Kroos bids tearful farewell to Real Madrid fans

Real Madrid fans and teammates paid tribute to a tearful Toni Kroos on Saturday as the midfielder played his last game at the Santiago Bernabeu before retiring from football this summer.

Kroos — who announced his decision to retire this week — played 87 minutes of Madrid’s 0-0 LaLiga draw with Real Betis.

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It was his second-to-last game for the club, ahead of their Champions League final against Borussia Dortmund on June 1.

“It isn’t easy,” Kroos, 34, told Real Madrid TV. “I can only say thank you to Madrid fans, the club, my teammates, and this stadium. I’ve always felt at home in these 10 years here. I couldn’t ask for more. They’ve been 10 unforgettable years.”

The Germany international, who will feature for his country at this summer’s Euros before retiring, received a guard of honour from both teams ahead of the game, as fans behind one of the goals displayed a tifo saying “thank you, legend.”

Kroos took the captain’s armband for the evening, and his Madrid teammates wore ‘Kroos 8’ shirts before kick-off.

“Obviously it’s a different feeling when you know it’s your last game,” he said. “I said I wanted to enjoy it and I did, I enjoyed these 85 minutes a lot, as I’ve always enjoyed playing here. You play every two weeks here, but it’s so special. I’ll realise that in the years to come, when I don’t have it.”

Kroos was substituted in the 87th minute to another long ovation, and was joined by his children on the pitch afterwards to receive more applause from the crowd.

“I was quite strong until the moment I saw my kids, they killed me!” he said, explaining his tears. “This is a special team, it’s a good group. They’ve all given me the respect I think I deserved. They aren’t just good players, they’re good people.”

Kroos — who has won 22 trophies with Madrid, including four Champions Leagues and four LaLiga titles — will have the chance to add another trophy to his collection at Wembley next weekend.

“I wanted to make [my retirement] official before this game, so that as of tomorrow we can forget about this subject,” Kroos said. “The best way to leave would be winning a trophy.”

Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti set it was a fitting tribute.

“It’s a great farewell for a legend, a player who’s done something extraordinary for this club,” Ancelotti told Real Madrid TV. “I think it’s the farewell he deserves.

“[He’s] one of the greatest, who ended his career at the top. And let’s hope we can win the 15th [European Cup] next Saturday.”

Ancelotti admitted that Madrid would have to adapt to life without Kroos next season.

“We’ll see,” he said in his post-match news conference, when asked what would change. “In terms of the atmosphere, the others have to take more responsibility. In a technical sense, we might have to play more direct football, with players with more energy.”

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