Is the unpredictable Lukas Podolski a gamble for Arsenal?
With rumours emerging in both German and English tabloids today of the impending return to England of Arjen Robben, it is perhaps a good time to remind ourselves that “Bild” exclusives must generally be taken with a pinch of salt. The story which Germany’s biggest newspaper broke last week, however, remains to be conclusively refuted: and if the its mysterious source can be trusted, it seems that Lukas Podolski may well be on his way to Arsenal this summer.
The report which emerged in “Bild” last Tuesday claimed that the Germany and 1. FC Köln striker had agreed personal terms with the London club, and that he should leave the Bundesliga for a transfer fee of at least £18m. While the sudden appearance of such a sensational story is anything but inconspicuous, the rumour has been greeted with anything but denial from the implicated parties. Both Arsenal and Podolski’s representatives have declined to comment, while Köln manager Ståle Solbakken told delighted journalists “I know more than you”, a declaration sufficiently ambiguous to keep the fire of speculation roaring.
In truth, it is Köln’s reaction which is the most telling. Arsenal, for fear of allegations of tapping up, are well advised to keep their distance, while the Podolski camp – particularly given the player’s electric form this season – may well smell a bidding war. But the club which “Poldi” has come to represent in recent years seem remarkably resigned to their fate.
It would be, after all, a distinctly depressing fate. As they prepare themselves, once again, for a fierce relegation battle, it is to their local hero which the Billy-Goats are turning this year. His 16 league goals this season have put him among the top four most prolific strikers in the Bundesliga, the latest of which was a crucial 81st minute equaliser against Hoffenheim last Sunday. It was a goal which the Sky Deutschland commentator greeted by asking “What would 1. FC Köln be without Lukas Podolski?” The answer, in all likelihood, is a second a division team.
The real question, however, is not what Köln would be without Podolski, but what Arsenal would be with him. While the striker’s influence in the Rhein-Energie Stadion cannot be overestimated, the question over his ability to excel at any other club continues to loom large over a career full of unfulfilled potential. When he stormed onto the scene at the 2006 World Cup, great things were predicted of the Polish born striker. But his failure at FC Bayern and subsequent return to the safety of his home club was, perhaps, illustrative of a psychological fragility which his critics delight in exposing.
For all his technical prowess, Podolski has forever been the great under achiever. Even at Köln, this season is something of an anomaly, and for Germany he excels almost exclusively in tournaments. His form, so his critics say, is entirely dependant on a mentality which is, like Arsenal’s, famously volatile.
And yet, perhaps we put too much store on that ill-fated spell in Munich. If Podolski hasn’t matured as much as the likes of Bastian Schweinsteiger since 2006, there are undoubtedly signs of improvement. His relationship with new manager Solbakken got off to the rockiest of starts when the Norwegian relieved him of the captaincy early on in his tenure, and yet Podolski’s form has clearly not suffered. Perhaps, after all, the little kid from Cologne has finally grown up.
£18m, though, remains a vast amount of money to spend on a player who is yet to impress at a major club. And with rumours of interest from Milan also emerging this week – Podolski was also linked with a move to Italy in the summer – that pinch of salt may still be necessary. You would not blame either the player or the club from wishing to capitalise financially on what has been Podolski’s best Bundesliga season to date, and the refusal from any party to confirm or repudiate the rumours may well just be a case of the cards being kept as close as possible to the chest.
Certainties, in this particular case, are notably scarce. And it is perhaps fitting that, even with the figures and allegations currently being bandied around, the future of this most unpredictable player should remain ambiguous. Only one thing is certain: whichever club Lukas Podolski calls home next season, be it Köln, Arsenal or Milan, they should not think that they have struck gold. A good player he will always be, but predict him at your peril. At £18m, the stakes are, quite simply, far too high.Tagged in: Arsenal, Bundesliga, football, Lukas Podolski, Premier League
Latest from Independent journalists on Twitter