- Ten years ago today Kroos was crowned best player at the FIFA U-17 World Cup
- Kroos helped Germany finish third in Korea Republic
- "It was one of the most important events in my development as a footballer"
The term 'string-puller' is perhaps better suited to Toni Kroos than to any other player. The 2014 FIFA World Cup™ winner excels whenever he takes to the pitch thanks to his extraordinary accuracy on the ball, his passes arriving at a team-mate's feet with inch-perfect precision. Kroos orchestrates the play in midfield for both Germany and in Real Madrid's star-studded line-up, while the 27-year-old's trophy collection could no doubt fill an entire room, let alone a cabinet.
One of his first pieces of silverware came as a 17-year-old at the FIFA U-17 World Cup Korea 2007. Exactly ten years ago today he was recognised as the tournament's best player and awarded the adidas Golden Ball, as well as the adidas Bronze Boot as the competition's third highest scorer. "It was one of the most important events in my development as a footballer," Kroos said.
The Greifswald native's development did not stop there. Kroos is currently among the nominees for The Best FIFA Men's Player Award and could be selected in the FIFA/FIFPro World XI for a third time, following his inclusion in 2014 and 2016.
*FIFA World Cups: winner 2014, third place 2010, third place 2007 (U-17)
- UEFA Champions League: winner 2013, 2016, 2017
- FIFA Club World Cup: winner 2013, 2014, 2016
- German champion: 2008, 2013, 2014
- German cup winner: 2008, 2013, 2014
- Spanish champion: 2017
- Spanish Super Cup winner: 2017
- German Super Cup winner: 2010, 2012
- German League cup winner: 2007
Ten years ago Kroos contributed five goals and five assists in six games at the U-17 World Cup to help Germany finish third in Korea Republic. "You play football to achieve something with your team, not just as an individual," Kroos said. "I knew I'd had a good tournament but I was overwhelmed when I received that award. I was totally happy with the fact we'd won a medal in Korea. The individual award was simply a consequence of what the team accomplished."
The statistics stand as testament not only to Kroos' talent but also to his ability to deal with high-pressure situations: "I was used to high expectations from the very start of my career as a footballer. Back then I was playing at Bayern Munich and had already participated at two European Championships with the national team. I never paid much attention to what other people said and just focused on my aims with the team. You have to work hard and believe in yourself, that's the most important thing."
Having faith in your own ability and a willingness to work are fundamental attributes in the development of any athlete. Kroos learned, however, that they are especially important at an age when many youngsters struggle to make the grade.
"At that level you're in a kind of vacuum: you're still a youth player but at the same time you're only a few steps away from being a pro. It's a challenge and you think to yourself that if you work hard you can play in the first team next season. And obviously an U-17 World Cup is a very special stage where you play against the best players in the world in that age category, and your every move is observed by coaches, players, the media and pundits. So it provides you with a kind of motivation to reach a higher level."
Did you know…?
*- Only 18 days after winning the bronze medal in Korea Republic, Kroos made his Bundesliga debut for Bayern Munich on 26 September 2007. He provided two assists in a 5-0 win over Energie Cottbus.
Kroos is the first German player to win the Champions League three times.
Kroos' younger brother Felix Kroos was also a German youth international and has played for Union Berlin since January 2016.
On 13 May 2015, Kroos launched the Toni Kroos Foundation. Its aim is to provide support for children, youngsters and their families suffering from severe health issues. *
After an inevitable period of adjustment, Kroos finally made the breakthrough in 2009/10 while on loan at Bayer Leverkusen. His career subsequently progressed at a furious pace: his senior international debut, domestic and European success with Bayern and then the World Cup title at Brazil 2014.
Ten years ago we asked Kroos whether the U-17 World Cup in Korea had given him the confidence to be able to play at the very top. "I've always had that confidence," he replied, laughing. "I think the tournament sent a signal to the coaches and to the public that I'm a player who can be relied on. I knew at the time that I'd have to work hard to convince the coaches who wanted to work with me and in order to get to a higher level.