Munich - The arrival of Pep Guardiola, arguably the most sought-after coach in the world game, at FC Bayern München this summer was one of the biggest stories of the close season and by no means just in Germany.
From the day the news broke on 16 January 2013, speculation was rife as to what effect the former FC Barcelona mastermind would have on a club in the process of scooping an unprecedented quadruple of the DFL Supercup, Bundesliga, UEFA Champions League and DFB Cup under the man he was earmarked to succeed, Jupp Heynckes.
Four months into the job, Guardiola is already well on the way to delivering the answer and pundits and fans alike are overwhelmingly impressed with the results to date. In a rare personal interview given to the official FC Bayern magazine, the 42-year-old Catalan tactician gave his own insights into how the job has been going so far - and indeed how he came to get it in the first place.
"From the first contact I had with FC Bayern, I knew within seconds - You have to do it," Guardiola revealed: "I didn't want to pass up the opportunity to work here with this great team that the club have put together over the past few years. If I hadn't accepted then, I probably wouldn't have been asked again later."His mind made up, he fastidiously set about preparing for his much-anticipated return to the game following a year-long sabbatical in New York.
Words of praise - and warning
Thus far, Bayern have shown no inclination whatsoever to interrupt their winning ways. "It's not all that important to be top of the table in October, but it's always nice to be there anyway," said Guardiola of his team's pace-setting standards. "What matters most at the moment is that we consolidate our playing style. It's an on-going process and the performances at Manchester City and Bayer 04 Leverkusen indicate 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." In short, he surmised, "I'm happy with how we're playing."
And why, indeed, should he not be? Bayern look to be in the process of taking their exhilarating possession football up to an even higher level, with the aforementioned dominant displays on the road at Manchester City in the Champions League and fellow domestic title aspirants Leverkusen a precursor of things to come. "I'm convinced we will be even better once everyone is fit," said Guardiola.
Rotation on the cards
A couple of players he was referring to are Spanish midfield duo Javi Martinez and Guardiola's former charge at Barcelona, Thiago. The head coach is certainly looking forward to having his compatriots back in the frame again, reflecting that "obviously we've been playing exceptionally well lately but looking at the season as a whole, it's not great to have the likes of Philipp Lahm or Franck Ribery playing though the whole 90 minutes every three days. And the more players I have available, the more variation we can bring to our game."
As to his famously meticulous match preparations, Guardiola noted that being a top-level coach "isn't a regular eight-hour job you leave behind in the office at 5'o clock. Sometimes I've got my thoughts in order after a couple of hours in the office, sometimes the same process takes 20 hours. As a rule, though, I usually have the line-up worked out pretty quickly."
So far, so good, but...
That ongoing dedication - and his own stellar reputation - notwithstanding, the man from the small Catalan town of Santpedor has no illusions as to the employment risks that inevitably accompany his line of work: "This is a club with countless trophies in its museum and only last season, they won the treble. You can't do better than that.... At the moment we're making excellent progress but if that were to change at some point and we start playing poor football, then Kalle [FC Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge] and [president] Uli Hoeneß will come along and say - 'Thanks very much, Pep, you can head back to New York now.''' In football, anything is possible but on all the evidence so far, that does seem a fairly unlikely scenario.
Away from the day-to-day rigours of the job, 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 evening, they come home from school really happy and my wife is enjoying life here as well." He has also learned to appreciate the "reserved" and "very polite" local attitude to his stratospheric public profile when he's out and about in Munich: "They're FC Bayern fans, but they respect your private space. I really like that."
bundesliga.com gives you a closer look of Bayern's master tactician on the official Bundesliga YouTube channel.