1947920
Graham Hunter
by
Graham Hunter
from
Barcelona

Barça and Madrid can be positive

Sunday 5 May 2013, 17.30CET
FC Barcelona and Real Madrid CF suffered chastening UEFA Champions League exits, but Graham Hunter says they still have reason to look on the bright side.
 
 
Published: Sunday 5 May 2013, 17.30CET

Barça and Madrid can be positive

FC Barcelona and Real Madrid CF suffered chastening UEFA Champions League exits, but Graham Hunter says they still have reason to look on the bright side.

Three of the four results in the UEFA Champions League semi-finals were so comprehensive – inflicted by Bundesliga clubs on Spain's two leading sides – that it is no surprise the fallout has been so emphatic.

It raises the question: even amid the pain of elimination, is there anything positive to be taken forward? Obviously, notwithstanding the challenging questions which will now make their way to the FC Barcelona and Real Madrid CF boardrooms, the answer is 'yes'.

Clearly, most clubs would give a great deal to call three consecutive UEFA Champions League semi-finals (Madrid), or six on the bounce (Barcelona), anything like failure. There is plenty to celebrate once the dust settles.

©Getty Images

Raphaël Varane has been superb

At Madrid, even failing to win the fabled 'Décima' cannot shroud Raphaël Varane's immense progress. The 20-year-old made his European debut last season, but adding 11 appearances this season has enhanced his experience and proven that Madrid have bought a Rolls-Royce defender with a Ferrari engine. He has vision, pace, power and a very calm head – a real find.

Whether or not every Madrid fan agrees with keeping Iker Casillas on the bench, there can be no question that coming up with the solution to the club captain's injury by signing Diego López from Sevilla FC has been an exceptional success. Some of his work against Manchester United FC and Borussia Dortmund was simply remarkable.

Finally, although there are other positives, what about Cristiano Ronaldo? Unless Robert Lewandowski scores two or more in the final, the Portuguese will be the top scorer in this competition for the first time since 2008. He has struck 12 goals, a tally which has only been beaten twice [by Lionel Messi and José Altafini] since the tournament was founded 58 years ago.

©Getty Images

Barcelona blew Milan away

You would imagine that Barcelona's pain is slightly more intense and, thus, the positives harder to find. However, few who were present for their 4-0 comeback win against AC Milan will ever forget it. Irrespective of the shock of the defeat by FC Bayern München, the Catalan club have often pointed out that the greatest victory of the season was having coach Tito Vilanova healthy enough to come back to work after a battle against cancer.

During the UEFA Champions League season, Barça used eight players aged 18-22 (Martín Montoya, Marc Bartra, Carles Planas, Rafinha, Cristian Tello, Gerard Deulofeu, Thiago Alcântara and Sergi Roberto), six of whom were on their B list and accumulated a notable total of 20 games between them. Whatever the immediate future holds for the club after this difficult week, that is surely one significant positive to keep hold of.

It is reasonable to expect that defeat, even at this rarefied level of the competition, will probably inspire both clubs to bolster their squads once more. Both clubs can also be inspired by the fact that last season Bayern finished well behind Dortmund in the Bundesliga, lost the German Cup final to the same team and missed out on the UEFA Champions League in front of their own fans. Yet here they are, less than 12 months later, on the brink of the treble.

Even if it is a bittersweet taste, both vanquished Spanish clubs can now end the season with a trophy. Barcelona are the Liga champions-elect – their fourth title in five years – while only city rivals Club Atlético de Madrid stand between Madrid and the Copa del Rey later this month.

So, while this week must have been painful for both sides, and a sore night is in store when Bayern and Dortmund meet at Wembley this month, everything is not doom and gloom for Barcelona and Madrid. Not by a long way.

http://www.uefa.com/uefachampionsleague/news/blogs/blog=ucl_blog_spain/postid=1947920.html#barca+madrid+positive

Last updated: 06/05/13 19.47CET
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