Serial winner Kroos eyes two-trophy finish to career

AFP , Tuesday 21 May 2024

Toni Kroos, a world champion and five-time Champions League winner, is eyeing two more major trophies after announcing on Tuesday he will retire after Euro 2024.

Toni Kroos
File Photo: Toni Kroos in the game against Portugal. AFP

Kroos, who had stepped down from international duty after Germany's last-16 Euros exit to England in 2021, answered a call from manager Julian Nagelsmann to return to the international setup in February.

This summer's European Championship, which kicks off on June 14 when Germany face Scotland in Munich, will be the last time the 2014 World Cup winner takes the field competitively.

At club level, the 34-year-old will play one final match for Real Madrid in front of the club's home fans, on Saturday against Real Betis, with the La Liga title already in the bag.

Kroos will then face Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League final on June 1.

In announcing his retirement on the podcast he co-presents with his brother Felix, he said his "huge goal" was to "win that one at Wembley".

Victory would mean a sixth Champions League trophy, equalling the record set by Real Madrid winger Paco Gento in 1966, the latest title in a glittering career for the man from the town on the Baltic Sea coast.

Greifswald to Madrid, via Munich

Born in Greifswald, then part of East Germany, in 1990, Kroos joined Bayern's youth setup from Hansa Rostock aged 16 and was promoted to the seniors just one year later.

Kroos became Bayern's youngest ever professional player when he made his debut aged 17 years and 265 days, laying on an assist for Miroslav Klose just 18 minutes after coming on.

In Bayern's treble-winning season in 2012-13, Kroos was a cornerstone of a midfield featuring Germany teammate Bastian Schweinsteiger and Javi Martinez.

The midfielder stayed for another season in the Bavarian capital after coach Pep Guardiola's arrival but left at the end of the campaign after Bayern reportedly refused to meet his salary demands.

He was close to a move to Manchester United under then manager David Moyes but the deal fell through when the Scotsman was replaced by Louis van Gaal.

The midfielder instead moved to Real Madrid where he won four Champions Leagues, including three in a row from 2016-2018, along with an array of domestic league titles and cups.

Bayern powerbroker Uli Hoeness later admitted his regret at letting Kroos leave, saying "a club needs to make difficult decisions sometimes. That was a hard one, and maybe the wrong one."

Not many mistakes

Kroos made his Germany debut in 2010 in a 1-0 loss in a friendly against Argentina and came off the bench regularly in that year's World Cup run to a third-place finish.

Having quickly established himself in midfield, he played every minute of Germany's 2014 World Cup triumph in Brazil, scoring two goals in the 7-1 demolition of the host nation in the semi-finals.

Before the 2016 Euros, then Germany coach Joachim Low called Kroos the "decisive player for us", saying "his teammates trust in him."

"He always does well and is very economical in how he plays. He does not make many mistakes."

Germany came up short though, losing 2-0 to France in the semi-finals.

Named German Footballer of the Year in 2018, Kroos signed off from international duty after Germany were eliminated by England at the Euros in 2021.

While his retirement was seen as a part of a necessary generational shift seven years after Brazil, unlike Thomas Mueller, Jerome Boateng or Mats Hummels, Kroos made the decision himself.

His return in early 2024 helped a new-look Germany win friendlies against France and the Netherlands, kick-starting a wave of optimism after several years of disappointment.

On Tuesday, Kroos said he "never wanted to have the feeling that the club, the fans, the people around me had to tell me: 'OK, that's enough'."

Kroos added he was now "still in the middle of it. I'm an active footballer with huge goals and having a lot of fun doing it."

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