There may not be many success stories in the Lebanese game, but Cologne defender Youssef Mohamad is certainly one of them.
Dudu, as he is known to German football followers, began his career at Safa Sporting Club in 1999. Five years later, he moved from Olympic Beirut to Freiburg. Although the Badenova-Stadion team were relegated from the Bundesliga in his first campaign, Mohamad spent two seasons there before moving to his current club, along with his compatriot Roda Antar.
Mohamad explained to FIFA.com the difficulties in moving from an unknown league to one as demanding as the Bundesliga. "It was hard at first, especially as I was moving to a country completely different from Lebanon, but I had a good start and played 31 matches in my first season with Freiburg," he said. "After that I got acclimatised and played 32 games the following season.
"My performances with Freiburg opened many new doors for me, culminating in my negotiations with Cologne to come here. The good thing was that the transfer from Freiburg to Cologne was very easy, which meant I quickly adapted to my new team and succeeded in winning over the supporters - something that pleased me greatly."
Reflecting on his experiences in Germany, Mohamad continued: "I've learned a lot in my five years here. I feel I now know the game very well, especially having come from a country where there is no professional football."
While Mohamad is renowned for his solid defending, his attacking exploits have also garnered him headlines, having found the net on several occasions for Freiburg and then Cologne. Indeed, his latest goal came only last month, when he opened the scoring in his side's 3-0 win over Kickers Emden in the German Cup.
Quizzed about this side of his game, Mohamad replied: "I got used to scoring goals when I was in Lebanon, and always used to help my team by getting on the scoresheet. I learned this from several world-class defenders whose careers I used to follow, such as Ronald Koeman and Matthias Sammer. I learned a lot from them.
"Our new coach Zvonimir Soldo has asked me not to leave defence too often as he doesn't think we're covered when I push up. Sometimes, though, if circumstances allow, I will get forward, as happened in the German Cup match when I scored the opening goal that turned the game."
Although he is happy with his performances for Cologne at the moment, Mohamad does not hide his burning desire to achieve more with a club that has won three Bundesliga titles, four German Cups and were beaten finalists in the 1985/86 UEFA Cup. "There's a lot of talk in the club about recapturing the team's glory days, but this will mean working to a three or four-year plan," he said.
"Currently, as a team we're performing well and better than we were before, but the results are not as we'd want. Our ambition this season is to finish somewhere between sixth and ninth in the league. Then, in future years, I believe we'll strengthen the team more and more so that we can again be one of the best clubs in Germany."
The 29-year-old admitted he has been affected by the transfer of countryman Antar to China PR's Shandong Luneng, but insisted he is a professional and will adjust to the new situation, no matter how hard. "Roda's transfer has affected me greatly as we were more than just team-mates," he said.
"We spent most of our off-field time together as well. I was sad when I first heard but at the same time I was pleased for Roda, as it was his choice and he knows what's best for him. This would have happened sooner or later, but after five years in Germany I know a lot about the country. If it had happened at the beginning of my career it would have been a different story."
Since Roda's move, Cologne supporters have wondered if Mohamad could be the next to leave, given that he is in the final year of his contract and has been the subject of several rumours. "At the moment I'm staying with the club because there have been no official offers and all the talk is unconfirmed," he said.
"I was surprised when I heard recently from one of my friends in Berlin about press reports claiming Hertha Berlin wanted to sign me, but that's unofficial and I cannot depend purely on media speculation. Cologne want me to stay and I'll wait for another six months or until the end of the season before making a decision."
Mohamad finished by reiterating his desire to see more Lebanese footballers playing abroad, although he acknowledged this was easier said than done. "After Roda and I were transferred to Europe more players should have moved, but efforts to bring this about, whether undertaken by the clubs or the players themselves, weren't serious enough," he explained.
"The interesting thing is that many people ask me about the number of Lebanese professionals abroad and they're surprised that there are so few, despite the fact that there are a lot of amateur footballers in Lebanon."