Toni Kroos has already achieved much in his fledgling career. Now, aged just 20, the creative midfielder stands on the brink of a FIFA World Cup™ debut with Germany.
The global showdown in South Africa would not be his first FIFA tournament. The Greifswald-born player represented Germany three years ago at the U-17 World Cup in Korea, helping his country to a third-place finish. With five goals and four assists, he was also awarded the adidas Golden Ball for the best player of the tournament.
A modest youngster, who catches the eye with consistent performances in the Bundesliga rather than with tattoos or flamboyant hairstyles, Kroos’ star has been in the ascendant ever since his debut in a Germany shirt.
An early move to Bavaria
Kroos began his career at home with lower-league outfit Greifswalder FC. In 2002, aged 12, he joined former Bundesliga club Hansa Rostock, playing in the youth team coached by his father.
The young technician’s class did not go unnoticed by other clubs and in the summer of 2006 Kroos was snapped up by record German championship winners Bayern Munich. After leading the Bayern youth team to a league final, Kroos began training with the senior sidein the second half of the 2006/07 season, making a few appearances in friendlies.
Current Switzerland coach and then Bayern boss Ottmar Hitzfeld handed Kroos his Bundesliga debut in September 2007. At 17 years and 265 days, the attacking midfielder became the youngest ever player to pull on the famous Munich shirt in the German top flight.
His first Bundesliga appearance met with universal acclaim. “When you see in training, the talent he already has at such a young age, he really is a world-class player,” raved FIFA World Cup Golden Boot winner Miroslav Klose. Former Germany goalkeeper Oliver Kahn was also full of praise for the youngster: “He’s the best I’ve seen for years at youth level.”
The player himself has kept his feet on the ground and his ego in check, unlike many a young prodigy. Combining patience with meticulous hard work, the rising star has delivered consistent performances week in and week out, not only in Germany but also on the European stage.
In January 2008, the seasoned youth international signed his first professional contract with the reigning double winners and UEFA Champions League finalists, Bayern, which runs until 30 June 2012.
Loaned to Leverkusen
Despite his excellent progress in the Bavarian capital, Kroos and his club decided to part company for a time in the interest of his development and he joined Bayer Leverkusen on an 18-month loan during the 2008/09 winter break.
His spell in the Rhineland appears to have paid dividends, with the sometimes timid schemer thriving in his new surroundings. Making only isolated appearances in his first half-term under former coach Bruno Labbadia, the following season he was given the full confidence of no less than Jupp Heynckes. The veteran coach’s faith was repaid with nine goals and twelve assists.
“In my opinion it’s only logical that you have to be on the pitch and playing as often as possible to develop further. That’s just an absolute basic requirement. If you have the quality, you can only improve as a young player through match practice. That seems obvious and it’s proven to be true in my case,” said Kroos reflecting on his time with Leverkusen in an interview with German website Spox.
South Africa: A springboard to club progress?
Kroos is currently in Sicily, where the Germany squad is preparing for the FIFA World Cup under coach Joachim Low. He has made two senior international appearances to date, following up his debut in a 1-0 defeat to Argentina in March with his first senior start for Germany in a 3-0 victory over Malta in May.
Having made the preliminary squad for South Africa, the 20-year-old will be giving everything in the coming weeks to convince Joachim Low. Quite whether Kroos can pick up where he left off in Korea in 2007 remains to be seen, but one thing is certain; the six-foot playmaker has all the potential to shine at a global tournament.
South Africa could also prove a springboard at club level for Kroos. He returns to Bayern Munich after the tournament, where fierce competition for places awaits. However, as he said in a recent interview, he is ready for the fight: “I’ll be putting my foot on the gas from the first minute in Munich and trying to build on my performances from this season. I can’t do any more than that.” No doubt currently applying the same philosophy with Germany, Kroos' future is bright indeed.
With five goals and four assists Kroos was the top goalscorer at the FIFA U-17 World Cup Korea 2007.
Toni Kroos' younger brother Felix is a youth international and recently signed for Bundesliga club Werder Bremen.
Toni Kroos has sport in his genes. His father is a youth coach at former Bundesliga club Hansa Rostock and his mother was a badminton champion in the former East Germany.
Toni Kroos scored his first Bundesliga double on 19 December 2009, netting the first and final goals in a 3-2 win over Borussia Monchengladbach.