Despite his relatively young age, Lukas Podolski has already earned numerous monikers: Germany’s shooting star, the prince of Cologne, the joker with a hammer for a left foot, and football’s darling in the nation of the three-time world champions. Four years ago at the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™, ‘Poldi’ was crowned young player of the tournament and stole the hearts of German fans. Now he is preparing to meet their expectations on the international stage again, whilst enduring challenging times at club level.
Podolski celebrates his 25th birthday seven days before the worldwide showcase kicks off in South Africa. That he already has 70 international appearances to his name says everything about his quality. Born in the Polish city of Gliwicze, the young Lukas emigrated to Germany with his parents at the age of two and joined Cologne as a ten-year-old, where he learned the fundamentals of the beautiful game. Such were his goalscoring exploits coming through the ranks that he was thrown in at the deep end of the Bundesliga in November 2003. With ten goals in 19 games in his first season and a natural, cavalier style, it was love at first sight for the fans who have since elevated the frontman to cult status in the cathedral city. Cologne were relegated in the same season but Podolski fired his club straight back into the top flight as the leading goalscorer in the second division the following year.
His meteoric rise did not go unnoticed by the national team set-up. Then Germany coach Rudi Voller handed the prolific forward his international debut in June 2004 in a 2-0 friendly defeat to Hungary in Kaiserslautern, before naming him in the squad for UEFA EURO 2004 in Portugal at the age of just 19. Podolski has not missed a major international tournament since and two years later at the FIFA World Cup on home soil, the prodigy paired up with Miroslav Klose to form a strike partnership whose invigorating performances played a major part in ensuring the host nation enjoyed a fairytale summer.
When Cologne were relegated again in 2005/06, and with a brilliant FIFA World Cup behind him, it was clear that the promising young striker could not be held back by his long-time club. Podolski signed for Bayern Munich where he would endure the most difficult period of his career to date. While he continued to prove his quality for Germany, at club level the popular player was relegated to a bit-part role as Luca Toni and Klose stole the limelight. Despite winning a league and cup double and tasting UEFA Champions League action with Bayern, he never settled in Munich and returned to Cologne after just one season. In recent months, however, he has struggled to live up to the messianic expectations of him at his beloved club.
The good-humoured family man wears his heart on his sleeve and is best described as an instinctive footballer. He has phenomenal shooting power and incredible technique. He can often go unnoticed for long periods in a game, only to steal the show with a moment of genius. Podolski is not a classic penalty box striker, preferring to come from deep to cause damage. However, with Germany coach Joachim Low favouring a 4-5-1 formation of late, he looks likely to take up an attacking left-midfield role in South Africa.