'Legend of the club': Toni Kroos receives fitting Real Madrid farewell with European glory

German midfielder wins the Champions League for a record-equalling sixth time in the final club match of his illustrious career

Toni Kroos is lofted onto the shoulders of his Real Madrid teammates after winning the Champions League in his final club game. PA
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Toni Kroos brought down the curtain on a glorious club career in fitting style by entering the history books with his sixth Champions League win on Saturday.

Kroos played a pivotal role as Real Madrid defeated Borussia Dortmund 2-0 at Wembley Stadium for the club's record-extending 15th European Cup. The German, alongside teammates Dani Carvajal, Nacho, and Luka Modric, joined Madrid legend Paco Gento as the most decorated players in European Cup history.

Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti said that the door remains open should the 34-year-old midfielder reconsider his decision to retire after representing Germany at Euro 2024 on home soil. Kroos announced his shock decision to retire last month.

In a rare display of emotion, the usually unflappable Kroos punched the air and pointed to the Madrid club crest when he was replaced by his long-time midfield partner Modric with just a few minutes remaining at Wembley.

"He's finished at the top. It is not possible to go out better," said Ancelotti. "He is a legend of this club and obviously we all thank him for what he has done. Not just in his play but his attitude, his professionalism. He never missed a day in these 10 years. We hope he changes his mind; we are here if he does."

Kroos' Champions League journey ended where it began, with a victory over Dortmund at Wembley. He was a Bayern Munich player when they won the competition at the home of English football in 2013, though injury kept him from featuring in the final.

After helping Germany win the World Cup in Brazil, Kroos joined Madrid in 2014 and became part of a generation that heralded a second era of European dominance for the Spanish giants.

Gento was part of the Madrid side that won the first five European Cups from 1955 to 1960. Real have won six Champions Leagues in the past 11 seasons, with Kroos featuring in five of those triumphs.

"I'll miss this," said Kroos. "Of course, I wanted to say goodbye with this Champions League victory. The title means an unbelievable amount to me."

Unsurprisingly, Kroos was at the heart of the action as Madrid wrestled control away from Dortmund after a dreadful first half from Ancelotti's men. The Spanish champions were fortunate not to trail at half-time as Karim Adeyemi and Niclas Fuellkrug missed big chances for Dortmund.

"The first half really wasn't good from us," Kroos said. "Then we got into the game better and scored the goal. We were fully there and the better team, but it took a long time until we were the better team tonight."

Kroos began to turn the screw as he completed the most passes and had the most touches of any player on the Wembley turf. A trademark free-kick destined for the top corner was turned away by Dortmund goalkeeper Gregor Kobel, denying him a farewell goal.

However, he still played a decisive role as it was from Kroos' corner that Carvajal rose highest to power home the crucial opening goal. Vinicius Junior quickly added a second, igniting the Madrid celebrations and allowing Kroos a standing ovation from the traveling fans from Spain.

More glory could be in his swansong after he ends his international exile to return for Germany at Euro 2024. Kroos, who stepped down from international duty after Germany's last-16 Euros exit to England in 2021, has answered the call from manager Julian Nagelsmann to return for one last major tournament.

But he has fulfilled his ambition to bow out on his own terms at the pinnacle of club football.

Updated: June 02, 2024, 9:48 AM