Girls hearts were breaking all over with the news that Lukas Podolski would be a father (Congrats to him) and now he's done it again by saying the Schweinski never really existed. I appreciate his need to be his own person and how it must feel to constantly be compared to someone. Enjoy the read.
"The marriage with Schweini has never existed"
SZ: Mr. Podolski, the FC Bayern has forgotten how to laugh. You too?
Podolski: No, not at all, never. Of course you’re not satisfied when you don’t win the games. But in public, the mood in the team is depicted differently than it is in reality. It’s not that bad.
SZ: But Franck Ribéry isn’t smearing tooth paste under the doorknobs anymore?
Podolski: No, but that was during the training camp. That was half a year ago. You have to assess when laughing is appropriate- and when it’s not. It’s not like I laugh during a Sunday warm-down after loosing the day before. When you laugh there, during training, it’s improper.
SZ: That sounds as if you had gained some experience with laughing in the wrong moment.
Podolski: Yes, that’s right; there was one experience during the international in Wales in September. On TV, I was shown laughing on the bench. It was before the game and a team mate had waved at me. And I waved back. At once, people were saying again: Poldi is in a good mood. A picture was also taken and in the newspaper was written: Why is Poldi laughing? He is not playing! And then, a couple of weeks later, there was another picture in the newspaper in which I put up a bad face. And underneath it stood: Poldi! He has forgotten how to laugh! As a young player it’s not always easy to cope with the fact that you’re always perceived differently. But no matter how you’re perceived: it’s never correct. That’s the difficult task here at Bayern.
SZ: How do you react to such an ambivalent experience?
Podolski: The crucial point has really been that Wales-story. That was when I realised how people see me: Poldi here, Poldi there, Poldo trallala. But that’s over now. I am totally different. You have to prepare for the game, for every game. And when I don’t play, I’m not happy. Then I’m mad. At that time, in Wals, I was mad, too. And that should also come across via the media.
SZ: But then you’ll have to pretend you’re not the cheerful person you are.
Podolski: No, I always act like I really am. When I’m out I’m mad. I’m happy, when I don’t have to sit on the bench. When I’m allowed to play football, I act differently.
SZ: So you’ll probably be in a bad mood on Wednesday, because all signs indicate, that Ottmar Hitzfeld, the coach, will attempt to bring Klose and Toni, again. So there won’t be any room for you.
Podolski: That’s probably gonna happen. And I have to cope with that. But I know one thing: I’m not a benchplayer!
SZ: For the non-professionals: What exactly is the difference between being a benchplayer and a starter?
Podolski: Well: Playing and not playing. Receiving trust. Not receiving trust. That’s it. On Saturday, in Berlin, I was there. The three games prior to that I only watched from the side. Now I know, how the club is ticking. I know that you always have to prove yourself anew. You don’t get anything for free. It’s not enough when you have played well on Wednesday and the Saturday after that you accomplish nothing. At Bayern a hundred percent are not enough. You play against Bolton in the Uefa-Cup, you shoot two goals and everything is well. The next Saturday, in Stuttgart, you play, but only one half. Then everything is over. Three games in a row on the bench, that’s cruel. You drive home and you feel so empty. You don’t feel needed.
SZ: And what do you do then?
Podolski: What do you think? Watching a movie. Watching TV. But not the "Sportschau", not the "Bundesliga". I can’t take it, then [/I’m not in the mood, then]. I don’t want to watch everything again.
SZ: In cologne that was different.
Podolski: Sure. There, I didn’t have a guaranteed starting position in my contract, either, but I knew I’d play the next day and that I was needed.
SZ: You sound very frustrated.
Podolski: No, because I have learnt what I have to do here. I have to try, over and over again, to set such exclamation marks as I did against Bolton. I have to develop such a tunnel vision. Now that’s a new stage in my life. In addition to that I rearranged my surroundings. And the most wonderful is: In April, Mai I’m gonna become a father. I wanna be happy with my family. Wife [well, he literally said woman, not girlfriend], parents, child, that’s it. The rest has to happen on the pitch. I want to play football. I only want to play football. And that’s why the Poldi – Schweini – Poldi – Schweini – to – and – fro has to have an end. That has to end. I am Poldi….
SZ: Poldi? Or Lukas Podolski?
Podolski: Poldi is not over. People are used to that. It can stay like that. But I am Lukas Podolski, he is Bastian Schweinsteiger. It’s getting on my nerves: When both of us are on the pitch and one is playing bad, people say: Poldi and Schweini have failed. That can’t be it. My way is not his way.
SZ: So the time of divorce has come; Along with the plea to the public to accept it.
Podolski: The marriage with Schweini, if you wanna call it so, has never existed.
SZ: The summer fairy tale, the Poldy&Schweini-summer 2006! All of that is only an illusion maintained by the media?
Podolski: Yes, and that’s over. An awesome time, but what kind of time was that really? If you made a movie over Bayern, you’d also find two players, who have fun together [/who play a prank together]. But that was all there was about it. At that time it was like now with Franck Ribéry during the training camp: There, we played the pranks. We like to laugh together. Football includes that. And there, people don’t say: Poldi&Ribéry, the new, funny dream team.
SZ: The two of you have never been the young, glamorous duo, the public wanted to see in you?
Podolski: We were never out together, we never went clubbing together. That’s not in my nature, anyways. And with the exception of the spots for our outfitter, we have never shot a commercial together. Nothing. It’s not like we’re mad at each other, not at all. But we walk down our own paths. And now there’s the problem with the image: You’re pegged as something you’re not. As something you don’t want to be. You only want to get out of that trap.
SZ: Do you think it has even been bad for you, that you were a part of this artificial duo? For example as Uli Hoeneß, Bayern’s chief educator, was hard on Bastian Schweinsteiger, because he showed up in gossip columns and styled his hair extremly?
Podolski: To tell the truth, I don’t feel addressed in these matters. I’m a totally different person. I don’t need all these things. I’ve never seen myself, there. In private, I’m a family person. But maybe people saw me going that direction.
SZ: Are you also keeping your distance so demonstratively because all of a sudden you’re rivals at Bayern? Schweinsteiger also wants to play on the left wing. Ribery wants to attack from there- you want the same. It’s cramped, there.
Podolski: It’s always cramped, here. Everything is competition, here. They’ve got a new one for the defense, Breno; we now have four centre-backs. But only two can play- who do you wanna take out? Sure, I like to come out of the midfield. No matter, who my rivals are, I want to prevail, here. I want to play. And I can only achieve that through hard work and the right performance; in every game. My image can’t help me, there.
SZ: But it’ll be hart to find a starting position behind or next to Miroslav Klose or Luca Toni.
Podolski: Sure. I also have a couple of enquiries, whether I want to change the club in the winter break. Enquiries from abroad and from Germany.
SZ: …from Bremen, Hamburg…
Podolski: … but at the moment only Bayern counts for me.
SZ: But for how long? You could also go to manager Uli Hoeneß and say: I’m not playing. I must go.
Podolski: I still have a contract until 2010. And I want to gain respect, here. Now, for a starter, I gonna await the end of the campaign, until April, beginning of Mai. Until then it’s not that long anymore. And then we’ll see and maybe we really have to talk.
SZ: Are you scared of leaving Bayern too early, of being considered a failure?
Podolski: No, because I can’t influence such thinking. Sometimes I’m depicted as if I’ve forgotten how to play football. I have already had a lot of internationals, have already shot many goals. Sure, nobody can tell whether that’s gonna help me here or, in the long run, someplace else. I’m 22 now, only 22. I think I can still influence my career.
SZ: Isn’t Bayern, especially if the club is going through a crisis, a difficult club for a person in your situation? A person, who says: I want to grow up, now, please let me do that?
Podolski: Sure, it’s not an easy time. I have to help myself. But it’s a good thing that, in my age, I’ve already learnt and experienced so much. And that I woke up now and not with thirty, when my career is almost over. It would be a stupid thing to say: Munich is great, I’m doing great at Bayern and eventually I’m gonna be grey on the bench.
(SZ vom 19.12.2007)