Ahead of Gala vs. FCB
Sun, 22/10/23, 23:28
Podolski interview: 'Playing for Bayern made me the person I am today'
It's not known whether he was in the left fast lane as we reach Lukas Podolski by telephone in his car. The 38-year-old left winger with the famous left peg is currently playing for Górnik Zabrze in Poland. His list of previous clubs includes FC Bayern and Galatasaray, who meet in a top-of-the-table clash in Group A of the Champions League on Tuesday night. In an interview ahead of the match, the popular 2014 World Cup winner talks about his special connection to Turkey, doner kebab shops, his time at Bayern, Harry Kane and the EURO in Germany.
The interview with Lukas Podolski
Hello Lukas! You played in Turkey for three and a half years. Was it during this time that you came up with the idea of going into the restaruant business and opening doner shops?
Lukas Podolski: "I already had points of contact with Turkey because I grew up with a lot of Turkish friends. And one thing is clear: everyone likes doner (laughs). But obviously my time in Turkey and Istanbul inspired the idea to start this business."
You're also planning a branch in Poland, where you currently play for Górnik Zabrze in the Polish first division. When are the branches in London, Milan and Munich coming?
"We have almost 50 shops in Germany now. It was always an aim to open a doner shop in Zabrze too. Poland is the first overseas site, but other cities like London, Milan or Munich are also conceivable. We want to expand bit by bit. Every city can do with a good doner."
Talking of Munich: you spent three years at FC Bayern from 2006 to 2009. How do you look back on that time?
"It was a nice and successful period, even though it sometimes wasn't portrayed that way on the outside. Playing at FC Bayern as a young lad made me the person I am today. I benefit from the club's winning mentality to this day. We became league and cup champions in 2008 and played in the Champions League. I still fondly remember the motorcade through the city."
You registered 26 goals and 20 assists in 106 competitive games for FCB...
"The statistics are impressive. We experienced a lot together. At that time in Germany it was quite unusual to play for a top European team like Bayern Munich in your early 20s. Times have changed a bit since then. I had wonderful years at Bayern and it was a great experience to play for such a global club."
What's stuck in your memory the most from your time in Munich?
"There are lots of nice anecdotes. I'm a person who always has fun (laughs) and I like being around people, around the fans. I always had a good rapport with the Bayern supporters. Of course it's always nice to see guys like Basti Schweinsteiger, Philipp Lahm and Mark van Bommel again. We regularly laugh ourselves silly about the old times (laughs). For me, the human elements have always played an important role. There are great people working at FC Bayern who give everything for the club. I noticed already on the first day what it means to play for Bayern Munich. Uli Hoeneß also helped me and my family a lot. That special feel-good atmosphere has stayed with me almost more than my first goal, first shirt or first Champions League game, even though those are the moments you play and live for."
How closely do you follow FCB and how do you rate the team – particularly in attack with new striker Harry Kane?
"I mainly watch the Champions League games. I rarely get to watch the Bundesliga as I'm often playing at the same time in Poland. Bayern always have the expectation of competing for every trophy. The quality in attack in particular was always very high during my time and it is again now. In Harry Kane they have an outstanding and clinical striker. It's important at Bayern to have someone up front who converts the many chances."
You've often been characterised by your carefree nature. Do you particularly like current players such as Mathys Tel or Jamal Musiala for that reason?
"They're extremely interesting guys. They play in a very carefree and creative way. I particularly like their style of play, which you don't see that often in the Bundesliga. You enjoy watching them. They have that certain something. Bayern can be glad to have guys like that in their team."
You played for Galatasaray in Istanbul from 2015 to 2017. What must FCB prepare for in the Champions League away match on Tuesday?
"It's going to be an awesome game! It's a spectacular stadium and the atmosphere is fantastic. It's special because the whole crowd go with you and get behind the team. I enjoyed every home match there. Even as an opponent it's always nice to play there because Galatasaray are also popular beyond the borders of Turkey and Istanbul is a global city. There's a big buzz around Galatasaray at the moment, especially after the win in Manchester. They've built a strong team in recent times and now have a realistic chance of progressing through the group, so it's going to be lively in the stadium and everyone can look forward to an awesome atmosphere."
How do you rate the current Gala team? They signed some big names in the summer with Icardi, Ziyech and Zaha.
"Technically Galatasaray have probably the best team they've had in the last 10, 15 years. They're showing their quality so far in the league and in the Champions League. When the atmosphere in the team is good and this positivity remains, then they can achieve a lot this season."
Goalkeeper Fernando Muslera was already between the posts when you were at Gala. Do you have a tip for Harry Kane and Co on how to beat him - from one striker to another?
"Fernando is the captain, a fan favourite and very experienced. He's a very good goalkeeper who directs his defence and his teammates with his experience and his aura. He's vocal and an emotional character, who's also a strong shot-stopper. It won't be easy to beat him."
Was the cup win with Gala in 2016 and your winning goal against arch-rivals Fenerbahce one of your greatest successes?
"That would be like FC Bayern playing 1860 Munich in the cup final. On the one side, there were 30,000 people in red and on the other, 30,000 in blue. And you score the winning goal for 1-0 – there's nothing better. I'm lucky to have experienced this moment. Thousands of fans welcomed us at the airport – you don't forget things like that. I had a nice time in Istanbul and am still in touch with some former teammates and people at the club. I also went on holiday to Istanbul for a few days in the summer and visited the training ground and met a lot of old faces."
After two and a half years in Japan, you played in Turkey for another year and a half with Antalyaspor. How would you describe your connection to this country? On Instagram, for example, you're often pictured with a traditional Çay tea.
"I certainly have a kind of Turkish gene in me. I've been around Turkey a lot, either with the clubs or privately with the family. I appreciate the country, the culture and the people. Çay was always part of the day during my time as a player in Istanbul and Antalya – nothing's changed there (laughs)."
Do you have a favourite place in Istanbul that you can recommend to all away travellers? And did you also have a favourite place in Munich?
"It takes weeks to get familiar with Istanbul. It's a real metropolis. Because of all the traffic and chaos there is sometimes in the city, it's hard to plan things. You always have to allow a lot of time (laughs). There are lots of nice places: for example the Bosporus, lots of interesting districts and cafés. During my time in Munich I lived a bit outside, near Ammersee. The closeness to nature was magnificent. Munich's a great city and I still have friends there who I regularly visit. My family had a great time in Munich and my son was born there. Occasionally I go to Säbener Straße too."
You're the last player standing from the 2006 home World Cup. How much confidence do you have in the German national team for the upcoming European Championship in their own country?
"The last few years haven't been as successful as we're used to from the time before. I now hope the team finds its way in time for the EURO. It's important for the team to generate a buzz and get the fans behind them. Sparks need to fly again. You can still have a good tournament if you've not had that good a period beforehand, which was also the case in my time. If you win the first game – as we did in 2006 – then the wave of euphoria and momentum help you. Friendlies are often just snapshots in time. I certainly remain a fan. I hope that the guys turn the situation around and that we're European champions at the end of it."
Back to the present day: what does it mean for you to play in Poland at the end of your career?
"I'd always thought about playing for the club that my whole family supports and that's located in the region where my family comes from. I also want to give something back to the club and the people in the region. My dad and my uncle used to take me to the stadium. Most of my relatives worked underground here – and some of them still do this physical work today. Playing in Zabrze is a bonus and a great thing for me. I enjoy every training session and every game. I grew up as a little boy in Germany and Poland, learned to play football on the streets and ended up playing 130 international matches for Germany. I'm proud of that and no one can take that away from me."
Will you end your career in Zabrze or will we see you again in Germany?
"There are no plans yet as I don't like to look that far ahead. Let's see what happens. For now I want to play, enjoy myself and be happy."
Find out more about opponents Galatasaray here: