FC Bayern Munich were crowned Kings of Europe this year as they defeated Borussia Dortmund at Wembley 2-1.
Bayern played a style of football that we are used to seeing from another FCB, but an amped up, improved version. The team played Barcelona’s “tiki-taka” style this season but with more urgency. They didn’t pass around the back and wait for openings while lulling defenses to sleep. No, Bayern played a possession game that pushed the ball forward with such efficiency that others had no hope. Even in this final when it seemed like Dortmund had Bayern reeling, the Bavarians settled in and showed us exactly what German football is all about. Power, precision, speed, and mental toughness. This is the new style of German football, and the style others might need to adapt to keep pace with the Germans in the future.
But that’s enough Bayern praise for now, because even though Dortmund faltered in this final, they showed us a preview of how the future of German football could shape up. A young, deep Dortmund squad displayed chemistry and understanding that rivaled even the most veteran of teams. The speed and sharpness with which Dortmund played was astounding, and the flare and swagger they portrayed was second to none. But that is where Dortmund really lost the game. For all the flare their players exhibited and the speed at which they played, they looked at times to be nervy and lacking a mature, poised presence. They had Bayern right where they wanted them for a good 45-55 minutes of the game and should have put it away, but Bayern showed a resilience that was second to none.
So now the question is what does the future hold for both sides? Dortmund seem to be in good shape, and although they may lose Robert Lewandowski to Bayern along with already departed Mario Götze at their core they are an exceptional group of young, talented players led by a manger just as young and talented as they are. But Jürgen Klopp and all his bravado may just be the thing that needs a bit of adjusting if he wants to take his Dortmund squad to the real next level. His strategy of winning the London fans over, taking jabs at Bayern, and making the media swoon almost worked to perfection. However, he failed to account for how focused Bayern would come into this game. In London his team didn’t seem like they were there to handle business, instead it looked like they were out to have fun.
In the end, that was really the deciding factor regarding the victor of this final, or at least it was to me. Bayern arrived in London with a no-nonsense attitude. A marketing campaign? They didn’t need to win over fans. Fun press conferences? Bayern didn’t need to woo the media. Instead the team came in stone faced, ready to take care of business. The focus that Bayern exuded was something that had been missing from recent squads, and something Dortmund didn’t take into account.
Bayern’s future looks very, very bright. Most of their stars look set to stick around and with Pep Guardiola coming in they will have a coach more than capable of handling lots of pressure in addition to egos. I don’t see much changing for Bayern, their style is one suited to be formidable for years to come.
But in the end can you blame Dortmund for wanting to live it up? No, not at all. They knew they deserved to be in the final, and for a lot of the game looked like a team that knew they had a real chance at winning the whole thing. At the end of the day, Bayern won due to the players sheer determination to not be dubbed losers for the rest of their careers. They came in with the perfect style of play needed for a final. Mental toughness to ride out a storm, to get past a heartbreaking equalizer and to deliver a final blow in the dying seconds of the game.
The final and it’s aftermath is something we could discuss for ages, because these are two great teams that played an amazing game. In the end it was Bayern’s fairytale ending at the expense of Dortmund. I know everyone wanted to see El Clasico at Wembley, but Bayern and Dortmund gave us something better, a “Der Klassiker” for the ages.