On Wednesday night, Barca and Bayern lock horns at Camp Nou in arguably the tie of the round in the Champions League quarter finals. Carlo Garganese looks back to the last time the two teams met a decade ago, and asks if the teams were better then or now…
If there was any more evidence that this revamp was driven by nothing other than money and greed, it was during 98-99, which proved to be one of the greatest years in the history of the Champions League, full of exhilarating and dramatic ties. Why on Earth else would there be change?
The most dramatic of all these games, of course, was the final itself, when Bayern Munich seemed destined for glory until comeback kings Manchester United scored twice from corners in injury time through Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to literally grasp the big-eared trophy out of Bavarian hands.
Earlier in the competition, Bayern and Man Utd had already played and drawn twice in a ‘Group of Death’ that included Spanish giants Barcelona. With the Blaugrana also drawing twice (3-3 both times) with The Red Devils, and Danish outfit Brondby the pool’s whipping boys, the two games between Barca and Bayern were to prove decisive as to who of these giants would be sent tumbling.
At the time, Barcelona were coached by Dutchman Louis Van Gaal, who had made his name by leading a legendary young Ajax side to Champions League success in 1995. Van Gaal played an ultra-attacking brand of football, winning successive Primera Division titles. The previous year Barca had romped to the Spanish title by scoring 78 goals and conceding a whopping 56, which incredibly was the fourth-worst defensive record in the league.
Bayern Munich were just into a sequence of domestic dominance, which would see them win four Bundesliga crowns in five years. Their coach was Ottmar Hitzfeld, who led Borussia Dortmund to CL glory in 1997, and would later become only the second manager in history to win the trophy with two different clubs. Unlike Barcelona, Bayern were more defensive-minded, tactical and efficient, led by legendary 38-year-old Lothar Matthaus, who played sweeper in a back-five.
With the finalists already given away, it should be of no surprise that it was Bayern who came out on top. Indeed they won both home and away. Stefan Effenberg scored the only goal of the game in a 1-0 win in Munich, while Alexander Zickler and Hasan Salihamidizic overturned an early Sonny Anderson penalty in a 2-1 Bayern victory at Camp Nou. These results eventually meant that Bayern topped Group D with 11 points, one point ahead of Manchester United, while Barcelona were eliminated in third with two wins, and as many draws and losses.
Barcelona will be hoping for revenge this Wednesday night and many consider them the superior team - but could they be surprised? Comparing both teams from then and now tells an interesting story...
Barcelona 1999 v Barcelona 2009
Ruud Hesp v Victor Valdes
Both goalkeepers prone to mistakes, but Valdes is more confident and commanding. Hesp always seemed well out of his depth at such a big club.
Michael Reiziger v Dani Alves
Both excellent going forward, but shaky defensively. The Brazilian wins this battle, as he is truly sublime when raiding the right flank.
Gbenga Okunowo v Carles Puyol
One was young, erratic and would only stay at the club for a couple of years, the other has been a stalwart and leader for over a decade. Only one winner here.
Abelardo v Rafael Marquez
Injuries hampered the careers of both players, but Abelardo was more important to the Barcelona ’99 team than Marquez is to the one of today.
Sergi v Eric Abidal
May have been slightly past his best by 1999, but Sergi was still a wonderful attacking left back, and far more reliable in defence than Abidal.
Xavi v Xavi
Okay, it is silly matching up the same player. In 1999, Xavi, taking over from the injured Josep Guardiola (who is now his coach) was still a teenager, but his potential was there for all to see. Today, he is quite simply the best centre midfielder in the world.
Phillip Cocu v Yaya Toure
Both fine holding midfielders, Cocu just had that little more drive and mental strength than the Ivorian star.
Luis Enrique v Andres Iniesta
May be most famous for having his nose broken by Mauro Tassotti, but many people forget just what a fantastic player Luis Enrique was. An old-school utility player who could play almost any position. However, this Barcelona midfield today is on another planet, and Iniesta is a magician.
Luis Figo v Lionel Messi
Now this is one hell of match-up! Figo was the best wide right midfielder in the world at the time, while Messi is No. 1 now, and not only in this position. The Argentine genius is in a league of his own.
Sonny Anderson v Samuel Eto’o
May have won two league titles with Barca, but Anderson never really lived up to his billing. Eto’o, on the other hand, has been a goal machine for the last five years.
Rivaldo v Thierry Henry
Rivaldo was at the peak of his powers in 1999, and he would be crowned Spanish, European and World Footballer of the Year, scoring a host of impossible goals. Henry has rediscovered himself somewhat this term, but the Rivaldo of 1999 was a joy to behold.
FINAL SCORE: Barcelona 1999 4-7 Barcelona 2009
Bayern 1999 v Bayern 2009
Oliver Kahn v Michael Rensing
Rensing may still only be young, but there are few signs that he can ever get anywhere close to the legendary Kahn, a beast of a goalkeeper.
Markus Babbel v Massimo Oddo
Babbel was a solid and dependable defender, who read the game well. Oddo is more attacking, a great crosser of the ball, but can be suspect positionally. At the age of nearly 33, Oddo’s best years are behind him.
Samuel Kuffour v Martin Demichelis
Who will ever forget Kuffour beating the floor at the end of the final defeat. The Ghanaian was a superb servant for Bayern, lightning quick and competitive. Demichelis has too many bad days for my liking.
Thomas Linke v Lucio
Hard and uncompromising defender that he was, Linke did not possess the class and Samba silkiness of Lucio. Both excellent in the air, but the Brazilian wins this.
Bixente Lizarazu v Phillip Lahm
Lahm is today considered as one of the best left backs in the world, but back in 1999 Lizarazu had just played a big role in France winning the previous summer’s World Cup. With 97 caps to his name, Lizarazu will go down as one of the greats for club and country.
Lotthar Matthaus v Mark Van Bommel
At the age of 38, many said that Matthaus was finished, but he was magnificent in the final, and it was the biggest mistake of Hitzfeld’s career withdrawing him before the final whistle. Meanwhile, in the present day, this is not the same Van Bommel of two or three years ago.
Jens Jeremies v Ze Roberto
The poor-man’s Uli Stielike, Jeremies was your stereotypical German defensive midfield hardman, an unsung hero of this Bayern side. Ze Roberto may be 34 now, but he still has magic in those Brazilian boots. A tie in this one.
Stefan Effenberg v Bastian Schweinsteiger
Effenberg was someone you did not want to mess with. An absolute machine and born winner, he would achieve victory by any means possible. Schweinsteiger is an athletic, lively wideman in a different role to Effenberg, but I know who I would rather have in my team.
Mario Basler v Franck Ribery
Basler was one of the most underrated players of his generation, who could and should have achieved much more. He scored Bayern’s goal in the 1999 final. Today, Ribery is undoubtedly one of the world’s top three players. He is the leader of Bayern and France.
Carsten Jancker v Luca Toni
Two strikers absolutely unstoppable in the air, Jancker was never prolific in front of goal, while Toni always has been. This alone decides this battle.
Giovane Elber v Miroslav Klose
Elber is an all-time legend in Bavaria, scoring 92 goals in just 169 games from 1997-2003. In 1999 he was just starting to hit his peak. Klose has been a goal-machine himself this current decade but, despite 20 goals this season, he is perhaps not as sharp as he was a few years ago.
FINAL SCORE: Bayern 1999 8-4 Bayern 2009
So there you have it. The Barcelona of today are considerably stronger than their predecessors of 10 years ago, while almost the exact opposite is the case when comparing Bayern 2009 with Bayern 1999.
Bayern have gotten worse by a margin of four points, while Barcelona have improved by three. If anything is to be read into this, the blockbuster tie is only ending one way, and that's with Barca's revenge.
What are your views on this topic? Who were better – Barcelona and Bayern’s 1999 or 2009 teams? Who will win progress to the semi-finals this year?
Carlo Garganese, Goal.com