What on earth is Toni Kroos thinking?

The German midfielder is playing a high-risk game in attempting to tease a new contract from Bayern, while exciting times lie ahead for football in the US

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By Peter Staunton

Kroos playing high-risk game with Bayern

Toni Kroos is a very good player but he can be easily replaced by Bayern Munich. He would do well to bear the latter point in mind. Pep Guardiola left the Germany midfielder on the bench for the recent Bundesliga victory over Eintracht Frankfurt and Bayern were none the poorer for his absence. They won 5-0. Joining him on the sidelines for that match was Thomas Muller, who had this to say on any team-mate who thought about complaining. “There is no room for selfish behaviour at Bayern,” the Germany forward told the press after the game.

Thiago Alcantara, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Javi Martinez have not started once together in the Bundesliga this season. Therefore, it could be argued that Bayern have not had their ‘first-choice’ midfield together on the pitch. Kroos, as a result, has played perhaps a more important part than expected in the Bayern success story thus far. But with Philipp Lahm dominating the midfield for Bayern this season, Kroos has, and will always have, plenty of competition in there for a starting role.

It is clear that his recent stance regarding a contract renewal is aggravating for the club. Guardiola has publicly adopted a “here today, gone tomorrow” attitude towards Bayern’s No.39. While Pep has indeed preferred to start with Kroos this season, he is nonetheless willing to remove the 24-year-old whenever he deems necessary without affecting his team’s output. That should be a cause of concern for Kroos as he takes on the third-richest club in the world in a high-stakes game of contract poker.

Kroos’s current deal expires in the summer of 2015 and he wants improved terms. Among the middling earners at Bayern, Kroos has yet to resolve this standoff and is reported to seek around €8 million per-annum to commit to a new deal. Adding to the brinkmanship over a new Bayern contract is the reported interest from Manchester United, whose deficiencies in midfield are abundant and whose manager David Moyes is known to have seen Kroos in action in January. Kroos can now play up the attentions of United to Bayern and use it as collateral in his quest for an exceptional deal.

“Much has been written, especially in the last few days, about my sporting future,” Kroos wrote on Facebook this week. “The fact is I am very happy to play for Bayern and my position in the team is very good. The fact is also that we couldn’t agree a new contract.

“Since it runs until 2015 this is not a big problem, and we will see what the future brings. My focus is on the sport side of things and we will do everything possible to complete the season as successfully as last season.”

Kroos can be described as a homegrown prospect having joined Bayern from Hansa Rostock as a 16-year-old. He is among that next wave of talent bred at Bayern following in the slipstream of Lahm and Schweinsteiger; a generation that includes Muller and David Alaba. The problem that Kroos has in his attempts to draw more money from Bayern is that his place in the team, while merited, is not yet integral. 

Bayern, whose revenues according to the Deloitte Football Money League have grown to €431m, have the means to meet any offer that Kroos deems acceptable. Is Kroos worth the kind of money he seeks? Probably. Does he have the right to extract his maximum worth through what is a short career? Absolutely.

But don’t expect Bayern to see things the same way. In this power play there will be only one winner. Bayern have not made their fortune in the last few years by kowtowing to player demands. Quite likely is that Kroos will overplay his hand and end up leaving Bayern, a club that in a football sense suits him perfectly, for an inferior team.

Bayern will have no qualms about making an example of Kroos to show other players on the staff that no player is bigger than the club. There are a few players that cannot be replaced, but Kroos is not one of them,” as the former Germany international Gunter Netzer wrote in his Bild column this week.

NYCFC & Miami could finally give MLS its ‘Clasico’



Two events on the United States football scene caught the attention this week.

First, leaked images showed New York City FC’s tentative plans to build a soccer-specific stadium on Manhattan’s Pier 40, just a stone’s throw from Central Park. NYCFC’s Manhattan plans, backed by New York Yankees and Manchester City, are ambitious and by no means a sure thing at this stage. But with the spectacular New York skyline as a backdrop there would be no more glamorous arena in the football world. What player would not want to be part of it?

New York Red Bulls have not truly engaged the locals of New York because they do not actually play there. Instead they play in Harrison in New Jersey, away from the bright lights and the heavy footfall of downtown Manhattan. Likewise, the reborn New York Cosmos play nowhere near there either. NYCFC will be playing MLS football by 2015 and already boast one of the American game’s finest coaches in Jason Kreis.

Combined, Manchester City’s backing and the potential for star-name attraction could engender MLS’s first super club. 

The #myNYCFC social media campaign was well timed to coincide with, or distract from, MLS’s other major development this week.

You can’t have missed David Beckham, Miami-Dade County commissioner Carlo Gimenez and MLS commissioner Don Garber announcing MLS’s expansion into Miami. Beckham, who was entitled to buy an MLS franchise at a knockdown price, is going into business with Bolivian billionaire Marcelo Claure and is attempting to break Miami’s notoriously picky professional sports market. There are a lot of issues to surmount, not least a team name, before Miami finally come back to the MLS fold since the exit of the Miami Fusion in 2002 due to financial difficulties.

Claure and Beckham spoke about the need to make a Miami team an attractive prospect for locals, who, evidently like football, but are not certain to support their own team in the city. Last summer’s friendlies, between Real Madrid and Chelsea and Brazil and Honduras, drew fans in their droves showing that the thirst for high-quality football exists in the region.

The new ownership duo stated their desire to have the team play in the downtown area; this is one of the issues on which the Fort Lauderdale-based Fusion failed. They spoke about the need to bring more than just football to the stadium – that is where fellow investor Simon Fuller, creator of American Idol, comes in.

The expansion of MLS into what will soon be a 22-franchise competition, will mark it out as one of the world’s most-watched leagues.

If Manchester City and New York City FC hit the mark in the Big Apple, and Beckham does similar in Florida, then America could have its very own Clasico duo to lead its quest to make MLS globally relevant and attractive to players in their prime. The signings of Michael Bradley to Toronto showed that the fiscal prudence that defined MLS in its early days is less restrictive and if teams have the money then they are entitled to spend it.

There will be no shortage of currency on offer in New York or Miami to make that happen.

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Robben: Bayern the best club in the world

The Dutchman is more than happy with life at the Bundesliga champions and is in the process of extending his deal with the Bavarians

Arjen Robben says he has no intention of leaving Bayern Munich as he feels his current club are arguably the best in the world and a move elsewhere would be a step down.

The 30-year-old has been with Bayern since the summer of 2009, winning numerous trophies with the Bavarians in the past few seasons.

Robben is determined to add more silverware to his trophy cabinet in the years to come.

“It could very well be that Bayern are my last club. We have an amazing team and I am happy here. The future is looking bright. I want to win a few more titles and I’m at the perfect club to achieve this,” he told Bild.

“Plus I can’t really move up any more. You always want to play for a bigger club when you’re young, but there’s no bigger club than Bayern.

“I already played for Chelsea and Real Madrid at a young age, but I play for the best club in the world now and can no longer make a step up.”

The Dutchman then revealed that he is on the verge of signing a two-year extension to his current contract, which expires in 2015.

“We will have one more meeting and it will all be done then if we’re all happy with it. Both parties have the intention to renew and it’s a matter of details now,” he continued.

“There’s definitely no problem about wages like I read somewhere. That’s nonsense.”

Nurnberg-Bayern Munich Preview: Dominant Bavarians expected to win once again

Nurnberg will likely hold little hope of boosting their Bundesliga survival hopes against dominant leaders Bayern Munich on Saturday.

Pep Guardiola’s men are well on course to win back-to-back titles, sitting 13 points clear of Bayer Leverkusen after 19 matchdays having dropped just four points all season.

Despite suffering a scare at Stuttgart, when they required two goals in the final 14 minutes to clinch victory, Bayern have begun the second half of the season in much the same way as they ended the first.

Guardiola’s side have conceded just twice in the league since beating Hoffenheim 2-1 at the start of November and have scored 19 goals in their last five Bundesliga matches.

Indeed, Bayern have scored as many goals in the top flight this season as strugglers Eintracht Frankfurt, Eintracht Braunschweig and Freiburg combined – finding the net 51 times. 

While Nurnberg failed to score against Bayern in two attempts last year, losing 4-0 and 2-0 at the Allianz Arena, they secured a point in the sides’ last fixture at the Grundig Stadion in November 2012.

Were Gertjan Verbeek’s men to record an unlikely victory, and just their third in the league this season, it would provide a huge boost to their survival hopes.

Currently 15th in the league, Nurnberg could climb as high as 12th with victory but would need a host of other results to go their way.

They will go into the clash with confidence, having won both of their Bundesliga matches in 2014 – overcoming Hoffenheim 4-0 and Hertha Berlin 3-1 – and drawing the three before them.

Josip Drmic will be the man most likely to add to Bayern’s tally of nine goals conceded, having scored five times in his last four games.

In what has been a prolific Bayern forward line this season, Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben will pose problems as they continue to approach full fitness after returning from injuries in recent weeks.

Martinez: Bayern can defend all five titles in 2014

The Spaniard believes that Pep Guardiola’s men can retain every trophy they won last year and says the players are driven by squad competitivity

Javi Martinez thinks Bayern Munich are capable of repeating the feats of 2013, a year that saw the club win five trophies.

The Bavarians currently hold the Champions League, Uefa Super Cup, Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal and Club World Cup, and the former Athletic Bilbao midfielder wants to do it again.

“Yes, I think this team could do this,” Martinez, 25, told Sport Bild when asked if a repeat of history was possible. “We have the quality to make a milestone in the history of football.”

Martinez hasn’t featured for die Roten since picking up an injury at the Club World Cup in December, but is eager to return to a squad that has become so competitive.

“Each of us has concern over playing,” Martinez added. “That’s it, what drives us in this season to be even better. No one knows what’s going to happen.”

When quizzed on his favoured position, after Guardiola’s rotation of the Spaniard in midfield and defence, it was a straightforward answer from the Spain international.

“I am midfield player,” he said, “because I feel there I am a little better than in other positions.”

Schweinsteiger edging closer to comeback

The Germany international is set to return to match action after spending the past three months on the sidelines due to injury

Bastian Schweinsteiger has handed Bayern Munich a boost after returning to training following a lengthy injury lay-off.

The Germany international last featured for Bayern in the Champions League win over Viktoria Plzen on November 5 and has since been out of action due to an ankle injury.

Schweinsteiger was close to making his comeback about four weeks ago during Bayern’s training camp in Qatar, but he then picked up a knee problem that saw him sidelined for an additional month.

Nevertheless, the 29-year-old is now raring to go again after resuming regular training on Wednesday.

“Schweinsteiger completed the whole session including the initial tactical drills, carried out behind closed doors, then the football fitness course ending with a shot at goal and the final three-against-three tournament,” a statement on the Bayern website reads.

The midfielder has so far made 10 Bundesliga appearances this term, scoring once in the process.