Lukas Josef Podolski (German pronunciation: [ˈluːkas poˈdɔlski]); born Łukasz Podolski IPA: [wuˈkaʂ poˈdɔlski]) on 4 June 1985 in Gliwice, Poland) is a German footballer who plays as a striker for 1. FC Köln and for the German national team. He joined 1. FC Köln in 1995 where he broke into the first team in 2003 and made 81 appearances for the club before moving to Bayern Munich. After three years in Munich with mixed success, Podolski returned to Köln.
Podolski was born to Waldemar Podolski, who played professional football in Poland and won the Polish championship in 1980 with Szombierki Bytom, and to Krystyna Podolska, a former member of the Polish national handball team in the Silesian industrial town of Gliwice (near Katowice), Poland. In 1987, when Łukasz Podolski was two years old, his family emigrated from Poland to West Germany and was given Aussiedler status as a result of his paternal grandparents having German citizenship prior to WWII (Gliwice had until 1945 been a part of Germany as Gleiwitz). Podolski grew up in Bergheim, North Rhine-Westphalia, and later in Pulheim, both near Cologne.
Podolski holds both German and Polish nationality, but has stated that he does not have a Polish passport. In an interview Podolski said that the Polish football association never cared about him until he started playing for the German U21 national team and received coverage in the media. At that point, Podolski arrived at the decision, but nevertheless "there are two hearts beating" in his chest.
1. FC Köln
Podolski began playing football at the age of six in the youth team of FC Bergheim, where he played until he joined 1. FC Köln in 1995. It was there where Podolski's talents were first noticed. In 2003, at the age of 18, Podolski was still part of the club's youth side. At this time the club found itself in dire straits battling to avoid relegation from the Bundesliga. First team boss Marcel Koller, working on a shoestring budget, invited Podolski to train with the senior players and he made his top flight debut shortly afterwards on 22 November 2003. Even though Köln failed to avoid a drop to the 2nd division, Podolski had shown what he could do, scoring 10 goals in his first 19 senior appearances. This was the best tally by an 18-year-old in the history of the Bundesliga.
Though his call up to the German Euro 2004 squad brought along interest from several top clubs, Podolski stayed at Köln to help the club gain promotion in the 2004–05 season. With 24 goals, Podolski advanced to become the league's best scorer. Somewhat unusually, Podolski remained part of the Germany squad, even though he did not play in the national top-tier league.
After Köln were promoted, the pressure was on Podolski to keep the club in the Bundesliga practically singlehandedly. Podolski managed to score 12 goals in the 2005–06 season, but eventually, Köln were relegated again. It became clear that Podolski would not stay again to push them through the 2006–07 season—even more so, as Podolski was becoming an integral part of the national team.
In 2006, clubs such as Bayern Munich, Hamburger SV, SV Werder Bremen and even Real Madrid manifested their interest in Podolski, even though he had a contract with 1. FC Köln through 2007. On 1 June 2006, Podolski announced that a transfer agreement had been reached with Bayern Munich, allowing him to join the Bavarian side for the 2006–07 season. Financial details of the deal were not immediately available, but the transfer fee was speculated to be around €10 million. He made his Bundesliga debut for Bayern on 11 August 2006 with a 2–0 victory against Borussia Dortmund, coming on as a substitute in the 88th minute. On 9 September 2006, he came on as a second half substitute in a DFB cup game versus FC St. Pauli. Only 26 seconds after the second half started, he scored the equaliser, evening the match 1–1. On 14 October 2006, with his first Bundesliga goal for Bayern, Podolski helped to secure the club's 4–2 win over Hertha Berlin. On 26 October 2006, Podolski suffered a serious injury to his right ankle joint caused by teammate, Mark van Bommel, during a training session. Consequently, Podolski missed more than five match weeks. He returned from this injury and scored against Alemannia Aachen. He sometimes communicates with fellow Bayern and national team striker Miroslav Klose, also a Polish-born Aussiedler, in Polish to hinder their opposition's understanding of their conversation.
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