His appointment this week as Strachan's assistant manager with the Scotland national team had McGhee recalling the summer of 1984, when he agreed to move from Pittodrie to Hamburg, and fully expected his friend Strachan to join his German adventure at Cologne, only to see him move to Manchester United instead after an 11th-hour change of heart.
"The wee man sold me a dummy," McGhee said. "We'd already discussed that he'd be in Cologne and we were looking at maps – of course there was no Google maps in those days, it was an atlas – trying to work out how far apart the cities were. But then the wee man dropped his shoulder and ended up at Manchester United and by that time I was already in Germany."
McGhee only lasted a year there, but he has retained close links to the German game ever since, and feels the DfB blueprint is a realistic aspiration for Scotland over the longer term.
But rather than transplant the German style of play wholesale, an experiment which was tried and failed under Berti Vogts, McGhee feels some Teutonic tinkering here and there is the way to go.
"I was asked by the League Managers Association two years ago to go a big congress in Germany and it was amazing," he said. "There are two things I remember about it, one was how freaked they were by Barcelona and the Spanish national team, and there was almost a feeling of self-doubt.
"There were a thousand coaches there and all the top people were on a panel, but the one steadying voice was Matthias Sammer, who stood up and said, 'wait a minute, there are a lot of good things about the German game and talked about the way they were developing their style of play.
"I came back speaking to people about that, how they were trying to play quickly through the middle and get forward quickly in a really positive kind of way. I came back very excited about the future of German football.
"Between now and the games we have coming up I will be watching half a dozen of Germany's last games to try to take some influence in terms of how we can develop the way we're playing because their style is much more suited to us than that of Spain or Barcelona.
"We have to pass the ball, of course we do, but the German model is probably a much more realistic model for us given the type of players we have."
Despite a friendship that has lasted 30 years, Strachan and McGhee have never worked together in management. "I actually have no idea how Gordon works so the first thing I am going to have to do is stand back and see exactly how he does things," McGhee said. "But I am used to going in and working with people I have never worked with before and Gordon is a good friend so I am not fazed by that."
With Strachan and McGhee living in England, the backroom team will be completed by Scotland-based Motherwell manager Stuart McCall.
McGhee said: "Gordon feels that would be important for two reasons, one that you have somebody who is seeing what is happening up here, and the other from the point of view of not giving the impression everybody is down south swanning about."