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The German Remedy To Spanish Fluency

Maybe even more so in retrospect, the German undressing of Spanish football in the semi-finals of the Champions League carried an immense amount of significance. The results swept through world football like a breath of fresh air for those of us who have been frozen in a trance from years of hypnotic Catalan passing. The most impressive factor in Germany's sweep of the semi-finals is that both Barcelona and Real Madrid were simply outclassed. 

Semi-finals are meant to be tight, cagey affairs, with teams trying to outwit each other through the duration of both legs. Barcelona were outwitted before the first tie was over. With most people eyeing an all-Spanish final it was the Germans who put on the show.

 

What now for Spanish football?

Real Madrid will move on, as eventually will Jose Mourinho. Indeed, the level of football may even improve, more probably, when the ‘Special One’ leaves for his first love, in London. Never noted for his attacking flair, Mourinho will leave a legacy of limited proportions compared to his hero status at his old clubs in England, Portugal and Italy.

 

Barcelona's fate is less certain. Even though they were lacking a fully fit Lionel Messi, the 'tic-tac choir boys' who have given us so much footballing joy were completely dismantled by a Bayern Munich side that gave them a good dose of their own medicine. It was almost bizarre to watch a Barcelona that was devoid of ideas over two games; such was the strength in footballing terms of Bayern.

 

The tried and tested technique to side step Barcelona in the later stages of the top European competition historically was to either just avoid them in the draw or park a bus on the 18-yard line and hope to snatch a goal on the counter. Bayern did neither.

 

For once Barcelona didn't get knocked out of the Champions league Final where they had spent two entire legs battering at a door that was firmly closed. For once there was no doubt who the better team was as Barcelona lost. For once Barcelona's footballers were beaten by football.

 

It’s a German remedy to the Spanish fluency that has dominated European soccer in recent times and maybe also a sign of things to come. There will be always be different tactics to play a game, but we've come a long way from the defensive days of Jose Mourinho's Porto who ground out a Champions League title with discipline in defense.

 

Although it may have ushered in a new era of football in Europe, Barcelona are probably not finished yet.

 

Still, the loss did highlight some problems with the current Barcelona squad. Barcelona have maybe become too reliant on Lionel Messi. Tito Vilanova’s refusal to remove the little Argentine from the field in the first leg, even though he was visibly struggling, was an indication that even at half strength Messi may currently be Barca's only answer to the question of goals.

 

Most big teams would be able to reassess in the off-season and bolster their squad with a couple of big signings, but Barcelona's forays into the transfer market in recent times have been dramatically bad. It seems they have become so dependent on their youth system and so stuck in a style that revolves around Messi, that big names find it difficult to fit in at the Nou Camp.

 

The issue has become so chronic that repeated attempts to bolster a back-line, that is rarely tested in 'La Liga' but glaring weak in Europe, has been consistently fruitless. However, with a commitment to youth, Barcelona may have to think outside the box.

 

In his final stages as Barcelona coach, Pep Guardiola strived to keep the ideas in the team fresh by rotating the team's formation to force them to think differently and stay creative. Vilanova has failed to do this.

 

Barcelona may need to revamp more than their formation if they want to cure their Champions League soccer ills. For now though, German football has the healthiest house and Spanish football will be scanning itself for answers to its European bug.

 

Matthew Wheatley

Freelance journalist

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