Schumacher lends a hand in Poldi deal
© AFP

Seven-time Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher has paid 875 euros towards the 10 million euros (12.7 million US dollars) transfer deal to bring Germany striker Lukas Podolski from Bayern Munich back to Cologne.

Podolski, 23, will return to Cologne from defending Bundesliga champions Bayern this summer and football fan Schumacher was just one of the hundreds of fans who have dipped into their own pocket to help the club finance the deal. Schumacher, who retired from Formula One in 2006, paid nearly 900 euros to help his friend fulfill his dream of returning to Bundesliga side Cologne after three unhappy years in Munich.

On the club's internet site, www.pixel.fc-koeln.de, fans can pay 25 euros for a pixel of a picture of Podolski and if all 40,000 pixels are sold, the club will make a million euros. So far the website has raised 96,000 euros towards the transfer, including the money from Schumacher.

"Well, boy, you have followed your heart and that is always good," wrote Schumacher to Podolski on the website. "Genuine team spirit can be replaced by nothing and I am speaking from experience. My team has always been the most important to me. Now you can show all the fans what the club means to you. I keep my fingers crossed for you."

The club's marketing manager Lars Nierfeld told German tabloid Bild Schumacher had wanted to help the cause earlier, but his recent motorcycle accident in Spain meant he has only acted now.