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Owen Grant questions whether the recent results for German football in the Champions League point to a changing-of-the-guard in Europe.

Could the performances of the German sides in their first leg encounters against both of the Spanish giants spark the beginning of Germany’s turn to dominate European football?

Much has been made of this week’s two Champions League semi-finals with many pundits claiming that Barcelona’s loss to Bayern Munich signals a changing of the guard in Europe; with the Blaugrana no longer setting the benchmark for European football.

If few had seen the Barca result coming, then even fewer people would have expected Dortmund to brush aside Real Madrid with such ease on Wednesday.

The efficiency and ruthlessness of the German sides was sensational. Barcelona had no answer for the power and strength of Bayern who now have one foot in the final after their 4-0 victory while Dortmund are also well placed to advance after Robert Lewandowski inspired them to a 4-1 home victory.

Some people may be surprised by these results but anyone who follows the Bundesliga will know that it was only a matter of time before German football forced its way back to the forefront of European soccer. Richard Barrett wrote an article a few months ago discussing the changes brought in by the German FA after Euro 2000 to improve various aspects of their domestic game. As a result, German clubs have become the best run and most financially sound clubs in Europe with Bayern making a profit for each of the last 20 years, an incredible statistic. It may have taken some time for the German clubs to reap the benefits of the changes, but now they are plain for all to see.

Dortmund’s transformation from a club nearing bankruptcy in 2005, to back to back Bundesliga titles has been incredible and they have the most exciting young team in Europe at the moment. Their performance against Madrid was typical of the current squad with Marco Reus, Mario Gotze and Lewandowski causing all kinds of problems for Real’s defence, while IIkay Gundogan was fantastic bossing the midfield.

Their success is in no small part down to Jurgen Klopp, the team’s manager who at present has to be considered one of the top managers in the game. When considering the money he has spent to create one of Europe’s most attractive attacking teams the job he has done becomes even more impressive. Of the team that started the game against Madrid, only Marco Reus cost over 6 million euro (€16.5) and his transfer fee was covered by the sale of Kagawa to Man United. while five of the starting team in the game arrived for free or through the clubs youth academy.

Their performance set Europe alight but their success over the last few years has led to one big problem: How can Dortmund hold on to their star players beyond the transfer window?

With Mario Gotze already on his way to Bayern in the summer for €37 million (a record for a German player) it seems they will also lose talismanic striker Lewandowski, whose agent has confirmed that the Pole will leave the club in the summer. However, Dortmund have dealt with departures before (Kagawa to Manchester United) and their recent transfer record suggests they will find the players to continue to dine at Europe’s top table under Klopp’s guidance.

Bayern on the other hand look set to go from strength-to-strength. They now look set to make it three Champions League finals in the last four seasons due to their outstanding victory over Barcelone. After last year’s defeat to Chelsea in the final, Bayern brought in Javi Martinez, Dante, Xherdan Shaqiri and Mario Mandzukic enabling the Bavariian giants to steamroll their way through the Bundesliga season. ante and Martinez in particular proved themselves to be outstanding captures. They are now firm favourites to progress and win this year’s Champions League, something which is of no surprise given the undeniable quality within the squad.

It is fair to say that Barcelona have not been the same force this season as they have over the last five years, but such was the performance of Bayern on Tuesday night that it felt like a changing of the guard with every goal. Bayern’s tackling was precise and calculated while their counter attacking was breathtaking, with Arjen Robben in particular very impressive.

Despite only having 37% possession, Bayern managed 13 shots to Barcelona’s 4 showing just how hard Barcelona found it to get through the Bayern defence. It’s almost impossible to see a way back for the Catalan ginats in the second leg. They survived poor performances in Milan and Paris but in Munich they had no answer for the strength and aggression of Bayern and even Leo Messi will struggle to save Barcelona this time.

With a treble now well within their grasp Bayern are certainly the form team in Europe, and have been for some time. Add to that the news that they have signed Gotze from their rivals Dortmund, along with Pep Guardiola’s arrival in June, and Bayern are well placed to dominate both domestic and European football for the foreseeable future.

Gotze’s transfer to Bayern is also very significant as it substantiates the fact that top German players now want to stay in the Bundesliga. Gotze reportedly turned down numerous offers from top European clubs to stay in Germany and have the chance to work with Guardiola and it is possible Lewandowski may yet do the same.

Other players such as Edin Dzeko have talked about possible transfers back to Germany. With an extra allocation for next season’s tournament, four teams from the Bundesliga couldwell feature in next year’s Champions League. With a better chance of European football on offer it’s increasingly likely that the top players will stay in Germany and that top players from the other leagues will begin to choose Germany as their preferred destination.

With a good chance of a first ever all-German Final in the Champions League, this could well be the first season of a German cycle which could continue to dominate Europe for many years to come.

Sport Is Everything. Owen Grant.

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