Germany's Christoph Metzelder only has 16 caps to his name, yet during his relatively brief international career he has always impressed, especially in his seven outings at the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan.
Metzelder would undoubtedly have earned more caps were it not for the serious Achilles tendon injury that has prevented him from playing in the Bundesliga since March of 2003. The former Borussia Dortmund captain's last international call-up dates back to 12 February 2003. Despite his enforced absence, the defender born in the Westfalian town of Haltern remains the subject of much debate. Even today, some 18 months after suffering his injury, Metzelder is something of a talisman both for Dortmund and the German national team.
He refuses to put himself under pressure and still has no idea when he will pull on the yellow shirt of Borussia again. He even admitted to FIFAworldcup.com that he has contemplated retirement, though he now sees a way forward.
Is the national team a realistic prospect for you?
My priorities have changed slightly. I have not played any football for 16 months. I have to get back to full fitness before I can play for Borussia Dortmund. Then I can think about the national team. Germany is definitely not on the agenda for me at the moment.
Can you imagine yourself being involved at the 2006 FIFA World Cup?
That's my goal. I recently spoke with Oliver Bierhoff, who encouraged me to get fit again as fast as possible, because they need me.
Can you give us your favourite names for the Germany team in 2006?
In recent years, players such as Hinkel, Kuranyi, Lahm and Podolski have come on really well, and I can envisage other new talents being discovered before the World Cup. You can't say much more at this point, because things change so quickly in football.
Is the managerial trio of Klinsmann-Bierhoff-Löw the right solution?
Much has been said and written and it wasn't at all easy finding a new coach. And you can't start passing judgement after one friendly.
Why has the Achilles injury taken so long to recover from?
I've had two operations in one and a half years. Unfortunately, the first operation didn't go well, but the second was a success. What you need most after a 16 month lay-off is plenty of time and patience.
What is more difficult -- the physical recovery or coping mentally with such a devastating injury?
Initially, it is always the physical handicap, but as the rehabilitation programme just goes on and on, you need mental toughness too. I make progress every day.
Your contract runs until June 2005. Are you starting to feel the pressure?
That is not an issue. Borussia Dortmund have already declared an interest in extending my contract.
Did you entertain or express thoughts that you might have to retire?
Yes, there are times when I have thought that way, simply because the injury has taken so long to recover from. But I try to remain positive and have received fantastic support from Borussia Dortmund.
Your favourite club is Barcelona. Would you still like to play there? Is that still a dream for you?
As a youngster, Barcelona were my dream club. Now there are so many other great clubs in Europe, but before I have any other thoughts I have to get past the first hurdle -- I have to regain my fitness.