Japanese club Vissel Kobe has high expectations for Podolski

Germany's Lukas Podolski smiles during a press conference in Kobe, western Japan Thursday, July 6, 2017. Podolski will play for Japanese soccer club Vissel Kobe. (Tsuyoshi Ueda/Kyodo News via AP)
Germany's Lukas Podolski , right on the red carpet, is welcomed during a ceremony in Kobe, western Japan Thursday, July 6, 2017. Podolski will play for Japanese club Vissel Kobe. (Tsuyoshi Ueda/Kyodo News via AP)
Germany's Lukas Podolski gives his autographs to fans during a welcoming ceremony in Kobe, western Japan Thursday, July 6, 2017. Podolski will play for Japanese soccer club Vissel Kobe. (Tsuyoshi Ueda/Kyodo News via AP)
Germany's Lukas Podolski, center, attends a welcoming ceremony in Kobe, western Japan Thursday, July 6, 2017. Podolski will play for Japanese club Vissel Kobe. (Tsuyoshi Ueda/Kyodo News via AP)
Germany's Lukas Podolski thumb up during a welcoming ceremony in Kobe, western Japan Thursday, July 6, 2017. Podolski will play for Japanese club Vissel Kobe. (Tsuyoshi Ueda/Kyodo News via AP)
Germany's Lukas Podolski takes a photo with a fan during a welcoming ceremony in Kobe, western Japan Thursday, July 6, 2017. Podolski will play for Japanese club Vissel Kobe. (Tsuyoshi Ueda/Kyodo News via AP)
Germany's Lukas Podolski, front center, poses for photos with fans during a welcoming ceremony in Kobe, western Japan Thursday, July 6, 2017. Podolski will play for Japanese club Vissel Kobe. (Tsuyoshi Ueda/Kyodo News via AP)
Germany's Lukas Podolski gives his autographs to fans during a welcoming ceremony in Kobe, western Japan Thursday, July 6, 2017. Podolski will play for Japanese club Vissel Kobe. (Tsuyoshi Ueda/Kyodo News via AP)

KOBE, Japan — Japanese club Vissel Kobe rolled out the red carpet for German striker Lukas Podolski on Thursday, hoping the high-profile signing will improve their fortunes in the J-League.

Arriving by charter at Kobe Airport, Podolski was greeted by a large group of Kobe supporters eager to get a glimpse of the World Cup-winning striker.

"The first target is to fight for the first three places (in the J-League) and to qualify for the (Asian) Champions League," Podolski said. "I think as well it is a nice challenge for me to see other countries and play against other big teams."

Podolski has moved from Turkish giant Galatasaray after signing a deal with Kobe estimated to be worth $5.3 million.

Kobe lost 5-0 to Kawasaki Frontale last weekend and is in 11th place at the halfway stage of the season, 13 points behind leaders Kashima Antlers.

Podolski has scored 48 goals for Germany and played in three World Cups.

He is the highest-profile J-League import since Uruguay striker Diego Forlan, who played for Cerezo Osaka from 2014-15.

Kobe had hoped Podolski would leave Galatasaray early and join them in the J-League before the spring transfer window closed on March 31. But he stayed put until the end of the Turkish season.

Podolski is set to make his debut on July 29 in Vissel's home game against Omiya Ardija.

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