When this season’s FIFA World XI was announced, many fans and pundits alike were upset that every player on the team was from La Liga, the Spanish premier league. Even more amazing was that Radamel Falcao, the prolific striker from Atletico Madrid, was the only player to make the list who wasn’t on either Barcelona or Real Madrid.
Well, it’s time to add more fuel to that fire.
With Bayern Munich’s 7-0 destruction of Barcelona on aggregate and Borussia Dortmund’s 4-3 aggregate win over Real Madrid, it is clear that the landscape of European soccer is rapidly changing.
Granted, Lionel Messi, the best player in the world, was clearly not fit in the first leg against Bayern and did not even play in the second leg. However, the sheer ease with which Bayern dispatched Barcelona illustrates the gulf in class between the two teams.
Madrid was able to make the second leg against Dortmund interesting with two late goals at the Santiago Bernabeau, but the final result was never really in question as Los Blancos were unable to close the gap that striker Robert Lewandowski created with his four first leg goals.
A common debate between soccer fans over the past few years has over which league is better, La Liga or the English Premier League? La Liga supporters argued that Spain had the best league because it has the two best teams: Real Madrid and Barcelona. EPL supporters argued that England was the best because it had better teams top to bottom than any other league.
I think that argument can be put to rest, for now at least.
With Bayern and Dortmund meeting each other in an all-German Champions League final, it is clear that the German giants are the best teams in the world. Gone are the days where German soccer was criticized for being too mechanical and boring.
Sure, one of the main reasons Bayern dominated Barcelona was due its massive size and speed advantage across the board. Most of Barcelona’s players are less than six feet tall and are not the prototypical athletes. However, for years Barcelona has wiped the floor with bigger, stronger and faster teams. To beat them, Bayern created a game plan and implemented it to perfection: absorb the pressure, don’t let the ball go inside the box, and hit Barcelona fast and hard on the counter. With a staunch defense and two of the best wide players in the world in Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery, Bayern was able expose Barcelona where it is the weakest.
The humiliating 7-0 loss on aggregate may ultimately be the turning point for Barcelona, signifying the end of what was perhaps the greatest team run in sports history. The Blaugrana won La Liga three straight seasons from 2008-11 and won the Champions League in both 2009 and 2011, leading many pundits to label them as the best team of all time.
However, with two of their most instrumental players Xavi Hernandez and Carles Puyol reaching the end of their careers and a defense that disappoints on a regular basis, it may be time for Barcelona to consider rebuilding.
Some may say that I am overreacting, that all Barcelona needs is a couple players here and there and they will again be considered the best team in the world. That would perhaps be enough if all Barcelona was concerned about was winning La Liga. However, Barça and their fans are not content with domestic success; they need to have success in Europe as well. And with Bayern only getting better this summer with the acquisition of young German playmaker Mario Gotze from, ironically, Borussia Dortmund, and Madrid lining up bids for Tottenham’s Gareth Bale and Napoli’s Edinson Cavani, Barcelona will have an even steeper hill to climb to get back to the Champions League Final.
Nevertheless, on May 25 in Wembley Stadium, the world will get to see the new brand of German soccer that is being played: fast paced, exciting, but most of all, dominant.
This article is an online exclusive and did not appear in the print edition of the Daily Nexus.
Photo courtesy of en.wikipedia.org