Monday 15 August 2016, 14:17

Podolski: Saying goodbye is very emotional

FIFA World Cup winner Lukas Podolski has announced his retirement from Germany’s national team. In an emotional statement released on Facebook and Twitter, the 31-year-old wrote: “I have told the coach that I am no longer going to play for the national team. I will now focus on other things, above all my family of course. I am sure they won’t mind at all me spending more time with them in the future, and it’s something I’m really looking forward to.

“It was a difficult decision for me,” the man known as Poldi continued. “The national team has always been a matter close to my heart, and it will always remain that way. But after the EUROs and my holiday, I noticed that my focus had shifted. There is a time for everything and my time with the DFB has come to an end.

“Saying goodbye is very emotional. I am proud of what I was able to experience with the national side. Going from a two-year-old Polish boy, who practically came to Germany with nothing more than a football under his arm, to a world champion – it’s more than I could have ever imagined.

“I have celebrated major successes with Germany on the pitch, but not only that, I have experienced so much off the pitch too, visiting countries and cities all over the world. I have met a lot of great people and found many friends. It’s staggering really. Thank you to the DFB. Thank you to the team behind the team. Thank you to my team-mates, and thank you to the coaches,” Podolski said.

The national team has always been a matter close to my heart, and it will always remain that way.

The likeable lad from Cologne has enjoyed a remarkable international career ever since capturing the world’s attention on home soil as one of Germany’s young stars at the 2006 FIFA World Cup™. Jurgen Klinsmann’s charges ended that campaign in third place before celebrating an unforgettable tournament with their fans in the capital Berlin.

Since making his debut for Die Mannschaft in 2004, the left-footed forward has played for Bayern Munich, Arsenal, Inter Milan and Galatasaray, collecting several winners’ medals along the way. Yet there is no doubt that the biggest success of his career was lifting the World Cup Trophy at Brazil 2014.

Despite this phenomenal achievement, Germany’s ‘summer fairytale’ at the 2006 World Cup remains one of Podolski’s most cherished memories. “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 on home soil,” he told in March this year.

“Germany 2006 was my most beautiful experience, even though we won the title in 2014,” he continued. “As a package, the 2006 World Cup was the best thing I have every experienced – the weather was right, the stadiums were full for every match and the entire atmosphere was simply outstanding. It was a great success in every respect. I will carry these experiences with me until the end of my career and until I die – they are something that no-one can take from me.”

Prinz Poldi (Prince Poldi), as many Germany fans know him, last pulled on the national team shirt for the UEFA EURO 2016 Round of 16 match against Slovakia before being substituted in the final 15 minutes with the score at 3-0.

With a total of 129 international caps under his belt, Podolski is hanging up his boots at third place in Germany’s all-time appearances list behind Lothar Matthaus (150 caps) and Miroslav Klose (137 caps), while he sits fourth on the top scorers’ list with 48 goals to his name. The striker’s announcement makes him the fifth member of the 2014 World Cup-winning squad to retire from international football after Klose, Philipp Lahm, Per Mertesacker and Bastian Schweinsteiger.

Germany face Czech Republic, Northern Ireland, Norway, Azerbaijan and San Marino in Group C of qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™.