Rarely do two-legged Champions League quarter-final ties between two powerhouses end with monstrously emphatic scorelines.
When the European football archives are pored over by fans in years to come, Bayern Munich’s 8-2 demolition of Barcelona in 2020 will leap off the page. Yet, when it becomes clear this annihilation took place over the course of just 90 minutes, undoubtedly heads will be scratched.
In truth, while not even the most optimistic Bavarian fan could have foreseen such a resounding final score, Bayern’s progression to the semi-final was predicted by many. The two clubs are experiencing polar opposite trajectories, with Die Roten’s squad strewn with fresh, emerging, exciting talent, and the Barça lineup held together by ageing superstars.
However, while the cloud hanging over Camp Nou may currently seem like a permanent fixture following their humbling on Europe’s grandest stage, the rebuild performed by their last-eight opponents offers hope that there can be brighter times ahead.
Cast your mind back to the 2016/17 season. Despite a triumphant Bundesliga campaign, Bayern were left licking their wounds following a 6-3 thrashing at the hands of Real Madrid in the Champions League quarter-finals.
Carlo Ancelotti would be afforded just four more months at the helm of the German behemoths, with the club in the midst of a spell which would see five different permanent managers at the club in the space of three and a half years.
The Bundesliga champions’ squad was littered with ageing greats, with Arjen Robben, Franck Ribéry, Xabi Alonso and Philipp Lahm’s time at the top coming to an end.
The necessity for a rebuild was clear, though, despite their best efforts in the transfer market, the lofty purchases of youngsters Renato Sanches and Corentin Tolisso (a player still at Bayern but hampered by constant injuries) the following summer, failed to have the impact the club’s hierarchy had hoped.
However, just three years on, following some shrewd moves in the transfer market and a trial and error approach to find the right manager to take the club forward, Bayern possess one of the most undeniably gifted squads in world football, with Hansi Flick navigating Die Roten’s charge towards silverware.
Barcelona find themselves in a similar plight – though, admittedly, worse.
The touted sacking of Quique Setién means they could be searching for a seventh manager to occupy the Barça hotseat in just over eight years.
Of the ten Barcelona outfield players in their starting XI against Bayern, four were 33 years old, with 32-year-old Sergio Busquets and 31-year-old Jordi Alba doing little to lower La Blaugrana’s average age.
Meanwhile, their transfer dealings of late have been shocking at best. The club spent around £363m on their three most expensive recruits – all three among the six highest fees ever paid – yet in their defeat to Bayern, one started on the bench (Antoine Griezmann), one never made it off the bench (Ousmane Dembélé), and their biggest outlay scored two and grabbed an assist – FOR THE OPPOSITION (Philippe Coutinho).
Whiles sceptics will point to Barcelona’s financial issues as the reason they can’t embark on such reform, Bayern’s activity in the market is proof that quality talent doesn’t have to come at a premium.
Flick’s starting XI for their quarter-final clash contained three of the hottest properties in European football: Alphonso Davies, Serge Gnabry and Joshua Kimmich – all three signed for a relatively paltry combined total of £22m.
The Bavarians are proof that with quality transfer dealings and the right man at the helm, the decline of club legends doesn’t have to result in the decline of the team.
After yet another humiliating exit from the Champions League, it appears as though the Barça hierarchy are ready to ring the changes, with increasing speculation surround the futures of manager Setién and sporting director Eric Abidal.
However, bringing in fresh faces is all well and good, but it won’t bring about change unless there’s a complete overhaul of the club’s philosophy.
If Barcelona have any desire to return to the apex of the footballing world, their solution of throwing huge sums of money at marquee signings and banking on stalwarts to rescue them when they don’t work out needs to be reviewed.
The future may look bleak for the Camp Nou faithful at the moment, but they need look no further than their Champions League conquerors for a transformation blueprint.