Barcelona, Real Madrid enter uncertain era after eliminations
With both Barcelona and Real Madrid still smarting from their respective Champions League collapses, the talk is already turning to what changes can be made - maybe even need to be made - for next season.
Both Spanish teams lost to German opposition in the semifinals. Bayern Munich routed Barcelona 7-0 on aggregate, and Borussia Dortmund survived a second-leg loss to reach the final with a 4-3 combined score victory over Madrid.
Gerard Pique, a 26-year-old center back who plays at the heart of an aging Barcelona defense, seems to be hoping for some new direction once his team finishes off this season with an inevitable league title.
"(We) have to take decisions in the summer,'' said Pique, who was forced to play against Bayern on Wednesday without injured teammates Lionel Messi, Carles Puyol and Javier Mascherano.
Whatever may happen in the offseason, though, Barcelona will still have Messi and Madrid is likely to still have Cristiano Ronaldo.
And their goals alone should be just about enough for each team to compete for titles in both Spain and Europe.
Madrid, however, may still have a big hole to fill. Jose Mourinho, the coach who led Madrid to last year's Spanish league title, looks like he may be on the way out.
Although Mourinho failed to deliver Madrid's 10th European Cup, the Portuguese coach has won the Champions League with both FC Porto and Inter Milan, has won league titles in England, Spain, Italy and Portugal, and led Madrid to three straight Champions League semifinals.
His destiny, it seems, is to return to England and former club Chelsea.
"One day, naturally, I have to be back,'' Mourinho said last month in London. "Chelsea is in my heart.''
Even if Mourinho goes, it's Ronaldo that matters more to Madrid. And despite stating publicly early this season that he was unhappy at the club, his mood seems to have improved.
"I'm not worried about renewing my contract,'' the Portugal winger said after Tuesday's match. "I have two more years. Not just now, but all season long I have felt good (here). I am comfortable.''
Of the two teams, Barcelona may be the one with more to lose.
With Messi up front and a slew of quality players all around him, Barcelona won 14 out of a possible 19 trophies in four seasons under previous coach Pep Guardiola.
Now under the leadership of Tito Vilanova, Barcelona will need to do something to maintain its lofty standards.
"We always reinforce the squad each summer,'' Vilanova said. "I don't think it will change much. We need to recover the players we do have.''
Something will certainly need to be done to stop a repeat of what happened over the last week. The 4-0 loss at Bayern in the first leg was bad enough, but the 3-0 drubbing at home on Wednesday was shocking to even casual fans.
"This loss has to serve for us to learn from our errors, to think about what we were lacking in this series,'' Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta said. "It will also help us to value it more when we do win, and to see that there are very strong teams out there to beat.''
Iniesta seems to have said it all: No longer is Barcelona the team to beat, it's just another team out there trying to win.