Toni Kroos is on the verge of becoming a record champion of the Champions League. Another Real win would be perfect for his fifth triumph. Kroos is one of the best footballers in the world. Selling him was Bayern’s biggest mistake in recent club history.

When footballers are asked what they want to do after their career, they are either angry because they don’t think about the end or don’t want to talk about it. One of the classic answers is: “Keep football alive somehow.” That’s the embellished formulation of: “I have no idea what to do. Some ex-club will hire me.”

Toni Kroos (32) has a very clear idea of ​​what he wants to do when he is no longer a professional footballer. Just like always in his career. Kroos was once asked whether he wanted to become a coach. “Currently, I’m not thinking about becoming a professional coach. I’d rather work with children,” he said. He doesn’t like to travel much and “doesn’t like to spend a lot of time in hotels”.

At the age of 16 he was already training with the FC Bayern pros. He was there early on when the people of Munich were touring around the world. At 17 he made his professional debut. It is understandable that after 15 years of airport and hotel life he no longer feels like it. Kroos is a family man. He likes to be surrounded by familiar people, by his wife and children and friends. He’s not the type of person who is satisfied when you’re sitting in a hotel somewhere in Europe and making the Playstation you’ve brought with you glow.

FC Liverpool – Real Madrid

05/28/2022 | 9:00 p.m

The pandemic was no different. To find a balance, he got himself a punching bag. “Boxing combines physical fitness and strength training. It was fun and you were really flat after ten minutes. But I had to make sure that my football shirt still fit me,” Kroos told Socrates Magazin at the time.

When he didn’t want to take physical development a la Leon Goretzka, he took care of other things. For example, he founded the Toni Kroos Academy – initially digitally. In an app, Kroos gives children tips on how to train properly, what the best tricks are, how to warm up properly and so on. It can be heard from those around him that Kroos is very concerned that not only his children move and do sports.

That’s why Kroos puts in a lot of effort. He’s not the kind of guy who, given a teddy bear as a gift, thinks he’s doing something for society, but lends a hand himself. Like at his academy.

He’s not just there to say hello during video shoots for the app. He is behind the camera, in front of the camera, takes care of processes, even the lighting, say those in the know. Even in the Champions League week before the grand final against Liverpool, Kroos is said to have been working on making new videos for the children and is said to have paid attention to every detail.

Of course, he gets this obsession with details, this need for control, from football. There is nothing that Toni Kroos leaves to chance on the pitch. Of course there are intuitive moments when he plays an unconventional ball with the belief and hope that he will find the teammate. But because it was often enough for him to get the ball, he has been playing for Real Madrid, probably the biggest club in the world, since 2014.

If he wins the final against Liverpool with Los Blancos on Saturday, it would be the fifth Champions League title of the German’s career. He would catch up with record winner Cristiano Ronaldo, who has already won the pot five times. A footballer shouldn’t have done too much wrong if he achieves this quota.

Internationally nobody doubts him anyway, only in Germany there are still critics. “Better controversial in Germany and worldwide recognition than the other way around,” Kroos once said, although the 2014 world champion also felt support in his home country. But it’s different: “The appreciation is also there in Germany, but I have the feeling that there is an even greater emotional connection in Spain.”

At Real Madrid, this emotionality is mutual. Kroos and Real – this is a love affair that will last forever. When one day he stops playing football, he will be a guest of honor at the Estadio Bernabeu. He will be cheered for because he has achieved so much with the club while always staying normal. No airs and graces, no outbursts of selfishness. Always at the service of the team – and at a high level.

In Germany, his critics have become quieter with each additional title. All the people who said that Kroos is a great talent but only lives on this talent. He is too comfortable for more. Kroos becomes uncomfortable when he hears that: “I always resist the fact that my talent brought me here. It takes a lot of work to turn this talent into what I have achieved. That can only be achieved with work.”

Certainly there was also a large portion of ambition involved in wanting to show it to his critics. To demonstrate to them that he is not a standing soccer player. “Perhaps I was pigeonholed too quickly by many, also because of my style of play, which has long been controversial in Germany,” says Kroos: “According to the motto: He doesn’t fight and doesn’t tackle – the typical German virtues stop.”

FC Liverpool – Real Madrid

05/28/2022 | 9:00 p.m

This was once an ongoing topic, especially at Bayern Munich. When the Munich team sold him in 2014 immediately after the DFB team had won the World Cup, the then CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge spoke of a “financial duty of care” that one had towards the club. Kroos and Bayern could not agree on a new contract because Munich were not willing to raise Kroos to the top tier of salaries. You just didn’t see him there.

So he was sold: Rummenigge told the story at the Munich airport when the world champions from Rio were received with such conviction that one was inclined to agree with him. But years later, FC Bayern had to admit that the 25 million euros they got for Kroos didn’t quite make up for the loss of a world-class footballer. And that you made one of the biggest mistakes in recent club history.

“Sometimes a club has to make tough decisions – and that was a tough one, maybe the wrong one,” said Bavaria’s then-President Uli Hoeneß. The respect in Munich was only later paid to him in Munich. At least something. Kroos sheds no tears for FC Bayern. On the contrary: everything went great for him. During his time he won the Champions League more often than FC Bayern, he played at the highest level and got to know new facets of life. The experience abroad has made the entire Kroos family stronger.

If he is allowed to stretch the Champions League title into the Parisian night sky on Saturday, it will also be his merit. Not only because he has had another strong season with 44 competitive games, but also because he has long since played an important role as a leading player. How he coached the team alongside Carlo Ancelotti in the semifinals against Manchester City and even gave the Italian tips on how to change will be pictures for eternity.

And maybe in those moments he also discovered the desire to become a coach. When he saw his ideas resonate with one of the most successful coaches in the world and his ideas came to fruition. I’m sure he’ll comment on that. He just won’t say he’ll “stay around football somehow.” That’s not like him.