It has almost become a tradition in German football to tread carefully around young talent. Even more so when they appear to have all the skills worthy of a typical No10, the jersey worn by many of the world's most creative players.
Germany may have won three FIFA World Cups, but they certainly
do not want to over-hype their talented youngsters. Genuinely
gifted playmakers in particular are a rare and prized commodity.
Therefore, it was all the more unusual that, with the exception of Uli Hoeness, Bayern Munich's ever-vigilant director of football, everyone is suddenly talking about one young footballer in particular. The No10 jersey at the Bavarian giants is not going to any of the club's prestigious new signings, since it has already been earmarked for 17-year-old Toni Kroos, providing he maintains his remarkable development.
Ever since this decision was announced in early July, Kroos has
been the name on everyone's lips. The blond-haired youngster
seems to have all the qualities required of an attacking midfielder
and has already proved his worth in various friendlies for coach
Ottmar Hitzfeld's team. The hopes of a nation already rest upon
his young shoulders, with many seeing him as the man to take over
from Michael Ballack at the apex of the German midfield. With this
in mind, Kroos is heading off to the FIFA U-17 World Cup Korea 2007
with the intention of showcasing his skills on the international
I'm not getting all worked up
This is not to say by any means that Kroos is aloof, arrogant or vain. On the contrary, he is a quiet, shy yet considerate young man, born and brought up in the north of Germany and who left newly promoted Hansa Rostock's youth set-up a year ago to join Bayern Munich's academy. And he certainly knows already how to deflect the pressure which is mounting up on him.
"I never used to be the kind of person to get all worked up, and I'm not getting all worked up now," said the young midfielder in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com after Germany U-17s' 3-1 defeat against USA in Giessen near Frankfurt a couple of weeks ago.
"I enjoy playing football, and that's about it. I'm
no-one special," he continued. Kroos' interview technique
is similar to his style of play, choosing his words in a
considered, careful and unflustered manner.
Kroos will be the focus and the fulcrum of the German team at the FIFA U-17 World Cup which begins in Korea on August 18, where they have been drawn in Group F alongside Ghana, Columbia and Trinidad and Tobago. Effective and determined, he is one of those midfielders capable of conjuring up something out of nothing, playing a killer pass or turning a game on its head with a stunning piece of individual skill.
Praise from all sides
Former international goalkeeper Oliver Kahn trains on a daily basis with the youngster, whose idol is ex-Werder Bremen playmaker Johan Micoud. "The boy has some unbelievable qualities. He's the best footballer that I've seen come up through the youth ranks in years," enthused the veteran custodian.
German U-17 coach Heiko Herrlich also knows that he has a very special talent on his hands ahead of the tournament in Korea. "Toni has some incredible strengths, and he proved that at the recent European U-17 Championship. He is hugely talented," said the former Bundesliga top-scorer, who believes that the young No10 is capable of achieving great things at senior level for both club and country.
Kroos' manager at the German record title-winners is of the same opinion. "If Toni can keep his feet on the ground then he will be the next Bayern Munich player to win a full cap for Germany," said Hitzfeld to FIFA.com. He did, however, express concerns about the young prodigy's forthcoming trip to Korea: "We're really going to miss him on the pitch when he's out there!"
Give a good account of ourselves
Bayern's loss is Germany's gain, and he will certainly play a crucial role in his country's fortunes out in the Far East - a fact he proved at the UEFA European U-17 Championship earlier this year, scoring three goals and leading his team to a fifth-placed finish. That tournament thrust him to the front of the continental stage, and all of a sudden, he was being mentioned in the same breath as Spanish striker Bojan Krkic, another outstanding young player to be born in 1990.
"I think that we'll give a good account of ourselves in Korea. I'm not worried about the fact that we lost 3-1 to USA. We've got enough time ahead of us for the side to gel and start playing well together. I've no concerns," said Kroos optimistically to FIFA.com, while neglecting to mention his own personal ambitions for the tournament, in his own typically self-effacing way.
Some players talk a good game, but Kroos prefers to do his talking out on the pitch. Maybe this is why Uli Hoeness is already convinced that he has found Bayern's new No10. Out in Korea, Kroos will have every chance to prove his director of football right.