London: Germany forward Lukas Podolski confirmed one of the worst-kept secrets in European football when he announced on Monday that he will be leaving Cologne to join Arsenal this summer for an undisclosed fee.
The 26-year-old Podolski will add proven, international class to an Arsenal strikeforce that has been reliant on the goalscoring exploits of Robin van Persie in a turbulent campaign this season.
"The transfer gives me the possibility to play at international level in a top European club," Podolski, who has scored 43 goals in 95 appearances for Germany, told Cologne's website.
"I did not decide against Cologne but for a great chance regarding my own sports development," he added. "This was not an easy decision for me at all as Cologne, our fans and the city are special to me."
Podolski's contract at Cologne, who could still be relegated from the Bundesliga with one match remaining, was due to expire in a year's time. Cologne said the two clubs have agreed not to release details of the deal, with Arsenal only saying the left-footed Podolski had agreed a "long-term" contract.
"We are happy to have made this signing early and we are 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," Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said. "That is a phenomenal record and just shows his quality as a player."
With two matches left in the Premier League, Arsenal are currently third in the standings and the favourites to join the Manchester clubs as another of England's representatives in the Champions League next season.
It will be Podolski's second opportunity to prove himself at one of Europe's powerhouse sides. The Polish-born forward left Cologne once before, spending three mostly unsuccessful seasons at Bayern Munich before returning in 2009 to the club he joined when he was 10 and where he enjoys cult status.
"I'll carry Cologne always in my heart and we have to pull all our forces together now and concentrate solely on avoiding relegation," Podolski said.
With 18 goals, Podolski is enjoying his most prolific season at domestic level, but that hasn't helped Cologne, who could still be relegated if they lose to Bayern in the final match of the season and Hertha Berlin win against Hoffenheim.
Cologne chief executive Claus Horstmann said Podolski was a "world-class player with a special relationship to Cologne fans and the city."
Horstmann admitted that the club had offered the player new "competitive" terms on his contract, but with just one year left on his current deal, a transfer was best for the team. "We deeply regret his step, which is not a decision against FC but for the good of his own career. FC Cologne were prepared to extend Lukas Podolski's contract on the basis of a competitive offer," Horstmann said.
"Nonetheless, this early transfer decision offers scope and planning security for the next season. We will jump at this opportunity to reinvest these transfer earnings back into our team's quality and into the promotion of our youth squads. Lukas has helped the club in many difficult situations, Lukas has left a mark on FC Cologne's reputation, and we feel the need to thank him for numerous great football experiences at Cologne."
Podolski has played in two World Cups and two European Championships. In 180 matches for Cologne, he has scored 86 goals.
His signing will bolster an attacking unit at Arsenal that already includes Van Persie, Theo Walcott, Gervinho, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Marouane Chamakh.
Van Persie has scored 28 goals in the league this season, earning him the player-of-the-season award in England.
Podolski is likely to line up on the left wing of Wenger's favoured 4-3-2-1 formation.
"We are delighted to secure the deal for Lukas and see him as an important part of our future," Wenger said. "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."