Dream's done

More than the end of Barcelona's reign, it is the beginning of the Bayern eraIn the face of facts, it's difficult to resist the temptation to claim that the era of FC Barcelona as the best in Europe, and in the world, is at its end. Football teams were never particularly immune to the cyclical nature of fortune. Barcelona have ruled Spanish and European club football for the greater part of a decade simply by being the team that had everything, including a signature style of play that was invincible. But with Barca's 0:7 aggregate loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League semi-finals, the ghost resurrected is that of the end of Johan Cruyff's Barca "Dream Team" in 1994.

Barca won three La Liga titles and both the Champions League and the Copa del Rey twice in the last five years, and a "treble" (all three) in 2009. So its biggest defeat since 1997 the 4:0 first-leg shocker in Munich last week was greeted by the press in both Barcelona and Madrid with the same apocalyptic headlines, if not with the same sadness. It's still possible to blame the absence of Lionel Messi from the second leg of the "paliza historica (historic beating)", or the loss of Pep Guardiola as coach last year. But this over-dependence on Messi shows it's no longer a question of re-energising the flanks. Tiredness, age, lack of hunger are the nemesis of great footballing sides. Unless Barca starts beating the best again, this could be the end of Spain's reign at the top, as Barca has carried the national team's successes on its legs since 2008.

But facts do deceive sometimes. Barca merely lost to the team that's taking its place. Maybe Guardiola's taking over Bayern this summer is more coincidental than symbolic. In any case, Barca are set to win La Liga this season, even as Europe gets ready to welcome the era of Bayern.

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