On Saturday 25th May, at Wembley Stadium, the European Champions League final will be contested, for the first time, by two German clubs. Following Borussia Dortmund’s victory over Real Madrid and Bayern Munich’s thrashing of Spanish giants Barcelona by the largest aggregate score-line ever in a Champions League semi-final (7-0), the two German rivals will thrash it out for the honour of becoming Europe’s greatest team.
So with Spanish heavyweights Barcelona and Real Madrid being vanquished at the last hurdle, does this mark a significant power shift in European football? The signs certainly point to that, as Bayern made the final last season (ahead of Real and Barca) only to lose to Chelsea. It would appear that the Spanish sides do not possess the dominance they once did in Europe’s top competition. It is not just the two German sides reaching the final that illustrates this, but the manner of their victories over their rivals. Bayern embarrassed Barcelona by inflicting their heaviest ever aggregate defeat, whilst Dortmund made Real look very ordinary in their 4-1 first leg victory.
Another obvious sign of the power shift towards German football is the appointment, by Bayern Munich, of former Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola. Shunning the obvious monetary draw of the Premier League and flirtations from other top sides in Europe, Guardiola made the unexpected choice of electing Bayern as his next employers. This signifies how far the German game has developed in the past few years and is a statement of intent from the Munich side that they are determined to cement their status as a European powerhouse. Guardiola has obviously recognised that shift and the appeal of German football has proven too great.
So what are the reasons for this apparent power shift towards Deutschland? Well, the ability to attract players and build teams without spending the lavish millions of the Premier League could be one reason. However, the most probable answer is the Germans investment in a strong and enduring youth policy. Indeed, Bayern Munich’s youth system has produced some of the best players in the world over the past two decades, including Philipp Lahm, Thomas Müller and Bastian Schweinsteiger, all of whom still play integral roles in the Bayern first team. Analogously, Borussia Dortmund’s youth structure is one of the most revered in the modern game and has produced a plethora of Bundesliga regulars. This focus on the nurture and development of young players has also seen a shake-up of the German national team, with a much greater emphasis on youth.
As the excitement in Germany reaches stratospheric levels ahead of the first all-German Champions League final in the competitions history, many are speculating on the outcome. Bayern, after beating their opponents to the Budesliga title by a considerable margin, must be considered favourites. But in cup games it all comes down to who shows up on the day and with the raw enthusiasm and counter attacking ability that Dortmund possess there is every chance they could cause an upset.