German domination forces Spain introspection
Barcelona were humbled 7-0 on aggregate by German champions Bayern Munich on Wednesday, the day after Real almost overturned their shock 4-1 first leg defeat away to outsiders Borussia Dortmund, to go out 4-3 overall.
Like two ageing and distracted prize-fighters, tired after years of slugging it out between themselves for pre-eminence, Real and Barca have suddenly found themselves outclassed by hungrier and more dynamic opponents.
Since the first leg defeats, which prompted headlines of 'Germany 8 Spain 1' there has been much talk of a power-shift eastwards to the Bundesliga in European football.
The quality of football played by both the German teams has caught the eye, with their players appearing fitter and stronger.
Spanish media have also noted Bundesliga's strict rules on club finances, greater fan-involvement, lower ticket pricing and the marvellous atmosphere in their stadiums.
One player ideally placed to make a comparison is Bayern Munich's Javi Martinez, a Spanish international who Barca were keen to sign last summer, but who chose instead to head to Bavaria.
"I don't know for sure but you can say they are doing a lot of things very well," the 24-year-old midfielder told Spanish broadcaster Canal Plus, when asked if the Bundesliga was better than La Liga.
"The stadiums are always full, all the games at the Allianz Arena are in front of a full crowd. I don't know if it is the best, but it is one of the best two or three."
Not only has one of Spain's most talented young players headed to Germany, the architect of Barca's recent success Pep Guardiola is also lined up to replace Jupp Heynckes at Bayern for next season.
The new president of the Spanish football league (LFP) Javier Tebas has come into the post promising to make changes in La Liga targetting tighter controls on club finances, and to tackle the threat of match-fixing.
He is also going to tackle the redistribution of TV revenues in Spain where Barca and Real rake in the lion's share leaving many of their rivals on the brink of bankruptcy.
"I believe we have to aspire for a league that is healthy economically, like the Bundesliga, and to try and sell our league like they sell theirs," Tebas told Spanish daily El Pais last weekend.
"We have to try and fill the stadiums. At the halfway point of the season attendances were down 3.4 percent, which isn't much. But I am reminding the clubs: we can't maintain prices as they are."
Spanish sport daily As acknowledged Bundesliga's superiority in their Thursday editorial.
"Germany are on the up. Barca will win the league and Real could yet win the King's Cup but neither will be happy. Now they need to go back to the drawing board," it said.
"It is clearer for Madrid, who will end the [Jose] Mourinho project. It is harder for Barca. Is Tito [Vilanova] up for this or not?"
Mourinho dropped his strongest hint yet that he was considering leaving Real aft