Football Features

“Should be forbidden” – Toni Kroos bows out of club football at the top with Real Madrid

By Harry Edwards

Published: 22:58, 1 June 2024

Toni Kroos called time on his club career with a vintage performance to help Real Madrid win their 15th Champions League title.

The German announced recently that he would be retiring at the end of the season. Fortunately for football fans there is still Euro 2024 to come, and he is in Germany‘s preliminary squad. But this was the curtain closer on his club career, and while it was a sad moment, Kroos ensured he went out at the top.

It’s a luxury not many greats have experienced, and there’s no doubt that Kroos is a great. Kroos made senior debut for Bayern Munich some 17 years ago, in a 5-0 win over FC Energie Cottbus aged 17 years, 8 months and 22 days. In that game, he provided two assists, which was clearly a sign of things to come.

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Although he made his name at Bayern Munich, Kroos made his career in the white of Real Madrid. The German played 465 times for Real Madrid in a stint spanning 10 years, winning 23 titles including five Champions Leagues.

The fifth Champions League at Real Madrid (and sixth overall) for Kroos came at Wembley, which was also the site of his first with Bayern Munich. It was a performance we’ve come to expect of Real Madrid in the Champions League this season, and not in a good way.

Los Blancos were under fire from Borussia Dortmund in the first half with the German side having eight shots and three on target. Real Madrid had just two efforts but didn’t hit the target.

But Real Madrid did what Real Madrid do and used their Champions League experience to get them over the line. Dani Carvajal and Vinicius Jr scored the goals, with the first coming via a Kroos assist.

Kroos had 108 touches in the match, more than any other player on either team, and he was the only player to break the 100 mark. He also made more passes than any other player had passes. The German completed 91 of his 94 passes for an accuracy of 96.8%. Only Ferland Mendy (45/45) had a better accuracy among players to attempt more than one pass.

Kroos completed five of his six long passes, with only Antonio Rudiger attempted and completing more for Real Madrid. He had an xA of 0.55, with 0.36 of that coming from set-play. And he wasn’t dispossessed at all.

He also put in nine crosses, more than the rest of his Real Madrid team combined and the most on the pitch — one more than Julian Brandt.

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The Champions League final isn’t often a time for sentimentality, but Carlo Ancelotti and Kroos were afforded a moment. With five minutes left to play, Ancelotti brought Kroos off for Luka Modric, and the German left the field fist pumping the Real Madrid fans. A standing ovation was the least he deserved.

But when the celebrations settle down, those Real Madrid fans will have to come to terms with the fact that they will never see Kroos don their shirt again. This was the final moment, the end of a stellar career.

“[It] should be forbidden,” Jose Mourinho said of Kroos’ retirement after the end of the game.

“FIFA and UEFA have so many rules, so many decisions. Make a decision to stop the guy retiring.”

Can Kroos bow out of football with a trophy? Germany will be hoping so.