- Rest of World
|Champions League Special: Are German clubs on the verge of ruling European football?|
Few would have expected the European Cup final that Bastian Schweinsteiger’s strike ensured on Wednesday at Santiago Bernabeu. When Clasico was dominating headlines a week ago, the footballing world hardly had any time to think beyond Barcelona and Real Madrid; Messi and Ronaldo. Even at the start of this season, the general consensus was that it was just a matter of time before the Spanish giants lock horns in a dream final in Munich.
After Chelsea eliminated Barcelona on Tuesday, it was Bayern Munich’s turn to make a statement. Cristiano Ronaldo’s brace had given Madrid a one-goal lead in the tie but Arjen Robben’s penalty restored parity as the game entered extra time, and subsequently penalty shoot-out, with the score tied at 3-3. Ronaldo turned from hero to villain as he saw his shot saved by Neuer. After Kaka and Sergio Ramos also failed to find the back of the net, Schweinsteiger slotted home, sending the Bavarians to a dream final at their home ground on May 19.
It will be inane to dub Bayern’s victory over Madrid as a one-off occasion. The Germans dominated both legs against the Los Blancos and will deservedly play next month’s showpiece in Allianz Arena. And the fact that the Bavarians will be playing their second Champions League final in four years testifies their status as a European powerhouse who can consistently challenge for the most coveted trophy in European club football.
Bayern’s success is not just all about their foreign superstars. People talk a lot about La Masia academy graduates but Bayern’s youth academy is right up there with the very best. As a matter of fact, there were six former Bayern youth team players in the team that beat Real Madrid on Wednesday.
Finance is a crucial factor in modern day football. Ajax have a vast pool of talent but lack of finance means that they fail to hold on to most of the prodigies who learned their trade at their academy as they can neither pay heavy wages to them nor can they reinforce their squad by signing top foreign talents. But Bayern aren’t far behind the European big boys in that department. After all, they are the 4th richest club in the world with only Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester United earning more revenues than them.
But Bayern aren’t the only team from Germany that won hearts this season. Despite all their exploits in the biggest stage of Europe, the Bavarian giants aren’t finding it that easy in Germany. And the fact that Bayern’s domestic dominance is under serious threat was confirmed last week when Borrussia Dortmund won their second consecutive Bundesliga title.
Dortmund’s youthful exuberance and attacking brand of football have made them the new darling of Europe. Their latest silverware is simply the victory of their spirit and hunger which few could have envisaged considering the resources of Bayern. Despite losing Nuri Sahin to Madrid last year and missing Mario Götze for a large part of the season due to injury, Dortmund’s title race never seemed to fall out of place.
Having attested that last season's title success was no flash in the pan, Dortmund’s next target has to be Europe. Their unceremonious group-stage exit from this season’s Champions League did little justice to the talent in Klopp’s squad. However, the last Dortmund side who won consecutive league titles proved to be quick learners as they won the Champions League in 1997 having been knocked out by Ajax in the same competition in the earlier season.
Germany’s excellence extends beyond Bayern and Dortmund. They have always been a force to reckon in the international stage. If there was a team who could ever challenge Spain’s supremacy, Germany’s name would be the first to crop up. The Germans reached the 2008 Euro final and 2010 World Cup semi-final – only to lose out to eventual winners Spain.
While Bayern supply most of the players to Germany, we find a reflection of Dortmund’s philosophy in the Germany model. After the recent accomplishments of Bayern and Dortmund, coupled with Germany’s consistency in the international arena, can we say that Germany is ready to dominate Europe? It is still premature to answer this question but the tournament in Ukraine and Poland would surely give us a hint or two.
Be sure to LIKE SoccerAnchor on Facebook, and leave your thoughts below...