Toni Kroos is away on international duty with the German national team. The Real Madrid midfielder has two matches in the UEFA Nations League to look forward to — vs Ukraine on Saturday and a big match vs Spain on Tuesday. In anticipation of those matches, MARCA caught up with Kroos for an exclusive interview to discuss his time at Real Madrid, the current results this season, the success of Germans at the club, Bayern Munich’s form, and the upcoming UEFA Nations League matches.
Adapting to Real Madrid
“When I arrived, the whole club - not just my teammates and coach - and the fans transmitted towards me a feeling of happiness because of the fact that I was with them. That’s not normal. In Germany, you have to play well first before they’re happy with you, but at Real Madrid, I had the feeling that they were already happy with me there, whether I play well or not. That made me feel good and gave me confidence to play well from the start.”
“Yes, it’s true. The city is very important, but it’s more about who I live with, with who you’re with all day - at home and at work, which can help you feel at home. If you have that, you enjoy yourself. It doesn’t matter where, but of course it helps that this is Madrid. The weather makes a difference; it’s very different to Germany.”
“You have family and, sure, you need to go out with them and everyone recognizes you. I like being recognized by the fans because they’re very positive and very big fans of Real Madrid, but sometimes you want to go out in private.”
Respect from the Fans
“I feel a lot of respect from the fans, always. They ask you for autographs and photos. It’s good because they love you. Sometimes you want to go out in peace and that is a bit more difficult. That is why we don’t live in the city center. I like peace because it’s in my nature. My family and I are very happy in Madrid.”
“Now we are speaking Spanish better and everything is easier. My wife, for the first few years, didn’t speak Spanish and everything was more difficult. Not speaking the language, with barely any contacts. When you leave your country at 24-year-old and it’s a very big change, it’s difficult, but in the end, we did well. It helps if you’re doing well at work and you end up bringing that home.”
Call from Carlo Ancelotti
“In 2014, they won the Champions League, so you can imagine. Ancelotti calls me and tells me he wants me in his club to improve his team. Imagine, these were the Champions League winners. I had all his confidence and that was the key to starting so well and not having pressure. I thought, they already had confidence in me and that helped me to do well from the first game. That was how my first season went. No trophies, but it was very good”
German Players at Real Madrid
German players historically have been successful at Madrid, so why aren’t there more?
“That’s not a question for me. Players of my era like Sami Khedira spoke very well of Real Madrid to me. I also spoke, a long time ago, to Gunter Netzer, the former Real Madrid player, and he told me that it was a good place, not just to play but also to live. I only heard good things about Madrid and Real Madrid. Why are there not more Germans? That’s not for me to say.”
Inconsistent Results this Season
“Well, in the end, we do lack something. That’s not a secret. Everyone can see it. We’re not missing a lot, we just need to be consistent. If you look at the results, they go two good, one bad, two good, one bad. We have to do better. You watch some games and you realize that you can do much better - against Barcelona, the first half against Inter and another one.”
“We can, of course, improve, but we lack consistency. If we did well against Barcelona, we also have to against Cadiz or Shakhtar [Donetsk] at home. There’s a big difference. Sometimes it’s very good and others it’s very bad. We have to improve if we want to win something.”
“We’re going through a very strange situation for everyone. We’re playing every three days, we had little time off, we ended last season very late, we couldn’t sign players in the summer... Now there are injuries, some have to stop because of COVID, but I don’t like finding excuses. We put out a starting line-up that can beat the opponent in every game.”
“I have no doubts. Why don’t we do it? We have to find solutions to improve. It’s not something general; it’s specific things or situations in each game and that’s why we have to react. The truth is that, as a team, if we want to win things, we have to improve. And we’ve already seen how good we can be.”
Hope for Fans?
“If you look at how good we can play, of course. Sometimes you can lose, not play well - that can happen - but the opposite happens more than we’d like and we can’t allow it.”
“In the end, you can never be pleased at not playing a game. And I can say that and every player thinks that. In the end, I understand the coach because we’re playing every three games. We don’t stop and more so this season. It’s not going to be for two or three months like after the pandemic.”
“It’s going to be until the end of the European Championship. I understand the boss has to rotate sometimes. As a player, you have to accept it and when it’s your turn to play, you do your best. When you’re good physically and mentally, you always want to play, but you have to accept the rotations or the rest.”
Doubts around Zidane
“Everyone knows that, if you don’t get results and you do not meet expectations at Real Madrid, then there are questions. That’s why we are at this club. It’s normal. With Zidane, we’ve already had times like this and we normally come out of bad runs.”
“A few weeks ago, after losing against Cadiz and Shakhtar, we went to Barcelona and had an amazing game. We got through that and the boss is the first person to know what happens at this club if you don’t get results. In the end, what we have to do is improve and try to win games. The boss will find the solution.”
Bayern Munich - Best Team in Europe?
“What we can say is that, without doubt, Bayern have been the best team in the world in the last few months. I have no doubts. Real Madrid were like that for a few years and we know it’s difficult. It’s impossible to win for 10 years running. Real Madrid were the best team in the world for two or three years.”
“Now it’s Bayern and that doesn’t speak badly of us. If you see how they’ve played in the last few months... there’s no game that they didn’t win by four goals. They won the Champions League and, for me, whoever wins that is the best team in the world because it’s the most difficult competition to win. They are better than us, but that’s not a problem right now because we’re not playing in their league and we’re not playing against them in the Champions League, at least for the moment. They have a rhythm and a very good high press. We have to accept that there are better teams than us at the moment.”
Expectations for UEFA Nations League - Spain vs Germany
“I think the two teams are more or less the same. The last two games that we’ve faced each other have ended in 1-1 draws. Both teams have changed a bit in the last few months. We made changes after the 2018 World Cup, at least much more than others did. That being said, both teams have a few problems at the moment.”
“They’re two projects with lots of quality and it’s going to turn out well, I’m sure. I don’t know if it’ll be in the next year, at the European Championship, but I’m convinced about it long-term. There’s a lot of talent. Germany, I’m sure about, and Spain, when I watch some of the players they have in LaLiga, I don’t doubt it either.”
“The two countries are going to be at the top and I’m not saying that because it’s my country and the one I’m living in. I’m saying it because I like teams that want to play good football. It’s not just those that sit deep and play on the counter that win. When I don’t play, I follow teams that try to play football and that’s why I think these two have very good futures.”
Thoughts on the European Super League
“What I wanted to say was that there are positive things in it, without doubt. We’re going to see lots of high-level games that we only see in Champions League semi-finals. And we all like those games. It’s going to be very interesting for the fans of a team and for those that don’t properly support one. Everyone likes watching football at the highest level. We also have to care for the smaller clubs. Everyone is very competitive. The Super league is another thing. I’m more worried by other things.”
“We have two or three weeks where there aren’t any games and I’m sure FIFA and UEFA are going to find a new competition. That worries me for the health of all the players. Playing every three days means you’re playing tired and that the games don’t have the level that we want. It’s like playing another Club World Cup with 20 teams. I don’t think it’s necessary. There’s nothing more to squeeze out of us. The players aren’t going to like it.”
Retire at Real Madrid?
“I’ll try. I’m still doing well physically. Two years ago, I had a tough season. Now, I’m a bit better and we’re going to stay for a bit longer.”