Lukas Podolski was full of his usual charm at his final press conference on international duty ahead of Germany’s friendly against England. The striker will captain the national side on his 130th and last appearance.It was somewhat fitting that the day before Germany bid farewell to Lukas Podolski on the pitch, they did so in the German Football Museum in Dortmund.
Like fellow World Cup winners Bastian Schweinsteiger and Philipp Lahm before him, Podolski makes his move from Germany international to a part of Germany history. And on Tuesday, he admitted it was a strange feeling to be going through the pre-match rituals one last time.
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“There have been some moments where I’ve thought, this is it,” Podolski said on Tuesday.
The 31-year-old’s entrance was followed by a montage (of course) of Podolski’s best moments. There were thank you wishes from Rudi Völler – the man who promoted him from the U21s to the first team – and from the man in charge before Joachim Löw – Jürgen Klinsmann. It is with Löw though, that Podolski is closest.
“I’ve learned a lot from him, on and off the field,” Podolski said of Löw, who was equally generous with his praise.
“Lukas is irreplaceable. We’ve had a lot of tournaments, some lows, but also the greatest high. We will miss the player and the person Podolski,” Löw said.
“He is one of the greatest players ever to play for Germany,” Löw added. In recent years, such great memories are hard to recall but great is the right word to describe Podolski’s time in a Germany shirt.
Podolski is the final pillar of Germany’s post-2000 resurrection to walk off into the (Japanese) sunset. Once a quick attacker with a terrifying left foot, Podolski’s quality has blurred in recent years at international level. Yet, he did what most cannot and remained important to the squad even when he was not playing at his best. As he departs, appreciating Podolski is to appreciate how a player has become part of Germany’s famous “team behind the team.”
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Smiling and as entertaining as ever, Podolski couldn’t resist making a joke. He tricked the translator into saying Philipp Lahm had announced his move to Chicago Fire, when it was in fact Bastian Schweinsteiger. Later, he grinned while saying Löw would have the privilege of sharing his room the night before the game. It wouldn’t have been a Podolski press conference without a quip or two.
“Maybe because we’ve had a great coach for 10 years,” Podolski said with his trademark smile when asked about the major difference between England and Germany at major tournaments. But there’s a stinging truth to the former Arsenal man’s comments. A comeback win in Berlin last year was supposed to be the start of something special for England, but little has materialized. Löw did say England had become a team willing to take more risks since the Euros last summer, though.
Planning for the next major tournament is Germany’s priority, and how to deal with a post-World-Cup-winning group. Although this game against England is only a friendly, it is part of their preparation ahead of Sunday’s World Cup qualifier against Azerbaijan. Löw talked about a “no mercy policy” in competitive matches, but even with the emotional attachment to the fixture a similar approach against England wouldn’t be a surprise.
And so, on the same day that his great friend Schweinsteiger announced he would be heading to the US, Podolski enjoyed his final prematch press conference with Germany.
“Time flies, even for a footballer. It’s bags packed and on the road,” Podolski said. On Wednesday night in Dortmund, “Poldi” will do it one last time.