Munich - FC Bayern München have secured their first successful Bundesliga title defence since 2006 in unprecedented fashion, topping even last season's remarkable feats by becoming the first team ever to be confirmed of Germany before the end of March.
Lothar Matthäus spent twelve years at the Munich club all-told, getting to hold the coveted championship shield aloft no fewer than seven times between 1985 and 2000. Germany's most-capped player, who skippered the country to its third FIFA World Cup triumph in Italy in 1990 and is now a widely-respected pundit on Sky, spoke in interview about Bayern's incredible campaign under new head coach Pep Guardiola, the player who has impressed him most in an outstanding ensemble and what he thinks will keep them motivated in the Bundesliga down the final season straight.
bundesliga.com: Lothar Matthäus, no team has ever won the title as early as FC Bayern this season, nor in a comparably dominant fashion. How do you rate their achievement?
Lothar Matthäus: FC Bayern have worked hard to attain this level of dominance. They've been operating at full pressure without a break, internally as well. The sporting director, Matthias Sammer, has stressed how relentless the daily focus is on the targets they've set, not least on the part of their exceptionally meticulous coach. The team have pushed themselves to the limit in every game and they deserve huge recognition for this achievement.
bundesliga.com: In the wake of the historic treble-winning campaign under Jupp Heynckes, was Pep Guardiola just the man to come in and make Bayern even stronger?
Matthäus: I think so. Pep Guardiola arrived in Munich with a hugely impressive CV, and not just in terms of his title collection. He has his own particular style, which he'd already stamped onto FC Barcelona. I was also impressed by the fact that he'd learned German beforehand. Guardiola's a perfectionist who leads by example; that in itself was a marker for the team, and the players understood as much.
bundesliga.com: How big a part have the club management played in the team's current success?
Matthäus: A lot of former world-class players still have a big say in how things are run at FC Bayern and that gives them a major advantage over other clubs. Uli Hoeneß, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Matthias Sammer have been immersed in professional football all their working lives. There may be the occasional difference of opinion, but they follow a clear common line and bring that across in public.
bundesliga.com: The upshot has been a season which is seeing an extensive rewriting of the record books. Have all these new Bundesliga best-marks been an additional motivating factor for the team?
Matthäus: The players certainly enjoy hearing the numbers. It's something they can always be proud of having been part of. And I doubt if many of these records will be improved on again in the foreseeable future. In all my years as a player and coach, whether in Italy, Spain or anywhere else, I've never encountered a team as dominant as FC Bayern have been over the past couple of seasons.
bundesliga.com: What does that level of dominance signify for the Bundesliga?
Matthäus: German football can be happy to have a club like FC Bayern as its global flagship. It can only be a boost to the Bundesliga's international profile.
bundesliga.com: Is there any one FC Bayern player who has particularly impressed you this season?
Matthäus: Yes, Arjen Robben. There was a widely-held perception that Arjen could be a bit egotistical out on the pitch. And on top of that, he's been very injury-prone. Neither of those factors have applied this season. He's profited the most from the change of coach and you can see it in his body language. He plays with his head up and he's constantly pressing forward.
bundesliga.com: The title's in the bag well ahead of schedule. Will Bayern be able to sustain the requisite level of tension to see them through the final few games in the Bundesliga?
Matthäus: There'll certainly be tension enough. Bayern will want to maintain their rhythm, with the DFB Cup and the Champions League still to be defended as well. It's just a pity for the players that they haven't been able to properly celebrate their first success yet. Obviously it's not the same kind of intense, euphoric experience it would have been if they'd overtaken the leaders and clinched the title on the final matchday instead.
Interview by Michael Reis