Soccer-Kroos bids emotional farewell to Real fans


Soccer Football - LaLiga - Real Madrid v Real Betis - Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid, Spain - May 25, 2024 Real Madrid's Toni Kroos is thrown in the air after his last game as a Real Madrid player REUTERS/Ana Beltran

MADRID (Reuters) -Toni Kroos bade an emotional farewell to Real Madrid fans at a sold-out Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday as the German midfielder played his final home game after a remarkable decade with the Spanish giants.

A goalless draw with Real Betis was largely irrelevant with Real confirmed as LaLiga champions and all the European qualification and relegation spots decided, so the evening was about celebrating the 34-year-old Kroos.

One of Real's most successful ever players after making 464 appearances and helping them win more than 20 major trophies including four European Cups, Kroos announced that he will retire after this year's European Championship on home soil.

He fought back tears as walked on to the pitch through a corridor formed by his team mates, who were wearing his number eight jersey as the fans held up a giant flag with his face and the words "Thank you, legend" which covered the south stand.

In the 85th minute, Kroos broke down in tears when, after receiving another standing ovation as he was substituted, he embraced his three children who were crying on the sidelines.

The game was stopped for several minutes as Kroos hugged each of his team mates and his coach. After the referee blew the final whistle, Kroos, his family and team mates did a lap of honour as the fans serenaded him for almost 30 minutes.

"I can only say thank you to all the Madridismo, to the club, to my team mates, to the stadium," Kroos told reporters.

"I've always felt at home during these 10 years. I couldn't ask for more. They have been 10 unforgettable years.

"I was pretty strong until I saw my children, that moment killed me," Kroos added.

Real ended their LaLiga campaign top of the standings on 95 points, 13 ahead bitter rivals Barcelona in second. They face Borussia Dortmund next Saturday in the Champions League final.

Manager Carlo Ancelotti used the game as a dress rehearsal for the Champions League final, fielding his likely team for the match against Dortmund.

Real dominated and Dani Carvajal and Vinicius Jr. missed good chances before Ferland Mendy had an effort cleared off the goal line.

Real keeper Thibaut Courtois, making his fourth start after recovering from a serious knee injury, made two remarkable one-handed saves to deny close-range efforts by Ayoze Perez and Juan Miranda in the second half.

(Reporting by Fernando Kallas, editing by Ed Osmond)

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