The emotions had calmed and the mood was one of utmost respect between the two clubs in the Wembley press room — which is why it was all the more surprising Jupp Heynckes couldn’t resist one last dig in Borussia Dortmund’s direction.
“We know [Mario] Goetze will be joining us and I don’t think [Robert] Lewandowski will be hanging about too much either.”
Much of that was understood, making it so unnecessary. Bayern Munich’s domination is now so total it does not require any extra barbs to be utterly brutal.
The way the 2013 Champions League final finished was bad enough. In terms of emotional impact, a late winner was arguably more punishing than the kind of thrashing many had predicted. If the ultimately narrow 2-1 final score did not fully reflect the clear gap that has grown between Bayern and Dortmund this season, the manner it was secured did bring so much to a peak.
On the one side, there was all the suffering Bayern had endured in the Champions League in 2010 and, especially, 2012. It hardened the squad — and especially Arjen Robben — to stay strong in that decisive moment, despite missing so many similar chances beforehand. One clever kick saw Roman Weidenfeller evaded and a recent history of failure evaporated.
On the other side, though, there is this astonishing present of success. The course of Bayern’s season conditioned this victory to be almost inevitable. Having obliterated virtually every domestic record and then blown away European football’s standard-bearers in Barcelona, the Champions League trophy brought an unparalleled campaign to a natural conclusion. Victory in next week’s German cup final against Stuttgart will make it complete.
There is already an argument, though, that this victory has finally fully matured the team. Totems like Bastien Schweinsteiger and Philipp Lahm at last have an international title to their name. Pep Guardiola is no longer taking over a squad with a neurosis about the Champions League. Instead, they have the clarifying knowledge that they are the best in Europe. The next question, then, regards the immediate future?
What can Guardiola actually do with this team? Well, one objective is obvious and of significant importance. He can ensure Bayern become the first side to retain the Champions League in 24 years. That would be a genuine success and arguably prove they have already surpassed his Barcelona.
That, after all, is the other big question from Saturday night: whether a treble automatically puts the Bavarians at Barca’s level. Although the basic statistics of Bayern’s season are actually superior to any campaign the Catalans produced between 2008 and 2011, the nature of it hasn’t been as stellar. Heynckes’ side have been much more functional than the predecessors, just punishing the mistakes of other sides rather than always forcing them through their own play. That was especially the case in that showdown with Barcelona.
As such, because of the specific circumstances of this season, it’s hard to draw too many conclusions. Bayern need to prove it over a longer period.
More frighteningly, though, there is significant room for improvement. The defence can be upgraded, as can the entire attack — including the two scorers. It remains somewhat striking that there is no real defined star in the team.
This is where Guardiola, Goetze and possibly the likes of Lewandowski come in. The highly sought-after new manager can make Bayern much more sophisticated; the exciting new players can make them more enticing. In all, they’ll feel a more awe-inspiring side; an element of magic to go with the heavy mechanics.
It’s also why this result was so important in terms of the direction of German and European football. Had Dortmund won, it would have redressed the balance of the season and also created a few complex new problems for Bayern. The European neurosis would have continued. If unhealthy for them, it arguably would have been healthier for the competition. Instead, we see this singular domination. While Bayern have asset-stripped other German sides in the past, they’ve never done it when they’ve been so ascendent.
Amidst all that, Heynckes’ line was easy insult to grievous injury.
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