The vast bowl of Munich’s Allianz Arena shuddered to the sound of a deafening amplified heartbeat as Bayern Munich and Barcelona stood in the tunnel before the first leg of their Champions League semi-final – but by the final whistle the talk was of a seismic shift in European football’s balance of power.
Report by BBC Sport
As ecstatic supporters drove past a stadium illuminated in Bayern red in the small hours, they could reflect on how it had earlier been lit up by a Jupp Heynckes side which had displayed ominous quality, power and fierce intensity.
Barcelona have traded on an ability to torture opponents in the Champions League. But the thorough going over they received in this 4-0 semi-final mauling was the sight and sound of a team getting a taste of their own medicine.
There was irony in this triumph too. Heynckes, the 67-year-old elder statesman who is being moved aside to accommodate Pep Guardiola’s return to the game, had publicly dismantled the monument to tradition and football purity lovingly built by the man who will be his successor. Brick by brick.
Since it was announced that Pep Guardiola would manager Bayern next season, the club have won 19 out of 20 games in all competitions. Arsenal are the only side not to lose, winning 2-0 at the Allianz Arena
Only a fool would suggest that this was a night – played out in a vibrant and celebratory atmosphere before fans sensing they were witnessing something special – when the Barca era ended. Heynckes was far too wise and respectful to buy that one when it was proffered to him.
This was more a case of Bayern confirming their status as the coming force rather than Barcelona falling from the established order.
If Bayern, the game’s old drama queen dubbed “FC Hollywood” in days gone by, wanted to send a message to their rivals at home and abroad, this was the evening they delivered it.
It started with confirmation that Bayern had agreed a £32m deal to sign Borussia Dortmund’s Mario Gotze, a 20-year-old coveted by Europe’s elite.
The timing was staggering, with Borussia having a Champions League semi-final of their own against Real Madrid 24 hours later and with the possibility of Gotze playing against his soon-to-be team-mates in May’s final at Wembley.
Then came the defeat of Barcelona. It was a win of such significance that it may yet be seen as a landmark moment, although the response of the deeply wounded Catalans will be awaited with interest.
Heynckes, without gloating, revelled in his victory. He insisted he had no use for calling Guardiola for inside information on Barcelona – he knew it all anyway.
Bayern Munich manager Jupp Heynckes produced a tactical masterclass against Barcelona
And he illustrated this with a graphic demonstration of how he had deciphered Barcelona’s code, how he produced a Powerpoint presentation to his players to uncover the secrets of their opponents’ elusive movement.
He did not say it but the message was clear. Heynckes is a man who has served his time. He knows what he is doing. He knows enough without having to call Pep.
Heynckes is in the process of leaving some legacy for Guardiola. He may even leave behind the Champions League trophy to remember him by. For all the glamour and charisma Guardiola will bring to Bayern, Heynckes is making himself a hard act to follow.
Bayern won the Bundesliga on 6 April, the earliest it has ever been won. They have won 13 consecutive league games and 26 out of 30 matches. It has been a campaign played out to the sound of breaking records.
It was the way they dealt with Barcelona, however, that marks them down as – in the words of their coach – “extraordinary.”
Thomas Mueller scored twice although Barcelona can have legitimate complaints about offside for Mario Gomez’s second and a cunning block on Jordi Alba by Mueller in the creation of Arjen Robben’s third.
All claims of injustice must be placed in context, however.
From first to last Bayern played with a verve and urgency that left Barcelona unable to cope. Overpowered from a football and physical perspective, Barcelona were out on their feet at the end. If stoppage time had extended beyond three minutes it was only going to be Bayern who put another goal on the board.
Xavi and Iniesta, the great Barcelona midfield carousel, were given the roughest of rides by younger, faster opponents while defensively they looked vulnerable almost every time Bayern ventured in and around their penalty area.
Bayern Munich have scored 134 goals in all competitions this season, conceding just 25
Barcelona gambled and lost on Lionel Messi’s fitness. A hamstring injury dulled his instincts and restrict his mobility. Coach Tito Villanova was criticised afterwards but when Messi suggests he is fit to play then it is a brave man indeed who ignores that call of greatness.
Many believe greatness awaits the modern Bayern and this is a team dotted with outstanding talent. Manuel Neuer is an exceptional, although often unemployed, goalkeeper while Philipp Lahm is a magnificent attacking full-back.
Dante is a central defender of rich promise while in midfield Bayern can call on Javi Martinez and the peerless Bastian Schweinsteiger – imagine what Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson would give for him.
Riches are everywhere in attack, from Mueller and the old poacher Gomez to the brilliant (albeit inconsistent) Robben and Franck Ribery.
When Ferguson has finished celebrating his domestic triumph in the Premier League, he may have to accept that his United squad still falls short of what Bayern can offer.
Reality suggests Barcelona face a forlorn task in the second leg. They will give it a go of course – but the scale and importance of what Bayern achieved on this balmy Tuesday evening in Munich is that the Nou Camp may play host to Barcelona embarking on a damage-limitation exercise.
Bayern were that good. And the worry for the likes of Manchester United and their other Champions League rivals is that everything seems in place for them to get even better.