Real Madrid is the world’s most valuable sports franchise, but that didn’t help them in Wednesday’s semifinal Champions League match against Borussia Dortmund, which Madrid lost, 4-1. ESPN’s Roger Bennett joined Bill Littlefield to provide an update.
BL: Even Jose Mourinho, the exceptionally accomplished coach, known, at least to himself, as “The Special One,” could not prevent Dortmund from overwhelming Real Madrid on Wednesday. Were you surprised?
RB: Few people saw this game coming. Dortmund, they’re a Cinderella club, they have a larger-than-life coach, this kind of ginormous teddy bear come to life called Jurgen Klopp. And they’re urged on by this yellow wall, a bank of fans behind one goal. It makes a most vociferous, college-basketball atmosphere look like as quiet as a library. It really is a Roman Coliseum come to life. And they were expected to buckle. Real Madrid are a force, as you say, propelled by Jose Mourinho, who’s the equivalent, roughly, of 1980s Pat Riley. They also have Ronaldo…. But they were thumped. Dortmund dominated Real Madrid, who are the most expensive side ever assembled, and Jurgen Klopp, after the game described it as a victory like one of Robin Hood’s.
BL: In the earlier Champion’s League semifinal, where Bayern Munich beat Barcelona, 4-0, was that the matter of the winner being at full strength while the loser wasn’t?
RB: You know, it would be nice if that was the case. You’re alluding to the fact that Lionel Messi [was] injured, he really had no acceleration. But Bayern also had a couple of players out so they were also under strength. It was far more a case of systemic destruction. Bayern looked like a complete team. They were fluid, they were potent, they were a merciless machine. This discussion is now, as they say, are Bayern the new power, is Barca’s dynasty ending? It’s like the debate about whether Google Glasses will beat up the iPhone.
BL: Your metaphors are absolutely fantastic. Roger, perhaps we should take a step back for our listeners who don’t follow the Champions League. Why is it considered as important as it is?
RB: This is the winner of every league in Europe, plus the couple that follow them in many of the big countries…clashing against each other. So you have the English Premier League, which is very familiar to many of the American soccer fans. You have La Liga, where Real Madrid and Barcelona dominate in Spain. Another upcoming league, the Bundesliga, which is fan-friendly, the stadiums are ebullient, and it’s where countries really do prove themselves against each other. German football—it’s making this incredible statement this year. I think their rise if more a reflection that Germany is Europe’s No. 1 economy, and as a result, Bayern is a team ascendant.
BL: Well let us assume that this week’s results were not flukes, and that, in fact, Bayern will face Dortmund in the final at Wembley next month. I don’t even want to ask you who’s gonna win. I’m more interested in what the English fans will make of this.
RB: Yeah, I’m not sure you understand the cultural power that your words carry. The English tabloid papers are in a tizzy. Not only has the English Premier League just impotently performed this year — no team even made the last 16 — so your Manchester Uniteds, your Chelseas, the Manchester Citys that claim to be the world’s best, fell early and pathetically, and the final is going to be in England’s jewel, Wembley Stadium. London will be bracing itself, Bill, for the German invasion.