Toni Kroos to the rescue! Real Madrid star is out of international retirement to save Germany from home Euros embarrassment

 The midfielder could add vital control to a chaotic side looking to turn its major tournament woes around

It was June 23, 2018, and Germany's World Cup defence seemed set to collapse. As Toni Kroos stood over a free-kick, a shade over from the left corner flag, in the 95th minute, with no apparent angle to hit the target, Die Mannschaft's tournament appeared all but over. His side were level, 1-1, with Sweden, and after results elsewhere went against them, anything short of three points would effectively end their hopes in Russia after just 180 minutes of football.

Kroos, though, changed things. A perfectly executed set-piece - a roll to Marco Reus, followed by a whipped effort into the top corner - gave the Germans a 2-1 win, keeping their tournament alive - That would be Kroos' last big moment in his national team's colours. Germany would go on to dramatically lose to South Korea in their final group game, while their pandemic-delayed Euro 2020 campaign ended prematurely in a last-16 loss to England.

By that time, the midfield maestro was being hammered in the German press, and cast aside by veterans of the game. His nation had, in effect, turned against him, and Kroos showed little remorse in stepping away from the international game in 2021.

Fast-forward nearly three years, and that has all changed. Groovy, expansive manage

 Julian Nagelsmann has brought Kroos back into the side, and the midfielder, once disgraced, disregarded and discarded, is now poised to be a crucial part of a side that needs to perform as they host Euro 2024. He doesn't return as a saviour, nor is it a particularly emotional return. Rather, Kroos has regained his spot in the team on merit, a player reborn and ready to inject quality into what seemed a struggling side.

The best player at the World Cup

In 2014, Kroos was simply a joy to watch. Joachim Low had assembled a wonderfully balanced midfield. Bastian Schweinsteiger operated as the No.6, all hard tackles and ball circulation, Sami Khedira and Mesut Ozil pushed forward, and Kroos did all of the bits in-between. This was the perfect example of an unathletic player made to look like a formidable one, covering ground and dominating it with the kind of subtlety of the great tempo-setting midfielders of the game.

The numbers confirmed what the eye could already tell: Kroos was the top performer at the 2014 World Cup. FIFA's Castrol Index, a system that ranked every single player at the tournament, gave Kroos the highest rating in Brazil, pipping Arjen Robben for the top spot.

That tournament introduced Kroos on the global stage, and was enough to convince Real Madrid to snap him up for what now seems an absolute bargain €30 million (£26m/$33m).


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