Borussia Dortmund's Mahmoud Dahoud has never had things easy in life, or his footballing career. From fleeing his country of birth Syria to overcoming a career-threatening injury at 17 to now rediscovering his form at the Signal Iduna Park, the 25-year-old has been through more than most players experience in the span of a career.
Sitting down with bundesliga.com over the international break, Dahoud discusses his desire to return to the Germany national team and earn a permanent place in the senior squad, as well as his love of simply playing, and being a vocal leader on the pitch for Dortmund.
bundesliga.com: Training must be even more enjoyable in this weather, is that true?
Mahmoud Dahoud: "That's true. You always want to play football when the weather is good."
bundesliga.com: How are you doing?
Dahoud: "I'm doing well. The three days off did us good - we were able to relax a bit. I'm doing very well so far."
bundesliga.com: How are you preparing for the game against Eintracht Frankfurt?
Dahoud: "We knew from the beginning that the game against Frankfurt on Saturday was going to be important. We'll prepare thoroughly this week. We have an important training session tomorrow. A few of the players are returning. Edin [Terzic], our coach, will explain how we're going to set up against them."
bundesliga.com: What sort of team are Frankfurt?
Dahoud: "They're certainly uncomfortable opponents. They'll be very aggressive. They know how to get under our skin. They're also dangerous on the break and very clinical up front."
bundesliga.com: Are Frankfurt a team that are better playing with the ball or without the ball?
Dahoud: "They're a team that can do both. They're very aggressive without the ball, but they also have the quality to hold onto the ball. They have a lot of good players in midfield. Amin [Younes], [Filip] Kostic, [Martin] Hinteregger too, though I think he is injured at the moment."
Watch: Dortmund and Frankfurt drew 1-1 in their meeting earlier this season
bundesliga.com: How important is the match against Frankfurt?
Dahoud: "It's very important for the club. And for the team as well. We simply have to win against Frankfurt - there is no other option. The three points must stay here."
bundesliga.com: Are you expecting a difficult match against Frankfurt?
Dahoud: "Definitely. But it's not easy playing against us either."
bundesliga.com: You have been playing a lot of minutes recently. How hard was it waiting for your chance?
Dahoud: "I've always been very honest with myself - I've always worked hard. It wasn't always easy being patient but I stuck to my job and waited for my chance. I did my job. And whenever I did get a chance, I wanted to make full use of it, to show my qualities."
bundesliga.com: Do you think you have developed as a player of late?
Dahoud: "For me, I always look to identify my weak points after every game I play and to make sure I address these in the next game. I always go into the next game with the confidence to do these things better."
bundesliga.com: And that's a key factor in how you progress as a player?
Dahoud: "Exactly. After every game, I can't stop thinking about the things I did badly and often can't sleep. Then I go into the next game with the intention of addressing these weak points. I notice that things improve over time because of this attitude that I adopt. Then I reflect on the weak points from that game too and identify areas for improvement. I get frustrated with certain situations. My desire is always to improve with every game and to offer more than the last game."
bundesliga.com: You are one of the more vocal players on the pitch. Has that always been the case?
Dahoud: "That's true - it was the case at youth level too. If I'm not vocal on the pitch, I feel as though I'm not in the game. The emotions are not there, and I myself am not there. At that point, I may as well be left out."
bundesliga.com: Off the pitch, you are a very calm person. Why is that the case?
Dahoud: "I don't speak in front of the cameras that much - there is always a chance of something going wrong! But on the pitch that doesn't matter."
bundesliga.com: Jadon Sancho has said in the past that the pitch is his happy place. Is the same true for you?
Dahoud: "All negative things fade away. As he says, it's somewhere where you can be truly happy with every good passage of play."
bundesliga.com: You made your Bundesliga debut at the age of 18. What was that like?
Dahoud: "My debut would have come much earlier had I not got injured. Lucien [Favre] spoke to me when I was 17 and said he wanted to bring me on for my debut. At the start of the Bundesliga pre-season, he spoke to me and told me I would come on that season. Then two weeks before the start of the season, I injured my ankle. I was out for roughly a year. That was very sad. I fought back from that and he gave me my debut when I was 18."
bundesliga.com: You suffered that injury when you were 17. How much did the injury hold you back?
Dahoud: "I tried to play for a few days or for a week at a time but had to stop as I was always in pain."
bundesliga.com: How difficult was that year for you?
Dahoud: "I thought I would never return. I thought I wouldn't manage to get back onto the pitch. I really did think that way. It wasn't easy."
bundesliga.com: How do you feel now at the age of 25?
Dahoud: "I don't know - I feel much more solid and more stable than I did in the past. It's difficult to be more specific as it depends on the situation."
bundesliga.com: What was it like playing for the national team?
Dahoud: "It was truly an amazing feeling being involved. I've been called up twice. I wouldn't say I'm satisfied with my two call-ups. You become hungrier each time and always want to get into the team. But the call-up was a great feeling and gave me renewed energy. I knew that I was playing well, that I was capable of more and it gave me motivation for the season."
bundesliga.com: How proud were you?
Dahoud: "I grew up here, Germany is the only country that I know. I'm very grateful to Germany for the opportunities it has given me. So, it's truly amazing that I was able to represent my country."