Toni Kroos, Real Madrid midfielder, gave an extensive interview to the GQ newspaper, in which he revealed his desire to hang up his boots at the Santiago Bernabéu. He also spoke about more topics such as his experience during confinement, the consequences of the coronavirus for the world of soccer and the work of its foundation. The 2014 world champion with the Mannschaft also admits why he feels, in part, Spanish. Read the full interview here:
How did you experience confinement with your family in Madrid?
Here in Spain strict confinement was erected, people could not leave their homes for weeks. For us it was a curse and a blessing at the same time: I have no problem being locked up at home. In the end, just that is what I missed the most in recent years because of so many trips: being at home with my family. Still it was a different feeling than one might have at the end of the race because this whole situation was in an ugly context. Because many people suffered.
What did you perceive of the situation in Spain?
Where we live, on the outskirts of Madrid, a tad sheltered, you do not perceive too much what is happening in the city and you find out, above all, from the news. It is clear that we are privileged in this situation to have a large house with a garden, something that millions of people, with three kids like us, would have wanted to live in a flat in the center without being able to leave. Therefore, it was absolutely bearable.
How did you spend your free time at home?
It doesn't take long with three children. My oldest son and daughter attend an American school here in Madrid, my son is in first grade and my daughter is in kindergarten. The two received online assignments, Monday through Friday. It was something that also occupied my time, being a mix between dad and teacher. The tasks are in English, with which even I could learn some other thing. In addition, we also have a one-year-old son who is not as independent and needs our attention.
Do you consider yourself a severe parent?
I usually let you pass a few things, but we feel the need to turn our children into nice and educated people. We are very attentive that they always greet. Occasionally I realize that other children do not succeed, it is something that would bother me as a parent. In general, I expect my children to listen, something that does not always happen. Then we repeat it, the first time in a kinder way and the second time, less. Otherwise they have a wonderful life. Not only in the material, something that they are not and should not be aware of.
Did you take the time to try new things? Jürgen Klopp, for example, learned to tie a tie.
There was also not so much time to try new things. In the end, I cannot plant the children in a corner and say: Now I take time for myself. It is a job of 24 hours a day; but, at the same time, the most beautiful. When children sleep at night, we tend to be busted. Of course, I have discovered a new sport. To keep fit during the time without workouts I asked for a punching bag and gloves. I tested it with the help of an app. At first I thought I could do a little more and I passed each level in a few days. I felt good at first. Of course, when I woke up the next day, my arms almost fell off. My hands were so swollen that I spent several days unable to wear my wedding ring. It was tremendous. But also fun. Later, I also tried to be creative. Together with my brother I have created a podcast, “Einfach mal Luppen”, which has been in existence since May.
On the field of play he is a strategist, rational and analytical. Does it help in this phase?
Sure, but I have to say that things don't look much worse for many people than for me. You just have to take into account the lifestyle: I don't need to be around all day, go to the cafe or go out at night. These are things that I don't even do in my normal day to day, when everything is open. So the change was not that difficult for me. Nor do I have to worry, unlike many people who see their jobs or business at risk, for the economic aspect.
He always gives the impression of being at peace with himself. When do you get nervous?
Rarely on the field of play. For this, I have lived too many things and I have found that serenity is a great help on many occasions. Successes also give you some peace of mind and an awareness that too much can no longer affect you. Someone gave me that ability, but I don't know who. In any case, it was no one from my family, since I always find out how nervous everyone is in front of the television on game days. It is also clear that, outside the football field, there are days when my nerves and emotions can take over. When my children were born, for example. There you can not influence or help and you have to cross your fingers for everything to go well. It is much more unpleasant than being on the pitch.
“I rarely get nervous on the grass”
How do you deal with difficult situations?
In soccer I trust my abilities. If you have confidence in your abilities, you automatically feel more confident in yourself and are calmer. It is not something you can convince yourself of, you have to internalize it in the respective situations. It is also a matter of character, there are certain types of things that you cannot learn. However, nervousness is also not a purely negative thing. The bottom line is how to achieve a positive effect.
He always gives the impression of being in control of himself. When do you raise your voice and get angry?
Right, most of the time it's like that. But when I have the impression that my team is being unfairly disadvantaged by the referee, then I do usually raise my voice. Injustice is something that really pisses me off. I also can't stand being lied to. I prefer an unpleasant truth. Of course I also get pissed off and excited, yes, perhaps a tad more behind schedule than others.
In Spain it is branded as typical German. It is?
Perhaps from the Spanish perspective, from the German it is surely quite Spanish. Spaniards are a bit more relaxed and I think I have also become a more relaxed person. I am also still a fan of absolute punctuality, something that takes more margin here. Arriving ten minutes later is the usual punctuality here. When I show up three minutes before a team meeting I am usually the first, if I did it in Germany it would be one of the last. Spaniards also often hug and kiss everyone, I'm not that type of person either. Maybe he is a tad German for that, which does not mean that he does not appreciate the other simply because I do not like that extreme body contact.
Since 2015 he runs the Toni Kroos foundation, with which he helps sick children and their families, partly also in mortuary houses. How did you experience it during the crisis?
In some children's hospices they sent the employees home and we put laptops at their disposal so that they could continue doing their work from home, something that also benefits the children. During the peak we offered the possibility to practically all the families we support to choose gift toys and send them to them. The days at home can be very long, especially when you have a sick child. Our intention is to make everything more enjoyable.
“From the German perspective, perhaps it is very Spanish”
How does your work with children mark you?
Very intensely. It shows me that the world I live in is not normal and that there are more important problems than winning a football match. There were days when I was pissed off by defeat or banality like when someone was late or something broke at home: things of no importance. Later, in the afternoon, I start to read the petitions to the foundation and I realize so many circumstances that occur in life that they straighten me up again and teach me the truly serious problems that other people suffer. It is a great support for me.
Any case that has particularly moved you?
A girl from Berlin had the desire to ride a helicopter. Predictably, he wasn't going to live much longer. We gave him the flight, he did it and, unfortunately, he died soon after. They are outcomes that move you and make you think. In hindsight, I'm glad I was able to get him through those pretty hours.
This summer the European Championship was due to take place, but it was postponed to 2021 due to the coronavirus. It is the last great title that is missing.
I give importance, but to win one more Champions, too. It has nothing to do with quantity. It is an important title and I want to win every championship I participate in. The motivation is always very high before a tournament like the Eurocup and I do not think that a year of delay affects us, on the contrary, perhaps it would be good for us to play in 2021. Some injured people who will be back by then and the general evolution of the group .
Will the pandemic persistently influence football or will everything return to normal?
I don't think it happens that quickly, the losses are too great. Such short-term amounts will not be disbursed, and some clubs will have to find new ways to stay competitive. In terms of transfer and salary payments, attempts will be made to haggle and be more careful than can be spent. But it will return to the point of before the crisis. It has to do with competitiveness today, with the excessive pressure to win, also due to the media. If there is a possibility of re-disbursing the same amount of money as before the crisis, it will be done.
“My wish is to finish my career at Madrid”
He has three years left on his contract at Real Madrid. What plans do you have for later? Spending time in the US like many players do?
Rather no, it does not go with my way of being. In the world of soccer, three years is a very long time and my intention is to fulfill the contract. Then I will be 33 years old and all the options: stay here, do something else or end my career. Of course, my wish is to finish my career here at Real.
Her father is a coach. Would it be an option for you?
I imagine myself with a job in football, but not really as a coach at the highest level. Especially since I would once again immerse myself in what bothers me the most about football: those trips, the fact of not going home for weeks. I do not like. But I imagine doing something in the quarry, transmitting my experience. What I do consider important is the fact of being able to design my day to day life myself. So many things are imposed on footballers: that I have to sleep in the hotel, when I have to eat and train. I feel hope for the independence that I will have later.
“I do not know if he would give advice to declare himself gay to an active footballer”
How has soccer changed in recent years?
The informative coverage every day is more extreme, there are no nuances, only very good or very bad. The same headline is always sought when footballers give interviews. I can live with it quite well and I still express my opinion clearly. However, I understand all the players who measure their words. The danger of a mountain being made from a grain of sand is there. The amounts also shot up. What was paid before the coronavirus outbreak, which is likely to restrict those amounts, did not seem entirely healthy to me. Up to 40 and 50 million euros were paid for the transfer of mediocre players. It is what the stars cost in the past. But there are also favorable developments: the game is faster and, therefore, more attractive.
The current edition of GQ is under the LGTB motto. Homosexuality continues to be a sensitive issue in the world of football, especially considering that, at the moment, no player has declared himself openly gay.
My common sense tells me that everyone should live it in full freedom, there is no doubt about it. Of course, I do not know if he would give advice to declare himself gay to an active footballer. On the field of play certain words are often used and, taking into account the emotions that come to live in the stands, I could not guarantee that I would not end up being insulted and belittled. This should not be the case and I am sure that the player, who decides to take the step, would have the support of many sides. That yes, I doubt that it is the case in the field before the rival liking. Each player has to decide for himself whether he considers it an advantage or a disadvantage, although I think that even today they would not be all advantages.