For the first time in 13 years there will be no German club in the Champions League quarter-finals, a fact not lost on the country’s media the morning after Bayern Munich crashed out against Liverpool.
Jürgen Klopp’s team emerged victorious from the Allianz Arena against a team who had lost only one of their previous 26 Champions League fixtures on home soil, but it was the performance more than the result that perturbed the experts.
“What we have learned from the last 16 is that German football has shrunk considerably – and that it no longer has a place among the big teams in Europe’s most important competition,” wrote Jörn Meyn in Der Spiegel, pointing out that three of the teams –Bayern, Borussia Dortmund and Schalke – were eliminated by English clubs and that the fourth, Hoffenheim, did not even make it out of their group. “With an eight-month delay we have seen at club level what was obvious for the national team at the 2018 World Cup: German football has been left behind,” he added.
Matthias Brügelmann, in Bild-Zeitung, continued along the same lines, writing that “the fact is that German football is internationally only second class” and “that Bayern and Germany need a radical turnaround to be able to compete for titles again”.
Bayern were heavily criticised for their performance on Wednesday, with the headline in Kicker saying “No plan, no courage: Bayern are out” and the paper’s chief reporter, Karlheinz Wild, saying that “even at 1-1 Liverpool were dominating the game and spending most of the time in the Bayern half”. He added: “The English team were quicker, more agile and better with the ball and the 2-1 and, eventually 3-1, felt logical.”
Niko Kovac was partly to blame, said Wild, who wondered whether the Bayern coach “really thought he could turn the game around by bringing on Renato Sanches?”
The Munich paper Abendzeitung described Bayern as “helpless” and said that they had “beaten themselves” in front of 70,000 fans, starting with Manuel Neuer’s mistake for Liverpool’s first goal when the goalkeeper came out to try to dispossess Sadio Mané but was left flummoxed by the Liverpool forward’s nimble footwork.
The outfield players were not spared either with Abendzeitung handing out “fives” – the worst mark you can get in Germany, one being the best – to Neuer, Rafinha, Franck Ribéry and Robert Lewandowski. The Polish forward had failed the “ultimate test” against Virgil van Dijk and was “weak in the challenge” and could not keep the ball.
Only Javi Martínez was given a good mark – a two. “Like a starving predator he ran around chasing his prey, the ball. He had a strong first half, winning 90% of his tackles. Bayern’s best player,” the paper wrote.
Kovac put on a brave face after the defeat, saying that Liverpool deserved to go through and that Bayern would focus on winning the domestic double. He did receive some criticism from his players for his tactics, though, with Lewandowski saying: “I think we were too defensive. We didn’t take enough risks and did not go forward enough. When you look at the two games we did not have many chances and therefore we can’t have any arguments when it comes to the outcome.”
The Bayern CEO, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, finished things off by telling German TV that it would be great to have Klopp as Bayern coach, making a bad night for Kovac considerably worse.