Podolski to join Arsenal next season
Germany striker Lukas Podolski will join Arsenal for the start of next season, his current club Cologne have confirmed.
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The 26-year-old, who has 95 caps for the national team, will move to the Emirates for an undisclosed fee after both clubs and the player reached agreement over the deal.
Podolski told www.fc-koeln.de: "The move to Arsenal provides a great opportunity for me to gain experience in international competitions at a top European club."
Podolski, who started his career at Cologne before rejoining them in 2009 after an unhappy three-year spell at Bayern Munich, added on the club's official website: "I have made this decision not against Cologne but for this great opportunity and the good of my own individual development.
"This was not an easy decision for me at all, as Cologne, our fans and the city are something special for me. I will always carry Cologne in my heart. We need to pool our strengths now and have to be fully focused on our survival in the Bundesliga."
The Poland-born forward, who had one year left on his contract with the Bundesliga strugglers, has scored 18 league goals for a side battling relegation so far this term, his best ever top-flight return.
Cologne chairman Claus Horstmann admitted the club were sad to see such a popular and influential figure at the club go.
He said: "Lukas Podolski is a player of world class standing with a special relation to FC Cologne's fans and to the city.
"We are proud of the development Lukas Podolski has taken at Cologne within the last years.
"From his early days at our youth squads, via his first competitive match for our professional team, through to a highly renowned Germany international
"That's why we deeply regret his step, which is not a decision against Cologne but for the good of his own career.
"Cologne were prepared to extend Lukas Podolski's contract on the basis of a competitive offer. Nonetheless, this early transfer decision offers scope and planning security for the next season.
"We will jump at this opportunity to reinvest these transfer earnings back into our team's quality and into the promotion of our youth squads.
"Lukas has helped the club in many difficult situations, Lukas has left a mark on Cologne's reputation and we feel the need to thank him for numerous great football experiences at Cologne."
Podolski, who will link up with international team-mate Per Mertesacker in north London, played for Germany at the 2006 and 2010 World Cups and is set to be part of their squad at Euro 2012.
He has a fantastic goalscoring record at international level with 43 goals in his 95 appearances - joint sixth in their all-time list - despite often playing in a left-sided role.
Things did not go so well at Bayern, though, as he managed just 15 league goals in his three seasons in Bavaria before going back to Cologne for a reported 10 million euros in an innovatively-funded transfer.
Cologne set up a page on their website where fans could buy pixels in an image of Podolski with the money going toward the cost of the fee.
Before heading to Arsenal, Podolski will look to save Cologne from the drop.
The club are third bottom of the table with one game to go and are likely to face a relegation play-off.
Lukas Podolski factfile
1985: Born June 4, Poland. Father was a former-professional footballer in Poland and mother was a member of the Polish national handball team.
1987: Family emigrates to West Germany.
1991: Starts playing football, aged six, for FC Bergheim youth team.
1995: Joins FC Cologne.
2003: November - Breaks into the Cologne first team, scoring 10 in his first 19 appearances. Despite wanting to represent Poland, national coach Pawel Janas rejects calls to pick him.
2004: June - Decides to represent Germany, making his debut against Hungary.
Becomes the youngest player called up for Germany's Euro 2004 campaign and appears as a substitute versus the Czech Republic.
2005: Leads Cologne to Bundesliga promotion by scoring 24 goals.
2006: May - Single-handed attempts to keep Cologne in the division prove futile as they are relegated.
June 1 - Moves to Bayern Munich for around €10 million.
July - Wins Best Young Player at the 2006 World Cup, scoring three goals as Germany finish third.
October 14 - Scores first goal for Bayern in a 4-2 win over Hertha Berlin.
September 6 - Scores four as Germany thrash San Marino 13-0.
2008: April 14 - Marries long-term partner Monika Puchalski following the birth of their first child.
May 4 - Bayern Munich secure the Bundesliga title with a 0-0 draw with Wolfsburg.
June - Refuses to celebrate after scoring a brace against Poland at Euro 2008. Germany go on to finish runners up to Spain.
2009: July 1 - Returns to Cologne after falling down pecking order at Bayern.
2010: June 18 - Becomes only the second German to miss a penalty in normal time against Serbia at the 2010 World Cup. Germany finish third for the second World Cup running.
2012: April 30 - Cologne confirm he would join Arsenal at the end of the season for an undisclosed fee.