Long and wearisome injury problems left Sebastian Kehl a peripheral figure as Borussia Dortmund stormed to a largely unanticipated Bundesliga title success under Jürgen Klopp in 2010/11. The following season however, the veteran midfielder had a surprise of his own in store for all those who might have considered him surplus to requirements in a new-look, youthfully dynamic Dortmund team.
Dortmund tug the heartstrings
Kehl played a true leader's role for the Yellow-Blacks as they went from strength to strength, leaving league-best marks in their wake left, right and centre on the way to retaining their championship crown. His performances - with the winning goal in the vital home victory over Ruhr district rivals Schalke thrown in by way of a bonus - fully vindicated Klopp's faith in his Captain Courageous.
For Kehl, who was born in Fulda on 13 February 1980, football was a family affair from the start as he followed in the footsteps of brothers Alexander and Benjamin by joining local club SV Lahrbach, where his father was a coach.
After spending his formative professional years at Hannover 96, Kehl headed south to join SC Freiburg in 2000. His versatile, aggressive style soon attracted the interest of bigger clubs and in 2001, just when it seemed a deal with FC Bayern München was in the bag, Kehl had a change of heart and opted to put pen to paper on a contract with arch-rivals Borussia Dortmund.
So close, yet so far
Having won the Bundesliga title in his first ever season with the Yellow-Blacks, he went on to establish himself as a regular in midfield for Germany before injuries began taking their toll on his career. After all the frustrations of recent years, Kehl is now doubly determined to make the most of his remaining time as a player - and three Bundesliga titles and the 2012 league and cup double triumph notwithstanding, his hunger for silverware remained undiminished.
His hunger was almost sated in 2012/13 as Dortmund finished second in the Bundesliga and runners-up in the UEFA Champions League, a season in which Kehl, free from injury, appeared 32 times. Niggling injuries stalled his momentum at the start of 2013/14, but one thing is for sure with Dortmund's midfield warrior - he'll be leaving on his terms.