Pitchside Europe

The end of the Barcelona era?


View photo


Bayern Munich's tremendous 7-0 aggregate victory over Barcelona in the Champions League semi-finals has been hailed as a changing of the guard moment.

With Borussia Dortmund also seeing off Real Madrid, an era of German dominance could be on the cards after around five years of Spain hogging the headlines.

Bayern are set to welcome Pep Guardiola to the club in June and it is suspected that he will complete the job of deposing his former club, Barca, as Europe's pre-eminent force.

But did we witness the end of an era on Wednesday night? And are Bayern now world football's leading club?

We asked our experts across Europe for their opinions...

Alex Chick, Britain

The end of an era for Barcelona? If an 11-point lead in your domestic championship and a Champions League semi-final represents the end of an era, you must be doing something right. Clearly Barcelona have problems. They look jaded, Messi’s injury appears more serious than Barca are letting on, and they have endured the upheaval of Tito Vilanova’s health problems. But if any team has the resources and the structure to get back to the top of European football, it’s Barcelona.

Bayern were wonderful again last night, but their incredible performances have created a strange problem; when they signed Guardiola it looked like a masterstroke – now it seems his arrival can only disrupt a team that is playing at an extraordinary level. Bayern Munich are evidently the best team in Europe right now, but Heynckes’s departure and Guardiola’s arrival casts a big question mark over whether they can maintain this dominance.

Daniel Rathjen, Germany

Everyone who is involved in the football business knows that it’s constantly under change and subject to further development. So what we saw is just a snap-shot. But it must be concluded that the Germans have made their way through the desert. Now they can look forward to experiencing some glory years. Since Bayern’s great semi-final performances, the era of Barcelona's dominance is over for the present. The team has already had their best time – you only had to watch the helpless Xavi and Andres Iniesta at the Camp Nou to see that.

Spain is out – Germany is in. The Bundesliga, booming and prosperous, has a good basis to be successful in the future. Furthermore, the meticulous work in the Elite Sports Centres is paying off. There won’t be a lack of talented players over the next few years. But Germany's successful methods are being copied. England, Spain and Italy send their scouts to learn from Germany. There will be a mix of influences soon and the German football has to define itself again to stay at the top.

Andrea Tabacco, Italy

Barcelona depend too much on Lionel Messi, and when he doesn’t play (it’s not important if he is on the bench or on the field, all of us remember his turgid performances against Milan in the San Siro, or in the first match with Bayern…), they lose, I think, 75 per cent of their strength. Maybe it’s nonsense, but Messi could be a problem for the Barcelona of the future.

Bayern play the best football in Europe, probably in the world, including national teams. They have technical and physical force and, year by year, have grown a lot. And, in addition to that, they are young, and able to dominate in Europe for a long time.

Nacho Gonzalez, Spain

Barcelona’s era is over, absolutely. Since the arrival of Guardiola, all the defeats in the Champions League (Inter in 2010 and Chelsea in 2012) were somewhat circumstantial, but they were never dominated as they were against Bayern this season.

Bayern have demonstrated their potential over the last few years, and this outrageous double win against Barca demonstrates the transfer of power in European and global football. Even if they go on to lose another final.

All of this doesn’t mean that the Barca model is over. Most of their players are the same, so they don’t have to change the model, just redefine it. They’ve lost their hegemony, but they are still one of the few clubs who can take it again from Bayern, the new kings of football.

Cedric Rouquette, France

Yes, Barca let their leadership in European football transfer to Bayern, and the starting point was the first leg of the round of 16, when Arsenal were destroyed by Bayern 24 hours before Milan beat Barcelona. From this day, you could see a major difference in level between them. The team that seems unbeatable today, who both defend and attack with no visible solution for the opponent is Bayern; Barcelona had this kind of status between 2008 and 2011.

My view is that Bayern are already on top, both in football and administration, and that they move quicker than their opponents. They have already chosen their coach and he is the most famous of all (Guardiola). They’ve already made a great move in signing the little genius Mario Goetze. They are miles ahead of everyone. Barca and Real have to rebuild. Dortmund are on the defensive, because their great hope is to keep hold of their star players. PSG's project is still in its early stages, and if there is a true rival for Bayern it would have to be Manchester United and Juventus. But they both still have to prove a lot.

Bayern can possess the very first ‘financial fair play’ model, and be the best on the field too. Most European clubs spend more money than they have; most of them take a lot of risks. Bayern can make money, have a strategic view and all with a very strong team. The best. From my point of view, it’s the first time in Europe.

Piotr Onami, Poland

An end of an era for Barca? No. Of course it's time for change - the team created by Guardiola has run its course and they need a few new quality players, especially in defence. They also need to get rid few of a few, for example Javier Mascherano who is not a quality central defender (a defensive midfielder at best). There's a need for new blood. Maybe next season they will not be the greatest; maybe Barcelona will struggle even more in Europe; maybe there will be problems in La Liga if Real Madrid also invest big money in the summer, but Barcelona will come back to the top. Now it's time to regroup, to change batteries.

For decades, Bayern have been a top-notch club in Europe. It now looks as though they have one of the strongest teams in their history. The arrival of Guardiola shouldn't break anything, Heynckes was doing great, but don't forget he is 68 and if Bayern win the Champions League it will be his biggest success, something that's hard to be topped by him at this age. A hungry Pep, after a one-year sabbatical from football, could give Bayern more, can make this team the very best in Europe. Right now, Bayern are one of the best, but still not the number one side. Let's not forget one year ago they had everything going for them to win the Champions League: they played at the Allianz; Chelsea had an interim manager; a few players were very unhappy and planned to escape Stamford Bridge in the summer - but Bayern still couldn't claim the trophy. So even if they win it this year, it's still not enough to say that they're really the best team in Europe.

View comments (133)