Lukas Podolski has reportedly said that leaving Arsenal for hometown-club Cologne would make him happier than winning the World Cup did.
Podolski, who was an unused substitute in Germany’s triumph in Brazil last Sunday, was given a hero’s welcome when he returned to Cologne to sign his name in the city’s golden book on Wednesday.
He was greeted by the mayor and a crowd of 3,000 fans outside the City Hall, where where he signed his name in the Goldenes Buch, an honour usually reserved to visiting dignitaries.
Podolski’s name now appears alongside those of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Neil Armstrong and Pope John Paul II.
“Only re-joining Cologne would be more amazing than this, but I shouldn’t say too much or else I’ll get myself into bother,” Podolski said, according to Cologne newspaper Koelnische Rundschau. “I’ve just got to bring myself back down to earth.
“Unfortunately I wasn’t able to bring the trophy along with me, but I won it also for FC Cologne and the city. You are also world champions.”
Podolski admitted he had “goosebumps” addressing so many fans in his home city, as he longed to return one day.
The striker spent two spells with Cologne, between 2003-06 and again, after three seasons with Bayern Munich, between 2009-12, before moving to Arsenal. The 29-year-old is contracted to Arsenal until 2016.
Podolski has previously spoken of a desire to return to Cologne. When the club sealed promotion back to the Bundesliga earlier this year, Podolski said: “I would also like to meet my Arsenal contract, but you never know in football, sometimes it can go very fast.”
Podolski played in two of Germany’s group fixtures at the World Cup, against Portugal and the USA. He watched from the bench as his team-mates snatched a 1-0 victory over Argentina in the final to take their fourth World Cup title.