Germany forward Lukas Podolski has lashed out at suggestions he is only in Germany’s Euro 2016 squad to act as a ‘mascot.’ The veteran says he is in great form and ready to play his part at the tournament.
Podolski has won 127 caps for his country, racking up 48 goals in the process. This year’s tournament will be his fourth European Championship and he has also played in three World Cups. However, the last time Podolski was first choice for the national side was in Euro 2012 and he last completed 90 minutes for Germany against Gibraltar in 2014. He has played for a total of 115 minutes in the 10 national team games since that fixture.
This lack of international game time has seen him dubbed 'mascot' by some fans on social media, but Podolski strongly rejected that label at a press conference held at Germany’s pre-tournament training camp Switzerland on Wednesday.
"I think it's totally disrespectful. I have played over 100 internationals and I don't deserve (to be called) that," Podolski said.
"I never took the (squad) nomination for granted. I have an important role and I certainly didn't come here as a mascot," he added. "It is outrageous, I don't deserve this."
Podolski enjoyed a successful debut season for Turkish club Galatasaray this term, capped by scoring the winner in the Turkish Cup final last Thursday. He scored 17 goals in total and created nine for Gala and insisted he is in fine form ahead of the tournament, which starts on June 10.
"I had a good season in Turkey with a lot of goals and assists, plus the cup win to crown it off," he said. "I've joined the (German) team in top form and can help the team with my experience of playing at seven tournaments."
Podolski is just one goal short of matching Jurgen Klinsmann's Germany record of five goals scored at European Championship finals but has something else on his mind. His wife Monika is expecting the couple's second child and Podolski has been granted permission to leave the training camp at short notice to join his wife in Cologne for the birth.
Germany will open their campaign against Ukraine in Lille on June 12 after a warm up game against Hungary on Saturday. Captain Bastian Schweinsteiger is back in training but may not be available for the Ukraine clash. The German squad will be complete when Toni Kroos, who played in last Saturday’s Champions League final, joins the group this weekend.