Germany forward Lukas Podolski is leaving Cologne to join Arsenal, the Bundesliga club said Monday, confirming the worst-kept secret in European football.
Podolski will make the switch in the summer, one year before his contract was due to expire. Cologne said the two clubs have agreed not to release details of the deal.
''The transfer gives me the possibility to play at the international level in a top European club,'' Podolski said in a statement on Cologne's web site. ''It was not a decision against FC Cologne but for a great opportunity in my career.''
''The decision for this move was not easy because FC Cologne, and the fans and this city are something special for me,'' he said. The move has been rumored for months.
Podolski enjoys cult status in the city, having joined Cologne when he was 10.
The Polish-born forward made his Bundesliga debut at 18.
He left Cologne once before, spending three mostly unsuccessful seasons at Bayern Munich before returning in 2009.
Podolski is enjoying his best season but that has not helped Cologne, which hosts Bayern in the final match of the season and could still be relegated if it loses and Hertha Berlin wins against Hoffenheim. Podolski scored his 18th goal of the season in a 4-1 loss at Freiburg.
''I'll carry FC Cologne always in my heart and we have to pull all our forces together now and concentrate solely on avoiding relegation,'' Podolski said.
Cologne CEO Claus Horstmann said Podolski was a ''world-class player with a special relationship to Cologne fans and the city.''
''We thank him for many great football moments in Cologne,'' Horstmann said.
Podolski has played 85 matches for Germany, scoring 43 goals. He has taken part in two World Cups and two European championships. In 180 matches for Cologne, Podolski has scored 86 goals.