Football Features

Bayern Munich 7-0 semi-final rout of Barcelona: The biggest Champions League power-shift in modern football?

By Ben Green

Published: 17:00, 7 April 2021

Bayern Munich became the first Bundesliga side to win the Champions League since 2001 when they beat Der Klassiker rivals Borussia Dortmund in an all-German final in 2013. But the zenith of that campaign will always remain their 7-0 aggregate humbling of Barcelona in the semis.

The Bavarians had already knocked out Arsenal and Juventus in previous rounds and were looking good value to produce similar heroics against the Catalan club. That was all but confirmed in the first leg as Jupp Heynckes’ men ruthlessly inflicted Barca’s heaviest defeat in Europe since 1997.

Bayern ran amok in Germany and took a 4-0 aggregate scoreline to the Camp Nou. The task for Tito Vilanova’s side looked almost insurmountable. Only three teams had recovered from a four-goal setback in European competition history. But, if anyone could add a fourth gold star to that list, it was Barcelona, surely?

Disaster struck just before kick-off, unfortunately, when news filtered through that Lionel Messi would not be fit enough to start the match. Barcelona’s hopes expired with that subplot, and Bayern ultimately ran out 3-0 victors, winning 7-0 on aggregate. There was no Remontada, but perhaps the famous comeback vs PSG was only possible because they lost so badly to Bayern?

Because Barca’s capitulation sent shockwaves across the continent and, in the context of Pep Guardiola having left the summer before, the remarkable result threatened to mark a major power shift in modern football. Barcelona had to react and Neymar, La Remontada’s architect, was signed the very next summer.

The team that lost the second leg at home to Bayern was gradually dismantled over the next few seasons. Barcelona was rebuilt into a side that won the treble themselves within two years, but what about those who were sold off or left the club in other ways?

Goalkeeper: Victor Valdes

Age: 39

Barcelona appearances: 535

Current club: Retired

Barca’s undisputed No. 1 for over a decade, Valdes was the man between the sticks during the halcyon years of Pep Guardiola’s reign, but he was powerless at the Camp Nou in May 2013 as a rampant Bayern ran riot. This was the deadly double act of ‘Robbery’ at their absolute peak, with Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben in irresistible form on the flanks and cutting in to devastating effect. Valdes was a mere spectator as Bayern’s incisive wingers went to work.

The Spaniard stayed on for one more season in Catalonia before moving on to Manchester United, where he played second fiddle to compatriot David De Gea and barely got a look in under Louis van Gaal, who initially gave him his debut at Barca. A move to Middlesbrough soon followed before he hung up his gloves and stepped into the world of coaching. Valdes was sacked after only three months in charge of Barca’s Juvenil A side and most recently managed fourth-tier club UA Horta.

Right-back: Dani Alves

Age: 37

Barcelona appearances: 391

Current club: Sao Paulo

The textbook definition of a modern full-back, Alves arguably reinvented the defender-cum-playmaker hybrid role that has become all-too familiar at Liverpool with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson. But, even Barca’s great assist merchant could not prevent Bayern stealing the show.

Alves was handed the unenviable task of marking Ribery, and it was the Frenchman who got the better in this individual on-field duel. In the aftermath Alves described the performance as “outrageous” and would make amends two years later as Barca lifted ‘Big Ears’ for the fifth time in the club’s history.

Centre-back: Marc Bartra

Age: 30

Barcelona appearances: 103

Current club: Real Betis

With Carles Puyol and occasional stand-in centre-back Javier Mascherano both injured, Vilanova turned to 22-year-old Bartra to handle the occasion and safeguard the backline. However, Thomas Muller and Co. ultimately proved too hot to handle and this was ultimately a chastening experience for the young defender.

Despite high hopes for the academy gem, Bartra never fully cemented his status as a first-team regular and subsequently left the Camp Nou for Borussia Dortmund in 2016, where again, he featured sporadically before finding a consistent starting berth at Real Betis.

Centre-back: Gerard Pique

Age: 34

Barcelona appearances: 558

Current club: Barcelona

The only remaining Barcelona player from that fateful night. Pique has been Barca’s bulwark for over a decade, but eight years ago he had a game to forget. At 26, Pique was at the height of his defensive powers, but an own goal pretty much summed up the whole experience for the Spaniard and his Barca side.

Pique, who described the defeat as “possibly the worst night of my career”, reflecting that Barca “are not the best any more” after years of dominance under Guardiola. But, like Alves, he too played a key part in the club’s resurgence and Champions League win over Juventus just two years later under Luis Enrique.

Left-back: Adriano

Age: 36

Barcelona appearances: 189

Current club: Eupen

With Jordi Alba unavailable it was up to Adriano to protect Valdes from the world class exploits of Robben. The Brazilian was caught in two minds between attacking and getting his side back into the fixture, or man-marking the wing-wizard. The latter was probably the sensible option. To leave Robben unmarked is tantamount to throwing in the towel. And even if you surgically attach yourself to the Dutchman, he would probably still find a way to cut in and uncork a screamer.

His opening goal would be the ultimate case in point, as the Bayern man jinked inside and unleashed a left-footed bullet right out of the drawer: it was trademark Robben. Adriano meanwhile never managed to usurp Alba but was always a reliable option when called upon. He recently returned to his homeland with Athletico-PR but upped sticks and is back in Europe with Belgian First Division A side Eupen.

Central defensive midfield: Alex Song

Age: 33

Barcelona appearances: 65

Current club: AS Arta Solar

The path between Arsenal and Barca, or vice versa, is well-trodden, and one player to follow in the footsteps of many before him is Alex Song. The Cameroon midfielder never managed to hit it off at the Camp Nou and would be playing under the great “Sam Allardicio” at West Ham just two years later.

Song was recently released by Sion in the Swiss Super League and at 33 finds his services in Djibouti with AS Arta Solar. Speaking about his move from Arsenal to Barca in 2012, Song admitted that his decision was motivated by money, simply because the transfer would make him a millionaire.

“I met Barca’s sporting director, and he told me I would not get to play many games,” Song revealed. “But I didn’t give a f***. I knew that now I would become a millionaire. When Barcelona offered me a contract, and I saw how much I would earn, I didn’t think twice.”

Central midfield: Xavi

Age: 41

Barcelona appearances: 767

Current club: Al Sadd (manager)

Barcelona’s second-highest appearance-maker (recently overtaken by Lionel Messi), Xavi was firmly in the twilight years of his career by the time this game came around, but even at 33, he was still a world class operator and the midfield lynchpin of this side. But, after going 1-0 down Vilanova decided to shuffle the pack and withdrew the Spanish stalwart for Alexis Sanchez in only the 55th minute. With Barca losing balance, composure and leadership in the centre of the pitch, Bayern simply picked them apart from that point onwards.

The 41-year-old finished his Barcelona career by lifting the Champions League trophy aloft in 2015 and then departed for one final payday in Qatar, where he finished his playing career and has since moved into management with Al Sadd. Though, a future in the Barca dugout seems destined for the Catalan legend.

Central midfield: Andres Iniesta 

Age: 36

Barcelona appearances: 674

Current club: Vissel Kobe

Quite how a midfield consisting of Xavi and Iniesta were exposed to such a trouncing we are not quite sure, but that is the reality. The superlative midfielder defined the golden years under Guardiola and is considered royalty at the Camp Nou. Alongside Xavi, the metronomic duo dominated the centre of the turf for over a decade, and he is still gracing the pitch in Japan with Vissel Kobe.

Right-wing: David Villa

Age: 39

Barcelona appearances: 119

Current club: Retired

A goalscoring fiend but shoehorned out wide for this encounter, Villa looked all at sea and was caught in a state of flux between trying to attack and simultaneously assist Alves in containing Robben. Bayern were quite happy to sit back and soak up pressure, but spring with devastating waves of counter-attacking football.

With David Alaba and Philipp Lahm occupying the full-back areas, they had defensive solidity in abundance, and Villa uncharacteristically fired a blank as Bayern executed their gameplan to a T. In the ensuing years, Villa would go on to shine for Atletico Madrid, Melbourne City and New York City, before the curtain came down on his trophy-laden career in the J1 League with Vissel Kobe.

Left-wing: Pedro

Age: 33

Barcelona appearances: 321

Current club: Roma

The diminutive winger lasted the full 90 minutes but couldn’t influence proceedings. He too went on to lift the Champions League two years later, coming on in the 96th minute and setting up Neymar 60 seconds later to put the icing on the cake as they secured a 3-1 win over Juventus.

London came calling next for Pedro where his influence at Chelsea culminated in a Premier League title under Antonio Conte in 2017, but he has since moved to the Eternal City, now donning the colours of Roma.

False nine: Cesc Fabregas 

Age: 33

Barcelona appearances: 151

Current club: Monaco

Fabregas’ transition to a false nine had proven a masterstroke on previous occasions, but without the mesmeric runs of Messi around him, the tactical tweak from Vilanova fell flat on its feet. Against a defence as formidable and well-drilled as Bayern’s, with Daniel Van Buyten and Jerome Boateng meanly locking up the backline, Fabregas’ job to drop deep and draw them out of position failed miserably.

After one more season at the Camp Nou, Fabregas left for Chelsea, where two Premier League titles were added to his collection before he sealed a lucrative move to the French Riviera, where he now plies his trade for Ligue 1 outfit Monaco.

Substitutes:

Alexis Sanchez

Age: 32

Barcelona appearances: 141

Current club: Inter Milan

A second-half substitute, Sanchez came on shortly after Bayern made it 5-0 on aggregate, with Barcelona looking to throw everything at their visitors in hope of at least reducing the humiliation. It was not to be, though, as Sanchez struggled to add anything new to Barcelona’s attack.

The Chilean spent one more season at Barcelona before joining Arsenal, where he enjoyed a lot of success in winning two FA Cups and scoring for fun. A move to Manchester United followed, but Sanchez was unable to replicate his Arsenal form and was eventually loaned to Inter Milan. Sanchez has since made that move permanent but is yet to truly recapture his glittering Arsenal days.

Thiago

Age: 29

Barcelona appearances: 100

Current club: Liverpool

The second change to Barcelona’s midfield in the game, Thiago replaced Andres Iniesta shortly after the hour mark, but had to watch as his team continued to fall apart, conceding two more goals.

That would be Thiago’s final Champions League game for Barcelona as he moved to opponents Bayern that summer. His first season was hampered by injury, but once Thiago got comfortable in the Bayern midfield, it became hard to replace him. Seven Bundesliga titles later and a Champions League crown to his name, the Spain international is now turning out in Jurgen Klopp’s midfield for Liverpool.

Martin Montoya

Age: 29

Barcelona appearances: 67

Current club: Real Betis

A late substitute, Martin Montoya really didn’t have any time to do anything on the pitch, with the game all but over both in terms of time and scoreline.

With Dani Alves in front of him, Montoya never stood a chance of becoming Barcelona’s first-choice right-back. Two loan moves to Inter Milan and then Real Betis preceded his permanent sale to Valencia in 2016. The Spaniard spent two years with Valencia before moving to Premier League side Brighton, but has since returned to Betis.

The XIs

Barcelona

Bayern Munich

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