Bayern Munich take on Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League final at Wembley on Saturday evening – and what a pulsating exhibition of pacey, powerful football we have in prospect. For, make no mistake, the fact that these Bundesliga giants are contesting the showpiece match of European football is clear evidence that the German model is the best on the continent. The Premier League keeps saying it has the best product, producing the best football, but such claims can be justified by the Bundesliga, where big crowds watch a brand of exciting, direct football week in, week out. Bayern and Dortmund have blown away all opposition in the Champions League, their unstoppable progress to the final culminating in the awesome semi-final destruction of the pride of Spain, Barcelona and Real Madrid. Don’t forget, en route to the semi-finals, Bayern had battered Arsenal at The Emirates and Real Madrid had eliminated Manchester United.
So, that tells me that not only are our top English clubs some way behind the Germans but now so, too, are the Spanish who, in Barca in particular, have dominated the European scene for the past few years. Personally, I’m delighted to see the German emergence because they play my type of game, a fast, direct style which should not be confused with long ball football. By ‘direct’ I mean putting the emphasis on moving forward with pace and hitting probing, positive passes. When I gave my team talks, my mantra to my players was: “When a team-mate makes a forward run don’t disappoint him…hit him with a pass.” This is what Bayern and Borussia are doing, what Barca and Real could not cope with. Bayern’s approach blew holes in Barca’s close-passing game, a style which is heavily reliant on Iniesta, Xavi and Messi and which, in my opinion, can be too ornate at times. Certainly, Messi and Co found Bayern too hot to handle and, don’t forget, Glasgow Celtic beat Barca in the Group Stage.
So, I think we are witnessing the dawning of a new brand of power play, one which the coaches in England, Spain and Italy may well have to adopt if they are to keep up with the Germans. These guys are big, strong and talented and have so much running power. Whether or not Bayern and Borussia will cancel each other out to some extent at Wembley remains to be seen. It will be fascinating to find out.