Podolski joins Japan’s Vissel Kobe

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German World Cup winner Lukas Podolski has formally joined Japan’s Vissel Kobe, the J-League club said Thursday, bucking a trend of big-name players moving to cash-rich China.

The 31-year-old forward, who has played for Turkey’s Galatasaray since 2015, is expected to arrive in Japan in June.

Kobe did not give immediate details of the deal, although Podolski is understood to have signed a three-year contract worth $15 million. Podolski, who joined Galatasaray from English Premier League club Arsenal, via a loan spell at Inter Milan, cost Kobe an estimated transfer fee of around $3 million.

The former Germany international’s decision to choose Japan comes as a surprise with many big-name footballers now moving to China for mega-bucks in the twilight of their careers. It also represents something of a coup for the J-League, which used to attract luminaries such as Zico and Gary Lineker when it began in 1993 but has struggled to attract marquee players in recent years.

“We are delighted to welcome such a world-class striker to Kobe,” Vissel president Hiroshi Mikitani said in a statement. “We expect big things from Podolski, who has played for some of Europe’s top clubs, as part of Kobe’s bid to win the title.” Last December, Argentine forward Carlos Tevez became the latest foreign star to move to China when he signed for Super League side Shanghai Shenhua worth an eye-watering $84 million in wages over two years.

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