Who could begrudge Lukas Podolski his Roy of the Rovers final? | Jason Humphreys

An hour after playing his 130th and final game of Germany, and after scoring the winner with a check mark to the left pulled out of hammer, Lukas Podolski made an impromptu appearance on a sport chat show, still with his full kit with the captain’s armband and boots. Still buzzing from the night of the event, remained standing, with muddied knees and a wide smile spread across his face puzzled technician has a microphone under his sweaty, grass-stained shirt.

He had taken the time to intrusion of the show, long after his media duties, you can explain to the extent of the heartfelt farewell he’d received on the pitch in the early evening.

After the referee blew the final whistle Podolski in the Germany of the race, he walked slowly around the Westfalenstadion in Dortmund, not only to applaud the fans and with the objective of thumbs ups and waves in the crowd, but regularly, climbing until you reach the gate to hand out handshakes and high fives. His team mates kept their distance, respectfully allowing you to enjoy your time. However, it soon became apparent that this was going to be more than an obligatory lap of honour, and left him to it.

Lukas Podolski fired from marvel for Germany sinks of new England

Read more

As the rest of the team warmed down, debriefed and showered, Poldi stayed there, wrapped in flags, taking selfie after selfie with fans young and old. If the words or actions came from the fans, his fellow professionals, commentators, TV presenters, studio guests, or Joachim Löw, one thing was clear: Lukas Podolski is a very popular and a man who was lost on the international scene.

He has a mix of youthful, local-boy-made-good with a steely determination and professionalism. He can be a professional model, but he would not look out of place bouncing up and down on the Sudkurve at his beloved FC Köln. In fact, Podolski is so popular in some sectors, there is a danger of his international career is seen as a great guy, nice show. But 130 games and 49 goals put the third party in your country the appearance of the list, and fourth on the all-time goalscoring chart – and we are talking about Germany here.

Podolski salutes the Germany of the fans of the last time. Photograph: Maja Hitij/Bongarts/Getty Images

Born in Poland, Podolski moved to Germany with his parents as a small child. The family settled in Bergheim, a village a few kilometres from Cologne, a city with which Podolski shares a mutual love. He may not have been born in the Colony, but took his first steps in football in the region, first with the local youth team in Bergheim, before you change to the youth set up at FC Köln, eventually forcing his way into the first team during the 2003-04 season age of 18 years.

The young striker blond highlights and a rocket of a left foot went into a fighting side, and despite hitting 10 goals in 19 games, a record for a young man of 18 years in the Bundesliga – Podolski’s maiden season at his childhood club ended in relegation. It soon became apparent that the second tier of German football was no place for a player that had already begun its international career, winning his first cap after entering as a substitute in a home defeat against Hungary and then travel to Portugal as part of the Euro 2004 squad. Podolski and Cologne tore through the 2. Of the Bundesliga, finishing as champions with the forward finishing the season as the top scorer with 24 goals in 30 games.

Back in the big time Podolski hit double figures again, but the team fought back and, once again, were relegated – this time without their star striker. Now an established member of Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad, Podolski had agreed to join some of his team-mates at Bayern Munich after the next World Cup in Germany.

Apart from Brazil 2014, obviously, in the 2006 tournament on home soil has to go down as the highlight of Podolski’s international career. The team and the fans revelled in the wave of patriotism that swept through Germany as the team delivered the victory and drama in equal measure on his way to an epic semi-final against Italy. For his part, Podolski was one of the stars and his double-act with Bastian Schweinsteiger, on and off the pitch became one of the lingering images of summer.

For now Podolski was an important part of the Germany set, so that Poland’s decision to not call him a couple of years earlier, where he was already performing in the Bundesliga, shabby appearance.

Podolski with his former team-mate, Bastian Schweinsteiger, the World Cup in 2014. Photograph: Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images

Germany had to settle for third place in the 2006, but Podolski was voted as the tournament’s best young player and was ready to hit the ground running in Munich. But he fought in the Allianz Arena. Felix Magath had signed Podolski, but the Bayern coach does not see him as a starter – a completely new situation for a player who was used to be one of the first names on the teamsheet. In general, all was not well at the club and, despite coming from back-to-back domestic doubles, Magath and Bayern ended almost unimaginably low fourth in the league.

The club reacted quickly. Hitzfeld replaced Magath before the end of the season and in the summer came of heavyweight signings, including Franck Ribery, Luca Toni and Miroslav Klose – the last two years, providing greater competition for Podolski. The future does not look good, especially because I had not been able to recreate your Cologne the way in Munich, scoring just five consecutive times of the season.

The club brushed themselves down and recovered instantly. The new investment paid dividends as they headed back to the top of the league, winning the double. Was Luca Toni, though, who was the leader of the line, ending his first season in Germany’s top scorer. Podolski seen from the distance as his role as a benchwarmer restricted your account to a handful of goals.

Not even the appointment of Jürgen Klinsmann, Podolski fan, in his third season in Munich helped to change things, and growing more and more frustrated and unhappy Podolski announced his return to FC Köln, his club. It seemed like the obvious move for the, but it is not often that a fight for the Bundesliga team is able to buy a 23 year old German international from Bayern Munich, and it took a bit of huffing and puffing to get the transfer over the line. A price of around € 10 million agreed, which represents little or no benefit to the Bayern, and the sum is divided and packaged in numerous ways to make it possible for Köln to finance the switch, including the proceeds of a friendly match between the two parties, and a crowdfunding-type of plan will participate in the FC Köln fans.

Podolski’s frustrations and lack of progress in the Bayern had not gone unnoticed by Joachim Löw. He had stopped to put his faith in the future, using throughout the euro 2008 qualification campaign and in the tournament, in which he scored three times. But he wanted to see his players on the pitch each week. Podolski’s move back to the Colony to wait to give him a full season of first team football that leads to the 2010 World Cup, with Germany looking to build on their runner-up finish in the Championship of europe.

His six goals in qualification, and two in the tournament he maintained his international scoring of the relationship. But, despite being a solid performer, he was never really in line to be the team’s talisman, often playing a secondary role in the prolific Miroslav Klose or, in this particular tournament, Thomas Müller.

His first season back in Cologne, I saw him again on the pitch, but not really among the goals, but things have improved and he was made captain, leading the club to a respectable midtable finish the following campaign. Now, back in the habit, Podolski was arguably his best season since the glory days of 2006, as he scored 18 league goals – but, as in his first spell at the club, his time ended with his own achievements, being denied by the team’s decline. Dropping down to the 2. Bundesliga again was unthinkable, and their stellar performances throughout the season had attracted Arsène Wegner’s attention, and Podolski changed the Rhine, by the Thames.

By this time, Podolski had represented his country almost 100 and scored 43 goals. And despite the fact that his number of starts for Germany had been restricted by the continuation of the brilliance of Müller and the emergence of players such as Mario Götze, Marco Reus and Andre Schürrle, if fit, Podolski was in the squad and you could always rely on.

Playing mostly from the left, Podolski had a productive time at Arsenal, scoring 19 goals and providing 14 assists in 60 league games, as well as scoring eight goals in 12 Champions League games. But, despite being very popular between the fans and the players, Podolski was unable to reach the level of importance and the position it enjoyed in Köln, and finally not quite what Wenger was looking for. The Emirates bank sign, followed by a period of six months on loan at Inter.

Instead of being a new beginning, Poldi to move to Milan produced more of the same. Nerazzurri boss Roberto Mancini does not seem to fancy Podolski and his first-team chances remained at a premium. But, like his Arsenal career was in decline, it was not the summer of 2014. Having signed for the season as an FA Cup winner and went to Brazil with his country, by now one of the most experienced players in the squad, with more than 100 matches. He played a minimal part in the pitch during the tournament, but his presence in the team should not be underestimated, and their celebrations in Rio de janeiro, and back home in Berlin was the climax of a love story that had begun in the intense summer of 2006.

Leipzig before Red Bull: a city that can boast of being the home of German football

Read more

Things were going down on the international front, and Podolski had accepted his peripheral role in Löw’s team but the club, his career was far from over. After all, he was on the verge of turning 30 years old. So after London and Milan, Podolski camped out in Istanbul to Galatasaray. As is his style, Podolski launched the challenge and has been a success in his two seasons, scoring a goal every game and to hit the winner against Fenerbahce in turkey Cup final last year.

And now, after winning cups and leagues in three countries competing at the sharp end of international tournaments and lifting the World Cup, the Podolski story is going to continue with a new chapter in Japan, with Vissel Kobe. Regardless of what people think of his move to the J League, Podolski has always moved to play football. He has never been afraid to leave big clubs, moving countries, or go on loan to get games – which doesn’t happen when players can sit on the bench and be richly rewarded. More than that, he managed to do it with a smile on his face. And, if you think about it, how many of the players that you don’t see that it really looks like you’re enjoying themselves?

Thomas Müller said in the tone of a joke after the England match, that the fairy tale ending was a little cheesy. You’re right, of course. Popular front becomes the captain of the evening and is closed in front of a crowd, to score the winning goal against an old enemy with a screamer in the top corner. It’s all a bit Roy of the Rovers, but who could begrudge a happy ending with a man who plays the game with a smile?

• This article is Englische Woche• Follow Englische Woche on Twitter