Speaking exclusively to Kicker, Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos discussed an array of topics regarding the Champions League from winning it three consecutive years to his first memories of the competition.
Footballers keep saying that they look forward to the anthem before Champions League games. Do you feel the same way?
First and foremost, the anthem tells me that a very special game is about to begin. Not everyday life in the league. Different opponents, different stadiums, always evening games. Then thoughts of big games in the quarter-finals or semi-finals shoot through my head. There is also a special atmosphere. There are definitely a lot of fond memories attached to the tune.
What is your first memory of the competition?
That was the 1999 final in Barcelona. Bayern Munich vs Manchester United. I was nine-years-old then. My father is a big Bayern fan and I remember suddenly the remote flying around the room when Manchester United scored in the last minute. That’s when I was confronted with these emotions for the first time. I had never seen my father like that before.
Who was your childhood legend?
One highlight was when my father took me to a Champions League game in Bremen in 2004, with Werder playing Inter Milan. I was 14 and saw my idol Johan Micoud live for the first time. That was a special night. A father, son thing.
Cristiano Ronaldo is a record-breaking player, is he your all-time No.1?
I have a hard time with these rankings. There are so many players in every generation who have achieved great things. Clarence Seedorf comes to mind, who won the Champions League with three different clubs. There’s no getting round the fact that Cristiano is one of the best ever. The same goes for Leo Messi. It’s hard to compare who’s doing what on the pitch because of how the game has changed over the decades.
You won the Champions League three times in a row at Real Madrid, what’s the secret?
There are several mysteries. First of all, Zinedine Zidane was very good at managing the group and keeping all the players happy. Secondly, there was an extraordinarily high quality in the squad. And thirdly, there was always a team on the pitch. Not 11 friends, but 11 players who gave everything to succeed and we were always ready to play as a team. In addition, in some games we got the luck that we needed. You can’t play 13 perfect games in a competition of such high quality. You have to learn to survive in different situations.
Real won in 2016, 2017 and 2018 with an almost identical squad, is developing better than buying?
I believe so, yes. The mix was perfect. Real understood how to develop players and to buy them very cleverly over the years. This increases the chances of winning titles. Gareth Bale and Cristiano weren’t cheap. But the quality was right for them and they fulfilled the requirements in terms of team spirit. Just getting the most expensive players to decorate yourself with would not have worked.
Why does the Casemiro-Modrić-Kroos triangle work so well?
First and foremost it’s the quality. Then it’s because each of us knows our own characteristics and contributes them accordingly in such a way that they work together. Three Toni Kroos’ wouldn’t be so effective. We complement each other on the pitch because we want to play together and be successful together and we have a great team around us that defends at the back and executes at the front.
Zinedine Zidane and Carlo Ancelotti are the most successful coaches in the Champions League. What connects them?
Zizou was already an assistant coach under Ancelotti. Both are very good at dealing with players. They treat us as equals, which professionals really like and they have a clear idea of how to play football.