Munich - It was one of football’s greatest coups. Arguably the most celebrated coach of his generation, Pep Guardiola, was to step out of the sabbatical shadow and dive straight back in at the deep end with FC Bayern München.
From the day the news broke on 16 January 2013 to the moment he was unveiled to the baying press six months later, the whole world has been scrutinising the Catalan's every move. After four months on the job, you are unlikely to hear any complaints.
"From the first contact I had with FC Bayern, I knew within seconds: you have to do it," Guardiola told the club's official magazine in his first full interview since joining the Bundesliga cast. "I did not want to pass up the opportunity to work here with this great team that the club had put together in the past few years. Had I said no, I might not have been asked again."
His mind made up, Guardiola fastidiously set about preparing for his much-anticipated return to the game. At the time of his appointment, Bayern were top of the Bundesliga table and still competing in the UEFA Champions League and DFB Cup. By the end of the season, they had won all three. Maintaining that winning drive was but one of the many tests the 42-year-old would later pass with flying colours.
"It's not all that important to be top of the table in October, but it's always nice to be there," said Guardiola of his team's pace-setting standards. "All that matters at the moment is that we get to grips with our playing style. It's an on-going process and the performances against Manchester City FC and Bayer 04 Leverkusen show we've already reached a decent level that we want to maintain in the coming weeks. I'm honestly really surprised how quickly the players have taken my ideas on board. We definitely need more time, but the level is already very, very high […] I'm happy with how we're playing."
And who can blame him? Bayern have really begun to click in recent weeks, with the aforementioned dominant displays against Manchester City and Leverkusen seemingly just a precursor of things to come. "I'm convinced we will be even better once everyone is fit," warned Guardiola. "Yet we will only be on the hunt for titles at the end of the campaign if everyone takes my ideas on board. If not, we'll have problems. I'm a good friend to my players when they accept what I say. I'll support those who take on my ideas."
Long may it continue
Captain Philipp Lahm, for one, has effortlessly adjusted to the Guardiola blueprint - and out of position at that. "We've had a few injuries in [the holding midfield role] like Javi Martinez and Thiago [Alcantara]," Guardiola explained. "Philipp played as a No6 a couple of times during pre-season and did really well. He's one of the most intelligent players in the world […] Without him it wouldn't have been possible to play so well in Manchester and Leverkusen. He'll go back to his usual position when the others return, but it's reassuring to know I can deploy him in midfield."
Away from the day-to-day rigours of football management, meanwhile, Guardiola's seamless acclimatisation to the German way of life has undoubtedly made his Bavarian mission a whole lot easier: "My family's happiness is always the most important thing for me - especially the kids. Every night, they come home from school really happy. My wife is also happy with life here. I hope I will be working at FC Bayern even longer, so I can get to know the city and region a little more." Fingers crossed; or as the man himself would say, "drücken Sie die Daumen!"
Find out what Pep Guardiola had to say after the Matchday 8 draw at Leverkusen on the official Bundesliga YouTube channel: