Since his emergence as a talented striker, Ahmed Hossam 'Mido' has forged a reputation as a passionate, prolific and well-publicised player. His footballing ability and good looks have made him one of Egypt's biggest stars.
The 24-year-old has come a long way since his days at Zamalek as an amateur. He made the move to Gent in Belgium aged just 17, and then headed to Ajax, where he averaged a goal every other game.
After a short spell with Celta Vigo, he signed for Marseille, but found himself overshadowed by Didier Drogba . Consequently, he transferred to Roma, where, by his own admission, he spent an unhappy five months. In January 2005, the forward was signed by Tottenham Hotspur on an 18-month loan deal, where he has proved himself to be well suited to the rigours of the English game.
In an exclusive and revealing interview with FIFA.com, Mido reveals his hopes for the future and glances back at his hectic career.
FIFA.com: You became a professional footballer in the year 2000, and since then you have played for seven different clubs in five different leagues. Is that a sign of instability?
Not really. I moved to Europe when I was 17 and I had to adapt to different cultures and mentalities. As well as learning a lot on the pitch, I had to mature off it. When I was younger, I was always looking forward to new challenges and so I was always tempted to play in different leagues.
You have already played in some of the top leagues in the world, in Italy, Spain, France and now England. Can you compare them?
Technically, the Italian league is very tough and Italian players are some of the best in the world, but I think it needs more discipline. Although I really enjoyed my time in Spain with Celta Vigo, I still believe that the Premiership is stronger and bigger. It is always great to play at a full stadium in each and every single game. Personally, the English league suits me well, as it's quick, attacking and physical. Also, you can never predict the result of any match in the Premier League - any teams can beat each other.
So, you are settled in England?
Yes, and I am very happy with the system there and I am also comfortable with the chemistry I have with the Spurs fans.
But isn't it true that you recently came close to leaving White Hart Lane?
Yes, that is true. Like any other footballer, I want to play regular football - and I was set to move to Manchester City. A medical had even been arranged. However, with only half an hour before the transfer window closed, I changed my mind. My coach, Martin Jol, had insisted on meeting with me - and he promised me more games. He also knew that I wanted to stay with the club.
It must be difficult to compete with the likes of Robbie Keane, Dimitar Berbatov and Jermain Defoe.
It proves that we have a good team - and I don't have a problem in competing with top players. In fact, it's great for the squad and me that I have such talented team-mates. I have been lucky in my career in this respect, having been with Didier Drogba at Marseille and Zlatan Ibrahimovic at Ajax.
You are a big fan of Zlatan, right?
Yes, as well as being one of the best strikers in the world, he is also a good friend and we regularly stay in touch. He made my job to score goals easier in our days in Amsterdam. His ball control and dribbling skills are absolutely outstanding. I hope he sorts out his problems with the national team, because it's so important to play for your country.
Obviously, you have had similar problems in this respect - are they over now?
Yes, I made a mistake. But because it was the semi-finals of the African Cup of Nations and the whole world was watching, the incident was escalated and the media just blew it out of all proportion. However, I can say that I know now where I stand in the team. I am only a player, Hassan Shehata is the boss, and this is what our relationship should be based upon.
Do you think that Egypt deserved to win the Africa Cup of Nations last year?
We are one of the best teams in Africa, this is a fact. We have some of the best players in African football and our success in the Nations Cup is only a reflection of these facts. When the opportunity came, we grabbed it and won the title.
So why have Egypt failed to reach the FIFA World Cup finals since Italy 1990?
For many reasons: poor management; the fierce competition in the African qualifiers; and the fact that we do not have enough players in European leagues. This is the weakest point for Egyptian football. If our clubs let our players go to Europe, we would advance tremendously. I hope that one day I can lead Egypt to play in the FIFA World Cup finals because this is my ultimate ambition as a player.
Although you are only 24, you have played 44 times for your country and became a national icon. Is that overwhelming for you?
It is a huge responsibility and I try to live up to it. I may have made some mistakes but this is how I learned my way in life. Now I am mature, and I can say that I'm delighted with the way my career has progressed so far .
You are one of the most popular and respected players in the eyes of the fans. Why do you think that is?
I am very proud of that because people know how much I love to play for Egypt and try to help my country. I thank God for this bond I have with the fans which can only come naturally.
Finally, your old club Zamalek are facing some hard times and have been unable to compete with their arch-rivals Al Ahly. What would be your advice to them?
I always look to see how Zamalek are doing , because it was the club where I started my career - and I think I could also end my career with them. I don't think they have a problem with the quality of their players, but their administration has changed so much recently, which has had an adverse effect on the team. I think that off-the-field stability will bring success to the club. The players they have there are fantastic - even better than Al Ahly's .