Arsenal ‘target’ Podolski in war of words over quality
Arsène Wenger, who has developed a taste for young German talent, must have given one of those familiar wry smiles over the breakfast table this morning. Having declared concrete interest in several Bundesliga players over the last six months – successfully with Per Mertesacker, less so with Mario Götze – the Arsenal manager had only last week distanced himself from reported interest in FC Köln’s Lukas Podolski. The petty war of the words around “Poldi” this week have proved that, as is almost invariably the case, it was a wise decision from the Frenchman.
In an apparently scandalous interview with Sky Germany, Borussia Dortmund manager Juergen Klopp declared that his club were also uninterested in the Germany forward. He then proceeded to launch into a mischievous ad hominem attack, saying that “with his potential [Podolski] should be one of the best, if not the best, striker in the Bundesliga. He isn’t, though, because he is unable to consistently perform at his best.”
Podolski’s reply was equally scathing: “Klopp’s comments are galling. Perhaps he’s disappointed because I’ve already turned him down twice.” He went on to poke fun at Dortmund’s early Champions League exit, insinuating that the club wouldn’t necessarily be able to afford him anyway.
The conclusion of this rather pitiable verbal spat was a flurry of unanimous defence for the Köln icon. Manager Ståle Solbakken pointed to his thirteen goals this season – which he called “the best of Lukas’ career” – and Dortmund General Manager Hans Joachim Watzke was quick to issue an apology to Podolski’s agent. Klopp has remained resolutely silent.
Such a superfluous flurry of indignation and offence is perhaps merely indicative of Köln’s eternal partiality to a scandal, but it seems remarkable nonetheless. In an age where German players and managers have learnt the tricks of the sound bite interview in a way that the likes of Effenberg, Kahn and Schumacher never could, Klopp is one of the last bastions of blunt self expression. Though not prone to the sort of public rages which were characteristic of German stars of old, his public comments often range from the refreshingly outspoken to the downright cheeky, and it is curious that his forthrightness in assessing Podolski, a player who plays for an opposition club, should attract such surprise.
Besides, despite his rather blunt manner of expression, Klopp’s sentiment is not unjustified. While his form this season has admittedly been more impressive than not, Podolski continues to personify the erratic nature of the club he plays for. Some days he is world class, on others, he is invisible. And though he is not unfavoured by Joachim Löw, his place in the national team is under constant threat. He is neither as prolific a goalscorer as Mario Gomez, nor as complete a left sided midfielder as André Schuerrle.
There is, however, an affection for “Poldi” which dates back to the “fairytale summer” of 2006. When the new guard reared by Jogi and Klinsi played, on home soil, their first major tournament, Poldolski came to represent everything that the future promised. With his Polish roots, he demonstrated the multiculturalism which, despite Angela Merkel’s obvious doubts, has become the foundation of the new footballing generation, and his strong performances won him the Young Player of the Tournament Award.
Since then though, it is others who have taken over the reins. The likes of Mesut Özil, Mario Gomez and Bastian Schweinsteiger have all developed into the world stars that Podolski once promised to be, while the incomprehensible young man from Cologne has allowed his ego and his emotions to sway him from this extreme to that. A disastrous spell at FC Bayern saw a swift return to his home club, and while he will always be revered at the Rhein-Energie Stadion, his form has hardly been that of a world beater. While his power and technique remain unquestionable, Podolski still lacks what observers like to call the “football brain”, and it shows in his largely unpredictable form.
However much he and his supporters may protest, the simple truth is that Klopp is essentially correct. Lukas Podolski has failed to fulfil his potential, and there are myriad explanations for that failure. While he will continue to score goals for Köln – and, quite probably, Germany – he will never reach the heights he once looked to strive for. For that reason alone, clubs with an eye on the future such as Arsenal and Borussia Dortmund are wise not to get too involved. The “Kölner-Express”, as he is affectionately nicknamed, can keep trundling on in his hometown. It is the only place where he will ever live up to his own reputation.Tagged in: Arsenal, Arsene Wenger, Bundesliga, football, Juergen Klopp, Lukas Podolski, Premier League
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