Lukas Podolski has had a remarkable journey since shining as one of Germany's young stars at the 2006 FIFA World Cup™ on home soil, which culminated in a third place finish for Jurgen Klinsmann’s side and memorable celebrations with fans in the capital city.
Having featured for giants such as Bayern Munich, Arsenal and Inter Milan at club level, the 30-year-old is no stranger to success and capped a sparkling international career with a World Cup winner’s medal in Rio de Janeiro in 2014.
But it is memories of Germany 2006, rather than Brazil 2014, that are closest to Podolski's heart and the Galatasaray forward will have opportunity to travel back in time when Germany face England in Berlin on Saturday.
“Every tournament and every international game played gives you additional experience which brings you forward, both on the pitch and off it, but there is nothing more special than playing a World Cup at home,” Podolski told www.sc.qa.
“Germany 2006 was my most beautiful experience, even if we won the title in 2014. The World Cup in 2006 as a package was the best thing which I have experienced – the weather was right, the stadiums were full in every game, the atmosphere was outstanding.
"When we drove to training or games, we drove through masses of flag waving fans, with all cars decorated with scarves or flags. It was something very special. It was also a tournament which changed the course of German football, because from there on our quality and our performances changed.”
Having made his international debut for Germany in 2004, the left-footed forward said the tournament at home was an unforgettable turning point in his own career: “At the time Bastian Schweinsteiger and I were the young wild ones in the team, and aside from the tournament overall it was also a successful tournament for me. I played well, we went very far, I played every game and 2006 was a huge success. I will carry these experiences with me until the end of my career and until I die -- they are something which no one can take from me.”
Podolski is the third most-capped player for Die Mannschaft with 126 appearances, and says he has been impressed with the passion since arriving in Turkey in the summer of 2015. “The reception I got in Istanbul has been outstanding, I was received by a few thousand people at the airport, and the Galatasaray fans have taken a real liking to me. The fans are euphoric, emotional, and that was how I was received.”
While he does not yet know which major tournament will be his last, Podolski added that Qatar 2022, the first World Cup to be held in the Middle East, could be a positive force for football development in the Arab world.
He said: “It is an opportunity for every host country. We saw that in Germany it brought a real move forward, and for an Arab country I definitely think it can be a positive force. For every country it is an opportunity, and it is important to take that opportunity and make something of it after the tournament.”