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Five Champions League titles and 2014 World Cup winner – Toni Kroos is Germany's most successful footballer

Photo: Irina R. Hipolito / Europa Press / Getty Images

Former World Cup winner Toni Kroos is playing his tenth season with Spanish top club Real Madrid. There he met players like Cristiano Ronaldo or Karim Benzema, who now play in Saudi Arabia. In an interview with the magazine »Sports Illustrated«, the 33-year-old midfielder has now been critical of such transfers and ruled out such a step for himself.

The human rights situation in the country is "the one thing that would prevent me from making such a change," Kroos said. But everyone has to make this decision for themselves. However, it will be difficult "when players who are in the middle of their careers, who have the quality to play for top clubs in Europe, decide to make such changes," Kroos said.

"And then they say that they play ambitious football there – but it's all about the money," criticised the 106-time international. In the end, it was a decision for the money and against football. "And from then on, it starts to get difficult for the football we all know and love."

Saudi Arabia lures professionals with fabulous salaries

For some time now, the clubs of the Saudi Arabian Professional League have been offering exorbitant sums, some in the hundreds of millions, to sign coaches and players. It is probably not only about sport, but also about improving Saudi Arabia's reputation in the world and about access to international sport. Kroos' ex-teammate Cristiano Ronaldo became the first superstar to join Al-Nassr last winter, where he is expected to earn €200 million a year, according to media reports.

Most recently, Brazilian superstar Neymar moved from Paris Saint-Germain to Al-Hilal for a transfer fee of 90 million euros, which had already paid high transfer fees for Malcolm (around 60 million euros), Rúben Neves (55 million), Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (40 million) and Kalidou Koulibaly (23 million) this summer. In Saudi Arabia, Neymar will also face former Bayern player Sadio Mané, Real Madrid's ex-striker Benzema and Liverpool's long-time captain Jordan Henderson.

Kroos recently extended his expiring contract with Spanish top club Real Madrid by one year until 30 June 2024. In 417 games so far, he has won 20 titles with Real, including four Champions League titles, and a total of five triumphs in the Champions League. This makes him by far the most successful German professional footballer in terms of titles.

vgl/dpa