A re-establishment of Spanish football in the 2013/14 season
Come May 24th, European football will have yet another fantastic end to yet another fantastic season. From forgetful disappointments to memorable victories, European football delivered some unparalleled entertainment as it does every season. However this term, the footballing world witnessed the re-establishment of a force which was gradually slackening-off of late.
This ‘force’ is in allusion to one of the European giants, Spain. The country which lived in the shadows of Germany, Italy and England for years, transgressed from mere underdogs to world-beaters. As an irksome 44-year long wait for a silverware came to an end when Spain finally struck gold at Euro 2008, it heralded a dominant force in Europe in the form of Spanish football. The odds were accentuated when La Roja went to win the World Cup in 2010 and retained their European crown 2 years later, becoming the first ever nation to do so. Indeed, they had become a force to be reckoned with.
However, there was a slight diminution in this force at continental level thereafter. The abject 3-0 defeat to Brazil in the Confederation Cup final last year rose several questions about the downfall.
Whilst a few miles away in Germany, two formidable clubs Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, were on the rise. Although Dortmund tasted only domestic success in 2011 and 2012, their arch-rivals Bayern were just a stone’s throw away from conquering Europe on two occasions-in 2010 and 2012. However, their moment of glory was snatched away from them when they lost both the Champions League finals-one to Inter Milan and the other to Chelsea in their own backyard.
Their grief knew no bounds. The season which followed, saw both the German sides brushing away all the obstacles on their way with the sole aim of claiming Europe’s most elite title- The Champions league title. The most prominent example of ‘brushing aside’ was trouncing of the two big Spanish teams, Real Madrid and Barcelona.
The 7-0 demolition of Barcelona by the Bavarians and the 4-1 thrashing of Madrid team by Dortmund, had brought the two teams into limelight like never before. Germany’s stellar performance at the World Cup and Euro 2012 was an indication of something brewing in Deutschland . Eventually, Bayern Munich created history in 2013 when they became the first ever German side to claim a historic ‘treble’- The league title, the domestic cup and the Champions league after contesting an ‘all German final’ against Dortmund.
Surprisingly, fortunes seemed to have turned the tables against them this season. After a fine start to this term, their ruthless edge starting ebbing away and found refuge in the two Madrid teams, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.
Forever eclipsed in the shadows of Real, Atletico came to power when they had their best start to La Liga this term after going 7 opening games undefeated. The seeds of domination had sowed when they won the Copa Del Rey title against Real a few months earlier, ending a 14 year winless streak against their neighbours . Those seeds have now blossomed into a ferocious European behemoths. With just 2 wins away, Los Rojiblancos are on the cusp of relishing their first league success since 1996 and are in the finals of UEFA Champions League after 40 years.
Resounding victories over A.C Milan, Barcelona and Chelsea paved their way to the finals and now their city rivals Real Madrid against whom they contest for the coveted title in Lisbon, pose the last hurdle. The transition has surely been remarkable. Manager Diego Simeone has been the face of this transition and is now garnering admiration all over.
While on the other side of the tale, Real Madrid too have proved their mettle this season. Driven by the hunger of ‘La Decima’, Real have churned all the obstacles aside to reach the final of Champions League for the first time since 2002. With the Kings’ Cup title already in the trophy cabinet, the bid for the 10th European crown seems more closer than ever.
6-1 trouncing of Galatasaray and Schalke, 3-0 against Dortmund and a remarkable 5-0 aggregate victory over defending champions Bayern Munich en route to the final, have made them hot-favourites to lift the trophy in Lisbon. Manager Carlo Ancelotti has surely written his name in history books for the feat, something which 11 other managers failed to.
Overawed, club president Florentino Perez has gone into raptures about his team like never before when it was reported that the 67-year old went down to the dressing room in Munich and said “You are the best team of my entire life,since I was president for the first time in 2000…the most united team of last few years”.
Another Spanish minnow, Sevilla too has embarked the re-establishment after making it to the finals of Europa league, beating domestic rivals Valencia.
Undoubtedly, Spanish clubs have carved a niche this year. For Spanish football, who wears the badge of parochialism, its capital is already revelling the prospect of Champions league trophy coming to their hometown. For many of the European local rivalries, very few of them matches this one. And this discussion will last for three more weeks, though.
But for the moment, as the mood at Bajaras suggests, Madrid have united in celebration.