Loan deals are for youth players.
That was the view commonly put forward this January when Lukas Podolski was packaged up and shipped off to Milan. Certainly the player himself behaved as if it was a permanent departure, posting selfies and photos left, right and centre with him meeting his new manager, his new teammates and his new home city.
Since then, things have gone somewhat more pear-shaped for our German thunderbolt, with Roberto Mancini publicly denouncing his workrate and insisting he “must do more” for Inter.
Any hopes of a permanent move must have been eroded at that point – if Mancini is prepared to throw a player under the bus then you know bridges have been burned. This is a manager who was prepared to work with Mario Balotelli, take him under his wing even, and even sign him for another club afterwards – he doesn’t give up easily.
And so we find Podolski making eyes at Arsenal, declaring that “the chapter is not closed with Arsenal”.
Well no, Lukas, we still need to find someone to buy you, preferably someone who still thinks you’re worth a veritable chunk of money. Someone who operates in a slightly less frenetic league. Someone who can afford to have a luxury player who can finish with the best of them, but believes an attacker had no place helping out with defensive work. Someone who still idolises the memory of the player you once were.
Someone like, FC Cologne?
If this Arsenal squad has room for a defensive passenger – and I stress “if” – then Podolski remains well behind Theo Walcott in that pecking order.
He’s older, slower, and like it or not, he’s also not English.
Theo’s clinical finishing is arguably more than a match for the German’s power hitting, and he has his own brand, albeit of a slightly more serious bent than Lukas’ happy-go-lucky attitude.
(Theo is a man who, after all, was criticised for his choice of stag do, choosing to eat healthy food, keep out of trouble and generally failing to give in to any sort of raucous or indulgent behaviour!)
Podolski is a decent football player – you don’t make 121 appearances for your national side without being talented, let alone a national side that currently holds the World Cup. However, his role on the fringes of that victorious German squad mirrored his fall down the pecking order at club level.
In the modern game, as Mancini put it, he simply must do more.
Let’s put it this way – it’s hard to see him making any inroads into the current Arsenal squad at left wing while Alexis is fit, or indeed while Alexis is about 50% fit!
Social media savvy, an infectious smile and a permanently happy demeanour will only get you so far. Talent will get you a bit further. But to make it at the top level these days you have to work your socks off too.
Podolski doesn’t tick those boxes, and it’s why he’ll be out the door in the summer, despite recent protestations to the contrary.
This is a world where even Eden Hazard has been forced to pick up defensive duties and “run around a bit” under the new Mourinho regime.
It’s a world where Juan Mata was sold by Chelsea and then benched by Manchester United for the same failure to run around enough, and deemed not good enough to make an impact on our recent FA cup tie.
It’s a world where Mesut Özil gets criticised, despite running the furthest, for failing to do so in a sufficiently noticeable fashion.
Little surprise then that Podolski and his inability to play more than 60 minutes at any kind of intensity has struggled to make a mark at Milan.
And little surprise that he’ll return to Arsenal at the end of the season.
Just like it’ll be little surprise when he is sold on this summer, in all likelihood, to his former club.
And then it really will be chapter closed.