LUKAS PODOLSKI TO JOIN ARSENAL

Cologne have confirmed Lukas Podolski will be joining Arsenal this summer.

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Lukas Podolski: Moving to Arsenal

Lukas Podolski: Moving to Arsenal

Lukas Podolski is determined to take his second chance at "one of the top clubs in Europe" after it was officially confirmed he would join Arsenal next season.

The worst-kept secret in football was finally out in the open at the end of April as the Gunners and Cologne announced Germany striker Podolski was moving to the Emirates Stadium after this summer's European Championships.

Despite being feted as a world-class talent thanks both to his exploits on the international stage and for his hometown club, Podolski will have a point to prove at Arsenal after flopping in a three-year spell at Bayern Munich.

But he had no qualms about testing himself at another of Europe's giants, saying: "I'm so happy to be joining Arsenal Football Club and to play in the Premier League.

"Arsenal is one of the top clubs in Europe, with a huge history. There are many top-quality players at Arsenal and the style of football which the team plays is fantastic.

"I'm proud to become an Arsenal player and am looking forward to playing my first match at Emirates Stadium and doing my best for all the Arsenal fans."

The announcement of Podolski's signing for an undisclosed fee came just 48 hours after Wenger admitted Arsenal had been too reliant this season on Robin van Persie, who may be more inclined to sign a new contract this summer.

Wenger said: "We are delighted to secure the deal for Lukas Podolski and see him as an important part of our future.

"He is a top-class player, a very good finisher and a proven performer at club and international level.

"He is a very strong player and will provide us with good attacking options.

"We are happy to have made this signing early and we're looking forward to watching Lukas contribute at the European Championships over the summer, a level where he has already made 95 caps at the age of 26 - a phenomenal record and just shows his quality as a player."

Arsenal and Cologne waited to announce the deal to avoid impacting on the latter's Bundesliga relegation battle.

Podolski, who started his career at Cologne before rejoining them from Bayern in 2009, told their official website, www.fc-koeln.de: "The move to Arsenal provides a great opportunity for me to gain experience in international competitions at a top European club.

"I have made this decision not against Cologne but for this great opportunity and the good of my own individual development.

"This was not an easy decision for me at all, as Cologne, our fans and the city are something special for me. I will always carry Cologne in my heart.

"We need to pool our strengths now and have to be fully focused on our survival in the Bundesliga."

The Poland-born forward, who had one year left on his Cologne contract, has scored 18 league goals for a side battling relegation so far this term, his best ever top-flight return.

Cologne chairman Claus Horstmann admitted the club were sad to see such a popular and influential figure at the club go.

He added: "Cologne were prepared to extend Lukas Podolski's contract on the basis of a competitive offer.

"Nonetheless, this early transfer decision offers scope and planning security for the next season."

Podolski, who will link up with international team-mate Per Mertesacker in north London, played for Germany at the 2006 and 2010 World Cups and is set to be part of their squad at Euro 2012.

He has a fantastic goalscoring record at international level with 43 goals - despite often playing in a left-sided role.

Things did not go so well at Bayern, though, as he managed just 15 league goals in three seasons before going back to Cologne for a reported 10 million euros in an innovatively-funded transfer.

They set up a page on their website where fans could buy pixels in an image of Podolski, with the money going toward the cost of the fee.

Before heading to Arsenal, Podolski will look to save Cologne from the drop.

The club are third bottom of the Bundesliga with one game to go and are likely to face a relegation play-off.

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