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“This is not the end of an era,” Barcelona vice president Josep Bartomeu told Catalunya Radio on Thursday. “There is a structure to the club and it will continue. We will go forward with the same base that we have now.

“New players will arrive. There are certain positions that we need to reinforce. That is the way of things, the team needs it.”

But age could be only one factor in the perceived change. The Bundesliga has 18 clubs, two fewer than other top leagues, which means fewer games. And unlike most others, it takes a long winter break, giving players a chance to recover. Also, German Cup matches are one-leg affairs, also meaning fewer games.

Internationally, Germans have been looking up to Spain for years: Germany lost the 2008 European Championship final to Spain and fell again to the Spaniards in the 2010 World Cup semifinals.

Now, the Germans may have moved past their role models.

“Amazing. In two days, the two brightest students of the class have been brushed aside in Germany,” columnist Alfredo Relano wrote in Spanish sports daily AS.

Perhaps the most striking example of German clubs taking over from Spain is that Pep Guardiola _ a former Barcelona star player and hugely successful coach _ will take over at Bayern next season. Barcelona won 14 out of 19 possible titles in his four-year tenure in Spain.

But despite this week’s scoreline, Guardiola’s old team isn’t going to give up so easily.

“When things don’t go your way you have to count to 10, wait until everyone calms down a little, and take the time to think and use reason,” Iniesta said. “If we want to keep competing like we have been and fight for titles, we need to improve many things for the simple reason that to keep on winning you always have to get better.”

Next week, Barcelona will need to be a lot better if they want to advance. Madrid, too.


Associated Press writer Joseph Wilson in Barcelona, Spain, contributed to this report.