Win or retire: Germany star Toni Kroos aims to disappoint Real Madrid teammates at Euro 2024

BERLIN (AP) — Germany great Toni Kroos hopes the next game isn’t his last.

Heavyweights Germany and Spain clash at the European Championship on Friday, when the winner will advance to the semifinals.

Kroos is ending his playing career after Germany’s last game at Euro 2024. He hopes that will be the final in Berlin’s Olympiastadion. But he knows it could be as soon as Friday if Spain – the most impressive team so far – knocks out the host nation in Stuttgart.

“I’m not nostalgic at all,” Kroos said Wednesday at potentially his last press conference as a player. He said he wasn’t assuming Spain “will be my last game. So, I think we can all look forward to seeing each other again.”

Kroos has played a key role in lifting the pre-tournament gloom surrounding the German team and turning it to optimism that the hosts can go on to win Euro 2024. It would be a fitting sendoff for a player who has already signed off on a glittering club career by winning the Champions League and Spanish league with Real Madrid.

“It’s pretty difficult to plan a European Championship title but having it as a goal is of course the case,” Kroos said. “I think it will be really difficult to finish more successfully than I left it with Madrid. And now of course I’m trying to do the same here.”

Kroos retired from the national team already in 2021, after Germany lost to England in the last 16 of the pandemic-delayed Euro 2020 tournament. But one of the first things Germany coach Julian Nagelsmann did after his appointment in September 2023 was ask the cool-headed midfielder if he’d consider returning to help Germany’s title bid in its home tournament.

Fortunately for Germany – which was really struggling with two defeats and a draw from Nagelsmann’s first four games – Kroos said yes.

It’s arguably the single biggest factor in the team’s upturn as Kroos’ experience and calmness under pressure gave confidence to the players around him.

The 34-year-old returned to help Germany beat France and the Netherlands in friendlies in March, and Greece before Euro 2024, then he helped Germany progress from the group stage with wins over Scotland and Hungary, and a draw with Switzerland.

Kroos maintained a calm, assured presence in a turbulent win over Denmark in the last 16, helping Germany get further than it had in the last edition.

“We’re now finally in the stages of the tournament that we really wanted to be in, and we can be happy with that,” Kroos said. “We’re motivated, however, in the team and in the locker room, to get much further. And we’re convinced we can manage that.”

Kroos will face former Real Madrid teammates Dani Carvajal, Nacho and Joselu on Friday. The latter said he wants to send him into retirement, but Kroos took it with good humor.

“I know him very well, I know how he meant it,” Kroos said. “So, I’ll let him wish and do everything I can so that it doesn’t come true.”

Kroos said his future involves kids, both his own and young players at an academy he plans to open in Madrid.

Seemingly unflappable on the field, Kroos appeared at peace with the fact that Friday’s game could be his last, comforted because the decision is not dependent on the whims of anyone else.

“There will never be anything I can do as well as playing football. And this phase will be over,” Kroos said. “On the other hand, I’m really looking forward to this new phase, because at some point this day comes for every active player. And I’d rather pick this day out for myself.”

Kroos will end his career as he played it – always in control.


AP Euro 2024:

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