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Cologne break Lukas Podolski vow

Lukas Podolski left Cologne for a second time in 2012 following the club's relegation from the Bundesliga.

Cologne have handed the No. 10 shirt to forward Patrick Helmes -- two years after announcing that the number would be retired until Lukas Podolski ended his career.

Podolski, who grew up in Cologne, began his career with the club and returned in 2009 after a disappointing three-year stint with Bayern Munich.

In 2012, though, he left the Billy Goats for a second time, joining Arsenal in a deal worth 12 million euros after Cologne -- at the time in serious financial trouble -- were relegated to the second tier.

Cologne had vowed upon his departure that no other player would wear the No. 10 shirt until Podolski hung up his boots but, following their promotion to the Bundesliga, it has been confirmed that Helmes will take the shirt.

Cologne-based tabloid Express reported that there has been a rift between the player and his former club. It added that the Germany forward was informed of the decision by email prior to the World Cup quarterfinal victory over France.

"Should Podolski return to FC one day, he can have the No. 10 back," Cologne sporting director Jorg Schmadtke said in Express, although the newspaper said that, under the current regime, there is little prospect of any such move taking place.

Thomas Reinscheid, who works for Cologne fanzine EFFZEH.com, said he was surprised by the amount of coverage the Podolski story received in the city.

"It's a storm in a teacup during the summer break," Reinscheid said. "To me, it is the ultimate sign that professionalism has won over drippy 'Cologneness.' Promising to keep the No. 10 free for him was a bit too much in a club which has developed players like [1974 World Cup winners] Heinz Flohe and Wolfang Overath, as well as [1990 World Cup winners] Pierre Littbarski and Thomas Hassler.

"It was definitely too much and, even if Podolski was a ray of hope in the dark years, his merits are not that big. A mistake was corrected -- that's all."

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