Toni Kroos once admitted he was “forbidden” from citing Lionel Messi as the greatest player ever, but looks to have changed his tune.
The Real Madrid midfielder, like much of the footballing world, watched on Sunday as the Argentine icon finally claimed the World Cup. It was the last prize he was yet to win, but the forward produced a sensational display as he led his team to glory in Qatar in dramatic circumstances.
For many, it ends the debate over who is the game’s greatest. Kroos for many years played alongside Cristiano Ronaldo, who endured a poor tournament as he ponders his next move after leaving Manchester. The German saw Ronaldo score with regularity as they teamed up to win a hat-trick of Champions Leagues.
The midfielder once said: “From my playing days, it’s Cristiano Ronaldo (best player of all time). Of course, I’m biased because he made a decisive contribution to us winning a lot of titles. It was exciting and impressive to play alongside Ronaldo. We were not only team-mates but also neighbours in the dressing room and neighbours in private.
“He lived right next to me. Seeing what a perfectionist he is was impressive. That is why it is forbidden for me to name Messi (as the best player of all time).”
Now though, with Ronaldo no longer his team-mate, Kroos looks to have had a change of heart. Speaking after the World Cup he said on German platform MagentaTV: “He (Messi) deserves it. In terms of individual performances in a championship, I’ve never seen a footballer play as regularly as this guy. You have to take into account that he has never played for clubs that I find very funny, something that proves that I mean it.”
Kroos is not the only former Ronaldo team-mate to potentially change their tune when no longer playing alongside the Portuguese star. Sergio Ramos, who has been at PSG since leaving Real Madrid, previously told El Chiringuito TV: “Messi is one of the best in the world, if not the best.”
The 35-year-old, who is now favourite to claim what would be an eighth Ballon d’Or, has poured water on the idea he could retire despite reaching the pinnacle on Sunday. “I want to keep experiencing a few more matches as world champion,” he told Argentinean TV.
“I was lucky to clinch every title in my career, this was the only one missing. I want to take this one there [to Argentina] and enjoy it with everybody else.”