Toni Kroos had strong words for Mesut Özil, saying that the manner of his departure was "out of order." He also has said that he will carry on playing for Germany after the shock early exit from the World Cup.
Mesut Özil's retirement from the German national team last month was not handled well, Toni Kroos told the Thursday edition of German newspaper Bild.
Kroos sought to stress that he thought Özil to be a "good guy" and added that he "deserved a better departure" from international football.
Özil quit the national team after the shock group stage exit, but also after a larger controversy surrounding his meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan before the World Cup. He published a lengthy statement in English asking whether some quarters of the national team — particularly DFB President Reinhard Grindel — had victimized him because of his Turkish heritage.
"The parts of his resignation statement that are good and well said are sadly overshadowed by the considerably higher proportion of nonsense," Kroos said. "I think that he himself knows that there's no racism within the German national team and the DFB. Quite the contrary: we repeatedly promote diversity and integration as a point of principle. Mesut was always a good example of that, like many of our other players."
He was by no means the only German player to disappoint, but star playmaker Özil had an unusually quiet World Cup
'You have to put up with that as a player'
Kroos said that Özil had deserved criticism after he and Ilkay Gündogan met with Turkey's Erdogan, but that "nevertheless he was absolutely supported by the coaching staff and the team." The Real Madrid midfielder acknowledged that Özil had faced some below-the-belt attacks at the time, "but then you have to put up with that as a player."
However, Kroos also said that he did not believe that the scandal had contributed to Germany's poor World Cup.
"From my point of view, it would be embarrassing for the team to hide behind this debate, which mainly took place in public [not among the squad], and to name this as the reason for our exit," Kroos said.
Why did Germany disapprove so?
Unlike Gündogan, Özil faced extra criticism for not publicly addressing his meeting with Erdogan, only doing so in July when announcing his retirement from international football.
Özil said he couldn't refuse an invitation from the president, critics claimed he had helped an authoritarian win re-election
"For me, having a picture with President Erdogan wasn't about politics or elections, it was about me respecting the highest office of my family's country," Özil said on July 22, more than two months after the meeting. "My job is a football player and not a politician, and our meeting was not an endorsement of any policies. In fact, we spoke about the same topic that we do every time we have met — football — as he too was a player in his youth."
The meeting coincided with a heated election campaign in Turkey, with allegations of Erdogan becoming ever more authoritarian, and as the president was in the process of adding a string of new powers to what used to be a ceremonial position in Turkey. The prime minister and head of government for more than a decade, Erdogan has since swapped jobs, swiftly transferring his old powers (and a few extra ones) across to his new office. Germany has been among the more vocal critics of the NATO member and EU hopeful in recent months, not least during the imprisonment of German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yücel.
Kroos to carry on with Germany
Kroos also told Bild that he had no intention of retiring from international football yet. "My wife said to me, 'Darling, you simply can't retire like this.'" His young son also encouraged him to carry on, Kroos said.
Kroos did add, however, that he had spoken to coach Joachim Löw about a less hectic schedule with the national team. The 28-year-old said that he would need "more rests than in the previous five or six years in order to remain at the same level in the coming seasons." He said Löw understood this point of view but also urged him to stay and play as often as possible.
Asked how Germany needed to improve after the unprecedented group stage exit, Kroos said it was necessary to restore some hunger at both ends of the pitch to compliment coach Löw's possession-based philosophy. "We need to be more greedy and more forceful when it comes to creating chances ... We must become more awkward to play as a team again when defending. We have to improve that, without becoming a totally defensive team."
msh/dv (dpa, SID)