Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich did not just defeat the two Spanish top notch clubs, they humiliated them. Are we seeing the changing of the guard in European football?
Two days, two football feasts. But only from the German point of view, of course. FC Barcelona and Real Madrid have returned home with their heads hanging. They will need a miracle to pull through to the final after their 4-0 and 4-1 defeats. Dortmund coach Jürgen Klopp and Bayern's Jupp Heynckes, however, were quick to warn against euphoria and urge their players to keep their act together and concentrate on the second leg of the semifinals next week in Barcelona and Madrid.
But for now the chances are good that Germany's two top teams will face each other in the Champions League final at Wembley Stadium in London on May 25.
The term “historic” is somewhat overused, in sports coverage even more than anywhere else. But this week's two memorable Champions League semifinals are likely to get a special place in the history books.
This was the first time in 19 years that Barcelona lost a match in a European competition by a four-goal margin: since their 4-0 defeat against AC Milan in the 1994 Champions League final. And during Dortmund's 4-1 victory over Real, Robert Lewandowski became the first player ever to score four times in a Champions League semifinal - and the first player ever to score three or more against Real in the competition.
'Tiki-taka' taken to task
For a number of years Barcelona has been recognized not only as the best team in Europe, but as the best in the world. With their legendary quick-passing “tiki-taka” style of play, Lionel Messi and his teammates raised the bar.
But the magic is threatening to dissipate. German champions Bayern Munich dismantled their opponents with an uncompromising team effort in defense, combined with unmatched stamina and speed and forceful attacking. Consider that Barcelona, playing in Munich, enjoyed two-thirds of possession - but could barely carve out any real chances.
Admittedly superstar Lionel Messi was not fit and should better have been rested, but even had he been at his best, this Bavarian team had a clear and rigid gameplan designed to keep him under control.
A Real wake-up call
One day later, Real Madrid didn't fare much better than Barca. With their modern high speed attacking style Dortmund simply dismantled their opponents. In the one-sided second half in particular, superstar Cristiano Ronaldo and the German internationals Mesut Özil and Sami Khedira seemed like they didn't quite know what was hitting them, as though they were asking themselves: What exactly is happening to us here?
Given that Real had fallen twice to Dortmund in the group stages of this year's Champions League, they should have been far better prepared. Coach Jose Mourinho even paid a visit to Germany, to lowly Fürth no less, earlier in the month to get yet another look at his Bundesliga opponents.
From club to country?
There are clear signs that the times are changing in European club football. Bayern and Dortmund in their current form can hardly be beaten - just like the Spanish sides were almost unbeatable in the past.
This may mean that the German national team is now ready to take the crown from Spain, the current holder of the World Cup and the European Championship titles. But then again it may not. Bayern and Dortmund have found the right mix of fresh German talent and high-class foreign players - Poland's Robert Lewandowski, not Marco Reus or Mario Götze, banged in all four Dortmund goals.
German national coach Joachim Löw can obviously not count on players like Lewandowski, Neven Subotic, Franck Ribery or Arjen Robben. Yet it seems clear at the moment that his squad is bound to be comprised mostly of the German stars at Dortmund and Bayern for the foreseeable future. With the experience they are gathering at club football's highest level, just like the Spanish core players within the Barca and Real sides, surely they are best suited to the pressure of the world stage in Brazil.