotze, will be joining Guardiola et al in the summer, after the champions activated his release clause of £31.5m.
In Dortmund, given the unwelcome Gotze news, Jurgen Klopp appealed for calm before last night’s match and if there were fans jeering, they were silenced after only eight minutes when the main man himself curled in a perfectly flighted cross for Robert Lewandowski to open the scoring.
When the semi-final draw was made two weeks ago, it setup a stage for Die Schwarzgelben’s players like Lewandowski, who has one year left on his contract, to showcase their talents to the rest of the world. He did just that, with a four-goal haul, the first in CL history at this stage of the tournament. Despite fearing a breakup of Borussia’s gems, Klopp defiantly stated that both he and Lewandowski would be at the Westfalenstadion next season.
The German football business model is the envy of the footballing world. Following the national team’s Euro 2000 debacle, German football was revamped. Today a domestic league full of home-grown talent is reflected by the national team which has not been eliminated before the semi-final stage in the last four major tournaments. The vast majority of clubs are financially sound with rules in place ensuring that clubs are owned by members and not super-rich individuals. Furthermore, the Bundesliga boasts the highest average attendances in Europe plus match day ticket prices are considerably more affordable than their English counterparts.
Taking this into consideration, specifically at a time when the Financial Fair Play regulations come into force, a club such as Bayern, who has an unassailable 20 point advantage domestically, can only go from strength to strength. They continue to flex their financial clout, demonstrated by their ability to cherry-pick, even their domestic rivals’ best players. Overall these are the same qualities which resulted in European domination during the mid-1970’s where they won three successive European cups.
Europe should be bracing itself for a new order. Step aside Spain, it’s time for Franz Beckenbauer’s boys to enjoy the limelight.
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