Toni Kroos wore the number 39 on his back with Bavaria Munich, not number 10, which is far more appropriate because the lower number identifies a footballer who is a creative playmaker and attacker. Accepting a higher number says something about the humility of Mr. Kroos, who accepted it without complaint, but it says even more about the Bavarian team and its view of the star athlete.
Mr. Kroos, who joined the team as a teenager, was promised the holy number 10 a few years ago by no less an authority than Uli Honess, the German soccer star who played in the World Cup and two European Cup championships before becoming president of Bayern Munich, Germany’s most successful Bundesliga professional soccer team. The midfielder’s talent was so transcendent, even at age 17, that awarding the number 10 jersey to the young Mr. Kroos was easy to justify.
Toni Kroos will wear the number 8 jersey for Real Madrid and play alongside stars including Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale. During a press conference to announce the move, Mr. Kroos said he had made the right decision in opting out of his final year at Bavaria Munich.
But now, seven years after his debut and following a standout World Cup championship performance for the German national team in Brazil, it’s clear he will never wear the number 10 for the Bavarian team. Mr. Kroos is leaving for Real Madrid, where he signed a six-year contract for a transfer fee of between €25 million ($33.8 million) and €30 million. He will wear the number 8 jersey for Real Madrid and will play alongside stars including Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale. During a press conference to announce the move, Mr. Kroos said he had made the right decision in opting out of his final year at Bavaria Munich.
“I know at this club (Real Madrid) you are expected to win trophies, but I’m the right man for that because I’m used to winning,” he said. “I cannot think of anything more wonderful than being here. This is the biggest club in the world. I hope to be able to return the confidence this club has shown in me.”
Bavaria Munich is a team that gets what it wants and is generally more of a buyer than a seller. When the club gives up on a player, it is usually because the team doesn’t need them any more, which has led to the departures of such players as Thomas Kastenmaier, Andreas Ottl and Thomas Kraft. At first glance, Mr. Kroos doesn’t seem to fit this pattern, as he has been extremely productive and integral part of the team.
While Bavaria Munich is unhappy about losing a star player, it was very clear that the interest in him would be sky high following the World Cup. Mr. Kroos was in the starting lineup for all seven games, assisted in the set up of four goals and scored two himself. His performance against the Brazilian team in the semi-finals enthralled the crowd as he scored twice within 70 seconds.
“I know at this club (Real Madrid) you are expected to win trophies, but I’m the right man for that because I’m used to winning.”
Still, the team did not treat Mr. Kroos as a high priority, though it would have been expected to negotiate a new contract with the midfielder, and that likely was not an oversight. The player was a victim of his own circumstances, arriving as an adolescent and not commanding the same level of respect as a well-traveled top international star commands.
The scenario with Mr. Kroos is reminiscent of Michael Ballack, the prolific scorer who played for Bavaria Munich from 2002 to 2006 scoring 44 goals in 107 appearances. After playing in the 2006 World Cup, Mr. Ballack moved to FC Chelsea after being publicly criticized for his play in critical Championship League games by Mr. Honess, club president Franz Beckenbauer and communications director Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. A farewell statement issued by Mr. Rummenigge pointedly praised the leadership skills of his teammate, Stefan Effenberg, while referring to Mr. Ballack as “the most dangerous head-ball midfielder who ever played with Bavaria.”
What did Mr. Ballack do to earn these words? He took too long while considering a contract extension, infuriating the management of Bavaria Munich, which simply doesn’t tolerate it when a player doesn’t reciprocate the team’s love. The offer was withdrawn and Mr. Ballack moved to Chelsea.
The same scenario played out with Toni Kroos. Team management took pains to say it had withdrawn its offer to Mr. Kroos, who in turn pointed out that it was hard for the club to withdraw an offer he already had refused.
Volker Struth, the agent who represents Mr. Kroos, also represents Bavaria Munich midfielder Mario Götze, who wears the number 10. Mr. Struth knows what top-level players earn and saw that the last offer by the team was nowhere near what a talent like Mr. Kroos should command.
By joining Real Madrid, Mr. Kroos not only receives the jersey number he has earned, but will also be earning the same kind of money as Mr. Götze.