Kroos steps out of the shadows and still hungry for success

By Arne Richter and Jens Mende, dpa

Toni Kroos has achieved practically everything in football with only a European Championship missing from his career CV – and he is not accepting privileges with Germany as he chases Euro 2020 glory next year.

Toni Kroos as a podcast gossip seems a contradiction in terms given his perceived image from the football pitch: cool even at the moment of success and detached to the point of arrogance.

The boy from Baltic coast rose to the top through Bayer Leverkusen, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid, not to mention the German national team, and shows no sign of stopping aged 30.

Germany will return to action after a near 10-month coronavirus break against Spain in the Nations League on Thursday but coach Joachim Loew has made it clear the true goal is the delayed Euro 2020 next year. The European Championships is the one major title Kroos is yet to win.

In the meantime, Kroos’ image has been softened by social media posts and a documentary showing insight to his life. And in an often humorous podcast with brother Felix (‘Einfach mal luppen’ – ‘Just lift it’) he even comes across as ironic.

“Are you being too greedy again?,” he asked his 14-month younger brother Felix when discussing his search for a new club after leaving Union Berlin.

Felix comes across as the more relaxed of the pair. Perhaps no surprise given his more modest football career while Toni left home at a young age to make it big with Bayern.

“Toni appeared like a funny cousin at a family celebration – and now never goes away,” trailed the latest podcast ahead of Germany’s resumption of matches this week. “Yes, I was nominated,” Kroos added in satisfied understatement.

Of course, as one of the finest midfielders of his generation, he was nominated. And because goalkeeper Manuel Neuer has been rested, Kroos will even captain his country in Stuttgart against the Spanish.

Under coach Joachim Loew, Kroos received special status after the first round World Cup exit in 2018 – he could decide whether he would play internationally or use the time to recover.

“With his experience, class and personality of course he is a key player who has a quite important role in our future planning,” Loew said at the time.

A year later, Kroos said he wanted to “consistently” be present “when we’re looking in the direction of the Euros,” a pledge he has lived up to when fitness allowed him to do so.

He has unfinished business at the highest level even after lifting the World Cup, four Champions Leagues and several domestic titles in Germany and Spain.

Euro 2020 – held in 2021 – will be his last chance at the continental crown.

In the circle of young, fast players such as Leroy Sane and Serge Gnabry, Kroos now looks a little out of his time. That also connects him a little to the 60-year-old Loew as the only outfield player even half his age.

Kroos is also the only remaining outfield player from the regular starting eleven at the World Cup triumph in Rio de Janeiro six years ago and, on 96 caps, could break the 100-match barrier this season.

That’s something worth chatting about with brother Felix for sure.

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