Things could hardly get any better for Joris Mathijsen. His Hamburg team currently sit third in the Bundesliga, one point behind leaders Hertha Berlin and are still involved in the UEFA Cup, while he is also a member of the Oranje squad well placed to qualify for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™.
The 28-year-old cut his footballing teeth at Willem II Tilburg, graduating from the youth set-up to the first team in 1999, when he made his Eredivisie debut. It was not until he moved to Alkmaar however that he tasted success, finishing third in the league in 2005 and runner-up in 2006.
Another transfer came, and for the princely sum of six million euros Mathijsen moved to Germany, where his Bundesliga exploits have helped make him one of the lynchpins of the Dutch national team. Indeed, he played three times at Germany 2006 and another three times at UEFA EURO 2008.
On 20 October 2007, he even wrote his name in the Bundesliga history books when scoring his first league goal for Hamburg and the club's 2500th of all time in a match against Stuttgart. FIFA.com caught up with the central defender for an exclusive interview.
FIFA.com: After Rafael van der Vaart moved on in the summer, Nigel de Jong became the second Dutchman to leave Hamburg a few weeks ago. Do you miss your fellow countrymen?
Joris Mathijsen: I'm not the only Dutchman still left here [as coach Martin Jol, Khalid Sinouh and Romeo Castelen are still at the club]. Rafael and Nigel played really well for Hamburg and it was fun for us all to play together, but I'm sure that we'll still continue to play good football in the future, even without those two.
You have been at Hamburg since 2006. How long do you see yourself staying in the Bundesliga?
I haven't really got an answer to that question. I have a long-term contract here and I really feel at home in the city and with the club, so I can't really imagine playing anywhere else at the moment. That doesn't necessarily mean that I'll spend my entire life with HSV though.
Which team would you really like to play for then?
There are obviously some clubs in England and Spain that are very interesting.
You have yet to win a title in your career to date, but you are still in the running for three competitions this season - the Bundesliga, the German Cup and the UEFA Cup. How desperate are you to finally hold a trophy aloft?
I'm a professional footballer so obviously I want to win titles. And believe me, Hamburg want to win some silverware - it would be a dream come true for us.
What can HSV realistically achieve this season?
Our main aim is to qualify for Europe again directly. And if anything else is on offer, we obviously won't say no!
Moving on to the Dutch national team. You made your debut in 2004 - do you remember much of the match?
Of course I do. I came on as a late substitute away to Andorra (17 November 2004 in a qualifier for Germany 2006). We were already 3-0 up so I couldn't really do much wrong.
In FIFA World Cup qualifying, the Netherlands have three wins in as many matches and are top of their group, four points ahead of the competition. What could possibly go wrong on the road to South Africa?
Yes, we are in a good position but that means absolutely nothing. We know that we have to be on our guard every match. But if we put in the kind of performances that we are capable of, we will qualify for the World Cup.
The Netherlands are always among the favourites for every big tournament but have not won a major trophy in over 20 years. Why is there such a gap between expectation and reality?
You shouldn't forget that when you get to the final phase of a tournament, matches are usually won and lost on little details. We just need to have that bit of luck on our side and then we'll win another title. We definitely have what it takes to win one.
Are the Netherlands among the top teams in the world - and if not, what is keeping you from being one of them?
I think we are one of the best, but recent tournaments have shown that it's no longer an elite group up there any more, so you need to keep proving that you belong among the best.
How far do you think the Oranje can go at South Africa 2010?
We want to go as far as possible, which obviously means the Final. To do that, we'll have to play well, be consistent and of course have that little bit of luck that you need. We'll just have to see what's possible, but obviously qualifying is our first priority.
The Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk has Bundesliga experience and the likes of Martin Jol, Fred Rutten and Huub Stevens are some of the other big names who have crossed the border and enjoyed a great deal of success in Germany. What have Dutch coaches got that others do not?
You need to ask the directors of football at the various clubs about that. I do think that the standard of coaching in the Netherlands is very high though, and that Dutch coaches have proved their worth.
Could you imagine yourself being a coach one day?
That's still a long way off for me. I hope that I'll find an interesting challenge to occupy my time once I've hung up my boots - and maybe that will involve coaching.