Nearly 18 months on from his arrival at FC Bayern München, Xabi Alonso is enjoying life in Munich, and has big ambitions for the current season.
Alonso already had a bulging curriculum vitae when he joined Germany's record champions. During his five-year spells at Liverpool FC and Real Madrid CF, the Spaniard won the UEFA Champions League on two occasions, as well as a host of domestic trophies. He also clinched UEFA EURO 2012 and FIFA World Cup 2010 with the Spanish national team.
It speaks volumes for his quality that, even approaching 34, Alonso remains a crucial part of Pep Guardiola's Bayern squad. Both his experience and his enduring brilliance both on and off the ball were invaluable to the Bavarians as they won a third consecutive Bundesliga title last season.
“In my position, you need to be strong in the tackle,” Alonso told Bayern's official website, “but I much prefer to have the ball”.
'When you control the ball, you control the game'
It is handy, then, that Alonso finds himself playing for a side whose excellence is built around possession. Guardiola's style may be a new experience for Alonso in club football, but the veteran midfielder has shown his affinity for the possession-based game during Spain's successful reign at the pinnacle of world football. By his own admission, it is a style he thrives on.
"I'm happy when my team have the ball," he said. "At Bayern, we have most of the possession in at least 90 per cent of games. When you control the ball, you control the game."
But it is not just on the field that Alonso feels well suited to Munich. Though he admits that his children speak better German than he does, the former Liverpool and Madrid player is adamant that he is loving every minute of life in the Bavarian capital:
"I'm very much enjoying it here. My family are enjoying it too, and that's important for me. I try to speak German to the German players in the dressing room, but sometimes I have to slip into English. I'm working very hard on the language."
The proof is in the pudding: just a few months ago, the club released a video of Alonso and Thiago during a shared German lesson. Both have made good progress since their respective arrivals.
Champions League dreams
But the real work is on the pitch. After missing out on the UEFA Champions League last season, Alonso is determined to take Bayern further in the competition this year, and reach the final at Milan's Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, or San Siro.
"Milan is a great city, and Bayern have good memories there," he said, alluding to the club's Champions League triumph in 2001. "But it's still early in the season, and we're just trying to win every game as it comes."
For a player of Alonso's generation, however, there may not be too many more opportunities. He admits that, even after a near-perfect career, Europe's greatest prize remains a huge motivation.
"Winning the Champions League with Bayern would be very special for me. I would then have won it with three different clubs - only Clarence Seedorf has achieved that," said the Spaniard.
If all goes to plan, Alonso could equal the Dutchman's record at the end of this season in Milan. It would be a fitting cherry on the cake of a truly remarkable career.