Munich - Ahead of Pep Guardiola's much-anticipated arrival as new FC Bayern Munich head coach on 24 June, bundesliga.com has everything you need to know about the coveted Catalan tactician.
In part six of our Guardiola Special, Dutch football icon Ronald de Boer tells us why the Bundesliga, and Europe, can look forward to dealing with an FC Bayern side playing "even more attractive football" under his former FC Barcelona team-mate. De Boer and his twin brother Frank were two of an eight-strong Dutch contingent on the books at Barca alongside Guardiola under head coaches Johan Cruyff and Louis van Gaal - in his view Pep's "most influential mentors."
These days a specialist defensive coach at youth level with AFC Ajax, with whom he won the 1995 UEFA Champions League, De Boer played alongside Guardiola in Barcelona's 1999 Spanish title-winning team. And as things currently stand, he reckons the balance of power in the European game has tipped significantly from the Catalonian capital towards its Bavarian counterpart.
bundesliga.com: Ronald de Boer, two German teams in the Champions League final - did that come as a surprise to you?
Ronald de Boer: A little bit, for sure. I certainly couldn't say I'd been expecting it. But then, it wasn't such a huge surprise either. FC Bayern, and Dortmund as well for that matter, have the quality to beat anybody on their day. Bayern in particular were playing exceptional football, to an incredibly high standard - week-in-week-out, over the entire season. In 2012/13 they were simply too good, even for FC Barcelona. They were superbly organised - it reminded me of our Ajax team back in 1995 - and had top-class players from front to back, each of them deploying his own special qualities for the good of the team. But I think it's still a bit premature to be talking about a changing of the guard. Obviously, Barcelona are capable of beating Bayern - but they'll need to be on top form themselves.
bundesliga.com: Are there any other reasons for the current rise of German clubs? Does the winter break give them an advantage over the likes of the English Premier League, which doesn't even stop for Christmas?
De Boer: If you want my personal opinion, I do get the impression that come the end of the season the English clubs, in particular, often look a bit less fresh than the others. They've got a couple of domestic cup competitions to contend with and it's a 20-team top flight as well - like in Spain and Italy. And then you've got all the internationals on top of that. So I think the winter break does give the German sides an advantage. Your body needs a rest every so often.
bundesliga.com: FC Bayern won everything going in the season just ended, but they're bringing in a new coach nonetheless. What does that mean for Pep Guardiola?
De Boer: It's not the best time to be taking on the job. It's going to be very difficult for him, because what more can you do than win every title possible? But I certainly wish him all the best, and a lot of luck.
bundesliga.com: "Never change a winning team" is an age-old mantra. Can he actually even go to work on the team and the tactics, or is he going to have to adapt his concept of football to the FC Bayern side he's taking over?
De Boer: He won't have to, because the way Bayern are playing at the moment gels very well with his philosophy already. I've no doubt he's going to bring the team on even further. They'll play even more attractive football and further improve their share of possession and overall control of proceedings. They'll grind their opponents down by their sheer dominance and show there's nothing to be had for them against FC Bayern.
bundesliga.com: Barcelona's own game is down in no small part to Dutch coaches and is based on players using the same system from youth level onwards, as has been the philosophy at Ajax for decades. How much Johan Cruyff, how much Dutch football, does Pep Guardiola have in his veins?
De Boer: A lot. He described it in his own book - Cruyff and Louis van Gaal were his most influential mentors. He took the best from both of them, on organisation, the obsession with even the smallest detail. For him, match intelligence is paramount, more important than physique. I think his philosophy, in a nutshell, is that the ball's always going to be quicker than the player.
bundesliga.com: You played together with Guardiola for a season at Barcelona. What kind of a player, and person, was he?
De Boer: He's very friendly, with a big personality. He was always very serious about his work and hated losing, even in training. It's the same when he's playing golf, there's always this total focus on the job in hand. He's a perfectionist.
bundesliga.com: As a player, was he already thinking like a coach?
De Boer: Yes, he was the coach's extended arm out on the pitch, always talking a lot to the rest of us and directing play. That was also down in part to the fact that he wasn't the strongest physically, something he compensated for with his intelligence. He invariably knew what was going to happen next and was always thinking a few steps ahead. It's just a natural gift he's got.
bundesliga.com: What kind of a coach is Guardiola?
De Boer: Not one to sit quietly on the bench. He'll always try to give the team input from the touchline. On the other hand, he obviously has the ability to read a game well enough to know when he can sit back for a bit, when his team have the game under control and don't need any help.
bundesliga.com: Franz Beckenbauer, Uli Hoeneß, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Matthias Sammer - there's no shortage of higher-echelon expertise around Guardiola in Munich. Is that an advantage, or does it pose a potential risk?
De Boer: A coach needs his independence, he has to be able to do as he sees fit. Obviously he's going to be consulting with people of their vast experience, but at the end of the day he'll be the one calling the shots.
bundesliga.com: Can the fans and management look forward to a successful defence of the treble?
De Boer: No, that wouldn't be realistic. How often does something like that happen? For all the class in the world, it takes a bit of luck as well. But one thing I am sure of: FC Bayern are in good hands over the years ahead.
Interview: Jürgen Blöhs