So electric were the performances of the two German clubs in the Champions League this week, they almost threatened the immutable laws of meteorology. Lightning doesn't strike twice, as the old saying has it, yet here were blindingly brilliant displays from two exuberant Bundesliga teams, both putting four goals past one of European football's pre-eminent clubs.
Only an unfortunate back-pass from Mats Hummels, allowing Cristiano Ronaldo to tap home, prevented a carbon copy of Bayern Munich's awesome rout of Barcelona when Borussia Dortmund trounced Real Madrid last night, but the overall sensation was the same: resplendent, thrilling, vivid football that gave Germany an 8-1 aggregate win over Spain across the two legs.
One should always be wary of declaring a decisive shift in continental football's tectonic plates. The complex undercurrents of change run deep, and are unfathomable from any given snapshot in time. But there was something so sublime about watching the respective performances of Bayern and Dortmund - how could you not be moved to conclude that something transformative was occurring?
The thought that Barcelona and, to a slightly lesser extent, Real Madrid, could be finished off after one leg of the semi-finals would have seemed utterly ludicrous just two days ago. The Barcelona of Messi and the Madrid of Ronaldo, the two teams who have cast a spell over football's cultural landscape.
But on May 25 at Wembley, unless Barca or Madrid enjoy a huge swing in their favour - and only once has a three-goal deficit been turned around in the Champions League, let alone four - it will not be Spain's two titans who renew their rivalry in a fight for the Champions League trophy, but Germany's two leading clubs instead.
This season, at least, the Bundesliga is apparently king, and it now seems almost certain that Wembley will mark the Football Association's 150th birthday with only the second all-German final in European football history after 1980 UEFA Cup final between Frankfurt and Borussia Moenchengladbach. Incidentally, Gladbach's coach that day was a certain Jupp Heynckes.
After Heynckes's current team dismantled Barcelona 4-0 on Tuesday - the wiry Thomas Mueller cannily exploiting the space afforded to him and, crucially, denying Jordi Alba some when he needed it most - Dortmund appeared to have been gazumped by their rivals in the performance stakes, and just hours after it was revealed to much pain in Dortmund that Mario Goetze will be moving to the Allianz Arena in the summer.
Nothing better demonstrates the economic gulf between the two clubs than the fact Bayern have agreed to pay the £32 million required to activate the young playmaker's release clause; this in turn explains why Dortmund's feat was arguably greater than that enjoyed by their Bavarian counterparts 24 hours previously.
Real Madrid are not quite Barcelona, but, in financial terms, Dortmund are not in the same league as the commercial behemoth that is Bayern. The monstrous Robert Lewandowski - who became the first man to score four times in a European tie against Real Madrid, stretching all the way back to their first, successful entry in the European Cup in the 1955-56 season - cost just £4.2 million from Lech Poznan.
Ilkay Gundogan - who, deployed against the much-vaunted pair of Sami Khedira and Xabi Alonso, was the most tenacious and effective midfielder on display – was purchased from Nuremberg for £4.8m. Right-back Lukasz Piszczek, who found room to keep a bronzed, buff Portuguese superstar in his pocket for much of the 90 minutes, came on a free transfer from Hertha Berlin. Marco Reus, a £15m signing from Gladbach in the summer, is this Dortmund team’s sole extravagance and he was worth it again last night, slaloming past white Madrid shirts like a skier cutting shapes in snow.
Juergen Klopp’s success in assembling a squad with a fraction of the budget that Madrid possess, creating a distinct identity based around quick, attacking football and instilling in his players the character not only to score twice in injury time to get past Malaga, but to put four past Real Madrid, is a feat of some magnitude. If his giggling, rather unhinged post-match press conferences mark him out as an eccentric, his team’s performances confirm that he is a very special manager indeed.
And, from a wider perspective, the Bundesliga is a very special league indeed. Those deep undercurrents of change lurking below football’s surface have slowly being turning Germany’s way for years now. At the top level of the European game, Germany possesses the most vibrant and vital supporter culture; it boasts bulging, modern stadiums with affordable seats; a structure that since the horror of Euro 2000 has been attuned to producing technically excellent youngsters in local academies; a national team focused on fresh, progressive players.
These are football’s underlying intangibles, the agents of long-term causation in a complex sport. Pinpointing the end of one era and the start of another is accordingly fraught with difficulty. But sometimes you have to look at the evidence staring you in the face.
Perhaps it was circumstantial evidence. Perhaps these two seminal performances, coming just 24 hours apart, were coincidental. Perhaps Spain’s cultural hegemony isn’t crumbling just yet. But watching Mueller dance through Barcelona and Lewandowski destroy Real Madrid, couldn't you feel the earth move?
Tom Adams - @tomEurosport
- - -
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Both the club and player are shocked and disappointed at the severity of today's Independent Regulatory Commission decision. We await the written reasons tomorrow (Thursday) before making any further comment." - Liverpool, like the rest of us, can't wait to get hold of the FA's explanation for Luis Suarez's 10-game ban.
FOREIGN VIEW: "We know everything about Lewandowski, absolutely everything, we studied him from every detail possible and we lose him in three goals - I don't talk about the penalty - where we know exactly what he does. It's of course very disappointing. When I lose and I don't deserve to lose, for me it's a drama, when I lose and I deserve to lose, it's a situation I don't accept." –Jose Mourinho ponders a defeat which likely means he will never win the Champions League as Real Madrid manager.
COMING UP: It's the turn of the Europa League semi-finals as Fenerbahce take on Benfica and Basel host Chelsea in their respective first legs. We also hear from our Bundesliga bloggers, which is a shame as there's not a lot to talk about in German football at the moment.