A Game of Thrones: Bayern Munich v Real Madrid

by James Hunt

An old, infamous rivalry was renewed when Bayern Munich took on Real Madrid in the Champions League semi final.

For the first leg, the storm clouds gathered, but no rain fell. No thunder clapped; no lightning struck. A few handbags at the end, but it was a drop in an ocean usually full of sharks.

In fact, most of the fighting came from within; Franck Ribery was more Frank Bruno as he reportedly punched Arjen Robben at full time, after the two argued over the taking of a free kick. Perhaps they should stick to rock, paper, scissors.

The second leg was another exhilarating game, played at breakneck speed for the first 45 minutes. That took its toll, and after both teams went to the proverbial trenches – for the second half, and extra time as well – it took penalties to separate them. And, well, you know what they say about Germans and penalties.

It was yet another chapter, full of twists and turns, to be added to an already epic novel.

It is a clash of kings: both the richest and most successful club in their respective country, both have conquered Europe, yet neither have reigned supreme in a decade.

It is a longstanding, fierce battle, one of history, and honour, or perhaps lack thereof.

Their first meeting was also in a Champions League (then the European Cup) semi final, back in 1976 – and it was right from these early beginnings the lines were drawn.

Corey Fiske, of Real Madrid Football Blog, said: “The first meeting back in 1976 was certainly the beginning, but they may have been early overtones given the way both clubs viewed themselves in Europe and how their club presidents went about acting during the early stages of European competition. I personally think that because Real Madrid employed a few German players like Stieleke, Schuster, Netzer and Breitner during the 70s and 80s, the rivalry got amplified that much more”

This was a ‘golden age’ for Bayern, the likes of Franz Beckenbauer, Uli Hoeness, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Gerd Muller among their ranks. They had already won two consecutive European Cups, and with victory over Madrid, they went on to make it a historic third.

Madrid, meanwhile, were hit with a five-year ban from the competition (later reduced to three games played away), after a fan – El loco del Bernabéu – ran onto the pitch and attacked a linesman.

In both 1980 and 1981 the two sides met in ‘friendly’ matches, though it would not be accurate to call them as such. The first, Bayern walked away with a staggering 9-1 win. The second, Bayern’s Klaus Augenthaler made offensive gestures towards the Real fans. He was sent-off, his teammates walked-off, the match was abandoned.

Another European Cup semi final arrived in 1987, and this one came with all the animosity of the first, plus that which had been built over a decade.  Again, it was The Bavarians who were the victors; although they did not go on to lift the trophy that year. And, again, it was not the football people were left talking about.

After a penalty was awarded to Bayern, Madrid striker Juanito – whose past included assaulting a linesman and spitting at an opponent – lost his head, and stamped on that of Lothar Mattaus. He received a five-year ban, and unlike Madrid’s 11 years previously, this was not reduced.

According to Edson Karimi, of Bayern blog Red Robbery, this is when it became a true rivalry. He said: “The real ‘hate’ began in 1987 with Juanito’s momentary lapse of sanity and the following war-like battles in ’87 and ’88. Elbow checks, kicks both below and above the belt, these meetings had everything that makes football ugly. It might sound simple but I do think that things would’ve looked a lot different without that challenge by Juanito against Lothar Matthäus.”

A year later, in the same competition, albeit at the quarter final stage, Madrid finally made it past Bayern, although they did not manage to go all the way.

Another eleven years passed, before a run of games between 1999 and 2004, a time when it seems both sides were at a peak. In fact, every champions League final between 1998 and 2002 featured either Bayern or Madrid, but never both.

In that 1999-2000 campaign they met four times, twice in the group stage and then yet another semi final meeting. Remarkably, Bayern beat Los Meringues three times out of four, but it was still Madrid who went on to the final and lifting the trophy.

The following season and, for the third time it was Die Roten who came through the semi final encounter with Los Blancos as the winners, and for the second time it resulted in them going on to win the whole thing. It was a fourth Champions League title for the German outfit, and one that took them to exactly half of Madrid’s tally.

The pair had to settle for a quarter final meeting in 2001-02, and although Bayern won the first leg, it was Madrid who progressed. Just like they had two years earlier, they made it count by going on to win the trophy, beating another German side – Bayer Leverkusen – in the final, with Zinedine Zidane scoring ‘that’ goal.

Madrid made it to the semi finals again in 2003, but this time they did not find the Bavarians awaiting them. Instead, their reward for making it through their epic clash with Manchester United – which finished 6-5 on aggregate – was an Old Lady. The Old Lady. Juventus. And it was the Italians who won, before going on to lose to Milan in the final. Bayern, meanwhile, had not even made it past the first stage – coming bottom of a group including Lyon, Deportivo and i Rossoneri.

The olds foes were reunited in 2004, on the slightly less grand stage of the first knockout round. It was Madrid who progressed, the last time – until the arrival of Jose Mourinho – that they made it as far as the quarter finals.

2007 saw the two meet once more in the first knockout round, and this time it was Bayern who were making it through to the quarter finals, with help from Roy Makaay, who scored the fastest ever Champions League goal.

Last year, Franz Beckenbauer said of Jose Mourinho: “Just because you wear a cashmere sweater that does not make you a gentleman. He is a rude, loutish man.”

And the heat was turned up before this latest encounter. Mario Gomez, speaking before the first leg, said: “They [Real Madrid] shouldn’t get too complacent – everything changes for this one: the stadium will burn on Tuesday.” Mourinho hit back, saying: “I am sure UEFA will have extra firemen at the ready.” But for every cutting comment, there was praise as well. A begrudging, mutual respect. It’s certainly been hard earned.

Five years. That’s how long it took for them to meet again, on the grandest stage, in two of the grandest arenas. It was worth the wait.

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