Messi and Pep v Lewandowski and Flick: Who wins between Barcelona 2009 and Bayern 2021 in sextuple showdown?

Pep Guardiola Lionel Messi Robert Lewandowski Hansi Flick Barcelona Bayern Munich GFX
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Pep threw down the gauntlet this week, playfully suggesting that his 2009 Barcelona team, who won six trophies, should take on this year's Bayern

Bayern Munich beat Tigres on Thursday to win the Club World Cup and complete the sextuple, becoming the second side ever to do so, after Pep Guardiola’s legendary Barcelona team of 2009.

The Catalan was quick to congratulate the Bavarians, whom he also coached himself between 2013 and 2016.

However, Guardiola then cheekily issued a challenge to Bayern boss Hans-Dieter Flick, suggesting that they get their two sides together for a game to decide once and for all who is the best.

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“I would like to say to Hansi that you are the second team to win the six titles in a row!” Guardiola enthused in a video message on Twitter.

“Before you, there was another team, Barcelona... So, maybe I can call (Lionel) Messi & Co. and we can play for the seventh title?

"Tell me when and where and we will be there!”

Unfortunately, such a classic contest is impossible, given many members of Guardiola's era-changing Barca team have since retired.

However, Goal has decided to run the rule over both teams to determine which squad was stronger man-for-man...

Starting XI

Goalkeeper: Victor Valdes vs Manuel Neuer

Two sweeper-keepers and although Valdes was a fine fit for Barcelona’s style, this is one of the clearer-cut decisions.

Manuel Neuer has taken what Valdes did and both expanded the role and near-enough perfected it. The German is one of the few goalkeepers who is utterly compelling to watch.

Verdict: Neuer (1-0 Bayern)

Defence: Dani Alves vs Benjamin Pavard

It was Bayern right-back Benjamin Pavard who scored the goal which completed Bayern’s sextuple, but the French defender, benched for the Champions League final as Joshua Kimmich took over, is no match for Brazilian dynamo Dani Alves.

The former Barcelona defender was an assist machine for the Catalans and they have not yet been able to replace him. He forged a special connection with Lionel Messi.

Verdict: Alves (1-1)

Defence: Carles Puyol vs Jerome Boateng

Puyol was the leader and the lynchpin of Barcelona’s defence, the lion heart of Guardiola’s side.

Boateng has done remarkably well to revive his career, not only after Messi left him for dead in 2015, but after Niko Kovac dropped him in 2019. However Barcelona’s ‘eternal captain’ wins this battle of the World Cup winners for a place in football history.

Verdict: Puyol (2-1 Barca)

Defence: Gerard Pique vs David Alaba

Pique, in his early 20s, enjoyed a remarkable return from Manchester United to slot straight into the side and perform admirably well.

However, Alaba is a player at his peak and has been vital for Bayern Munich, playing as a converted centre back and keeping Neymar and Kylian Mbappe quiet in the Champions League final. Alaba also scored the opening goal in the DFB Pokal win over Bayer Leverkusen last July.

Verdict: Alaba (2-2)

Barcelona 2008-09 GFX

Defence: Eric Abidal vs Alphonso Davies

Abidal is a Barcelona legend and was one of the main beneficiaries of Guardiola’s management, improving rapidly. However he missed the Copa del Rey and Champions League finals through suspension.

Bayern’s Davies was a nightmare for defenders to face through the 2019-20 campaign, even though his form has slipped this year. When he’s at his dynamic best though, like in the 8-2 Champions League quarter-final win over Barcelona, he is unstoppable.

Verdict: Davies (3-2 Bayern)

Mdfield: Sergio Busquets vs Joshua Kimmich

The fact that Busquets ousted Yaya Toure from his defensive midfield position at Barcelona speaks for itself. The Ivorian was still important for the Catalans in other positions, including central defence, but the taki-taka Guardiola created was dependent on Busquets’s ball circulation skills. He just beats out Toure for a place here too. 

Bayern’s Kimmich, meanwhile, is one of the most underrated players in the modern game. Not only does he work extremely hard but he has great tactical intelligence and versatility, becoming one of the world’s best midfielders from a full-back. Busquets takes it, but just by a whisker.

Verdict: Busquets (3-3)

Midfield: Xavi vs Leon Goretzka / Thiago

Two quite different midfielders but both essential for their teams. Leon Goretzka, a box-to-box powerhouse, netted in the UEFA Super Cup win over Sevilla and helps Bayern win the ball back from opponents. In this line-up he edges out Thiago, who was integral for Bayern through his time in Bavaria but has since moved on to Liverpool and Bayern have completed the sextuple without him.

Thiago left Barcelona because it seemed there was no way past the legendary Xavi, who racked up 25 assists in the 2008-09 season. Although Messi is the star and figurehead of the team, without the football brain of Xavi, none of this would have worked. He set the tempo of Barcelona’s game and enabled them to dominate games from start to finish.

Although Goretzka is selected ahead of Thiago here, Xavi would beat either of them head-to-head. 

Verdict: Xavi (4-3 Barca)

Midfield: Andres Iniesta vs Thomas Muller

After a worrying dip in form following the 2018 World Cup, Muller got back to his best in 2019-20 to help Bayern make history. Rejuvenated under Flick, the raumdeuter (space investigator) probably would have earned inclusion had he gone up against any attacking midfielder other than Iniesta.

The Spaniard's contribution generally doesn’t reflect itself in goal and assist numbers, although he did score the crucial, 93rd-minute strike from the edge of the box against Chelsea which sent Barcelona through to the 2009 Champions League final.

Instead, Iniesta was Barcelona’s solutions man, always capable of holding and carrying the ball in tight spots, unlocking Messi, Samuel Eto’o and Thierry Henry for mischief-making.

Verdict: Iniesta (5-3 Barca)

Forward: Lionel Messi vs Serge Gnabry

Gnabry is improving at a rapid rate and played a pivotal role in Bayern's Champions League triumph with 23 goals in all competitions, two of which came in the semi-final win over Lyon. However, nobody compares to the greatest of all time playing at the peak of his powers.

Messi netted in the Champions League final, against Manchester United as Barcelona won 2-0 in Rome, as well as the 4-1 Copa del Rey final win over Athletic Bilbao. Perhaps his greatest game in this period, though, was the 6-2 win over Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu, where Messi was deployed as a false nine for the first time.

Verdict: Messi (6-3 Barca)

Bayern Munich 2019-21 GFX

Forward: Samuel Eto’o vs Robert Lewandowski

Eto’o scored in the 2009 Champions League final and was a key figure in the Catalans’ title win with 30 goals, but was deemed expendable by Guardiola and sold in the summer, so did not contribute to the completion of the sextuple.

Robert Lewandowski is Bayern’s true star name and essential. He scored 34 times in their Bundesliga triumph and added 15 more in the Champions League in just 10 appearances. Cruelly denied the Ballon d’Or because the award was cancelled due to the pandemic.

Verdict: Lewandowski (6-4 Barca)

Forward: Thierry Henry vs Kingsley Coman

Thierry Henry's best days definitely came at Arsenal but the Frenchman was a key player in Barca's treble-winning campaign, netting 26 times in all competitions. Coman was obviously Bayern's match-winner in the Champions League final but he didn't produce with the same level of consistency as his compatriot. 

Verdict: Henry (7-4 Barca)

Benches

Barcelona 2008-09: Yaya Toure, Bojan, Rafa Marquez, Seydou Keita, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Pedro, Jose Pinto.

Bayern 2019-20: Thiago Alcantara, Ivan Perisic, Corentin Tolisso, Lucas Hernandez, Javi Martinez, Philippe Coutinho, Sven Ulreich

Barcelona relied more on their squad than Bayern Munich have, with Yaya Toure, Seydou Keita and Pedro key components of the sextuple conquest. Bayern’s first-choice side has been more clear cut, with only Thiago Alcantara on this particular bench playing a truly consistent role last season. 

Verdict: Barca (8-4)

Coach

Pep Guardiola vs Hansi Flick

Bayern coach Flick was expected merely to steady the ship after Niko Kovac’s departure, with the Bavarians in crisis mode, but he has done far, far more. The interim coach became a hero, playing brilliant, intense, pressing football with rapid transitions which helped Bayern shred opponents. Flick also helped stars like Neuer and Muller back to their best, no mean feat for a coach in his first season in charge of a Bundesliga side.

In the other corner, Guardiola changed football forever. Tiki-taka will be forever associated with the Catalan coach. Guardiola’s innovations are scattered across the modern game and helped Spain lift the 2010 World Cup. Although football has progressed, combining possession with more intensity and directness, it wouldn’t have been possible without Guardiola. He also took bold decisions, including removing legends Ronaldinho and Deco. 

And, not that it’s relevant here, but players like Kimmich are as good as they are thanks to Guardiola’s tutelage while in charge of Bayern Munich.

Verdict: Guardiola 

Final score: Barcelona 9-4 Bayern Munich

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