Recent German masterclasses in the European Champions League semi-finals have seen Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich eliminate Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively. It’s the end of an era, as the tiki taka has…tikied for the last time, and the teutonic style and strengths of German football will now take over the planet.
If you believe the hype.
I find it interesting how many people have always been so preoccupied with pandemoniums, exaggerations and hyperbole giving credence to a sense that the sinetron approach really is the best way to live life.
First of all, the facts. Dortmund and Bayern destroyed Real and Barcelona over four matches in the semi finals. This wasn’t just reflected in the scorelines and the number of goals seemingly headed in a one-way traffic. On the pitch, Barcelona really had no answer to barrage of goals. Their main hope, Messi, was all over the headlines all over the place for most of the football season. Here, he was anonymous, and in the second leg, he was nowhere to be seen, failing to come off the bench.
Real appeared to make a closer fist of it against Dortmund, though, lacking only the one goal in the end to make through to the final. Their game is also built to exploit the strengths of their star man, Cristiano Ronaldo, but he managed only two goals against them in four matches this season. Decent by anyone else’s standards, but decent doesn’t get them to the Decima, the tenth premiere European title they were chasing after.
Similarly to Barcelona, though, they failed to truly maximise whatever advantages they had over the two legs. Built as a counter-attacking side, they failed to counter the attacks of Dortmund with enough on field ingenuity required. Hence, they got knocked out.
However, a closer inspection of the results reveals that there’s more than meets the eye, and more reason for us to marvel at the football on offer within the most appropriate of contexts.
Fact: Barcelona did not have their star man fully fit for both the encounters. Messi, of course, is the demigod I’m referring to here, but even demigod can’t conjure divine miracles to fully cure damaged hamstrings. Another fact: they didn’t have their manager on the bench. Last season, Jordi Roura was merely a part of the technical staff as Pep Guardiola pulled the curtains on his managerial career in Catalonia (at least for now). Tito Vilanova took over, but his unfortunate illness did not help with the stability of the team as a whole. Faced with a team as wounded as Bayern Munich, led by as experienced a tactical master as Jupp Heynckes, then, is probably not the most ideal of situations. Given a manager more permanent, and a Messi less injured, things would probably not look as bad as they did.
It would help if they actually sign some defenders themselves. It’s ironic, considering how many people bang on about Manchester United need a proper midfielder to truly complete their squad, while Barcelona went about their business lacking the temerity to sign proper centre halves. A look through their squad reveals the aged warrior Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique and…Marc Bartra as their specialist centre-halves. Manchester United, on the other hand, have four: Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones.
Perhaps they should swap one for another, because the options Barcelona have in midfield is impressive. Xavi is correctly identified as someone who is getting on a bit, but behind him, the likes of Cesc Fabregas and Thiago Alcantara are just waiting to take over the mantle. They seem to be decently stocked in attack too, and that’s discounting whatever future superstars they brewing over in their respective youth teams.
It’s not exactly the same situation over at Real Madrid, but confrontations that seems to resemble a mini civil war at times must have been distracting factors that can’t help in the progress of a club. Without wishing to rake over cold coals (though some of them are still burning hot), conflicts between Jose Mourinho, Iker Casillas, Pepe, Sergio Ramos, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Kaka, amongst other players, as well as Florentino Perez, at random points throughout the season does not suggest the poster boys for a game of Happy Families. Things may change with the potential exit of Mourinho, but simply put, the unity that was so evident with Borussia Dortmund is also sorely lacking at the Bernabeu. I suspect things may look up sooner rather than later.
And when they do, if certain things are indeed put into place and executed accordingly, what will the headlines say next season?