Toni Kroos questions Leroy Sané’s attitude as Germany regroup | Football

Toni Kroos has criticised the attitude of Leroy Sané, claiming his Germany teammate’s body language suggests he does not care whether the national team win or lose.

Germany host the world champions, France, on Thursday in the Uefa Nations League, their first outing since an early World Cup exit that has prompted extensive soul-searching. Sané has been reinstated to Joachim Löw’s squad after being dropped for Russia 2018; it is a boost to the player after Pep Guardiola omitted him from Manchester City’s squad for the win over Newcastle on Saturday, but Kroos strongly suggested the forward may not be helping himself.

“Sometimes you have the feeling with Leroy’s body language that it is all the same whether we win or lose,” Kroos said. “He has to improve his body language. He’s a player who has everything you need to be a world-class player but sometimes you have to tell him he has to perform better.

“He was fantastic for City last year but Pep has the same problem at the moment – he’s trying to get the best out of him so he can perform better. If he performs, he’s a real weapon, honestly. He has the quality especially for us, but maybe the head coach looked at his performances for the national team and wasn’t happy.”

Kroos’s words brought a surprisingly forthright ending to a press conference that had, until that point, appeared to cover Germany’s woes comprehensively. How strong a competitive edge the Nations League generates will become apparent over time, but France’s visit is imbued with more significance than anyone could have expected when the draw was made in January. Germany, no longer the world’s best international team, must restart after crashing out during the group stage but the German football federation (DFB) must also clear the storm clouds that have gathered since Mesut Özil’s incendiary retirement from the Nationalmannschaft.

“We’ve shown the absolute opposite of what has been claimed,” Kroos said when asked about the suggestions of institutional racism prompted by his former colleague’s decision. “It’s a unique and special situation with Mesut but when it comes to what was said about the DFB and the president [Reinhard Grindel], I totally don’t agree with that. The team has been a good role model for the entire society and shown how multiculturalism works. All players can be welcome in our team.”

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Löw, questioned on the same topic, reiterated that he was yet to speak to the Arsenal midfielder but said he would attempt to do so next week. “He’s said he doesn’t want to play, he told us his thoughts, I don’t know why we should we keep talking about it,” Löw said. “He was part of the team for a long time but not any more, for this team it’s over and he’s not part of our thoughts any more.”

That is just one of the on-pitch problems the Germany coach faces in resetting their trajectory. He admitted last week that he had been “almost arrogant” in refusing to compromise his possession-based tactics during the summer; then again there is a sense that it would be wrong to buckle in the face of excoriating local criticism. Nearly a decade of progress, Löw believes, should not be forgotten because of one disappointment.

“We’ve been really successful for the last eight years – it would be nonsense to change our style completely,” he said. “But against stronger teams you need to adapt. We won’t have 70-80% of the ball against France; we need to have that balance and focus on our defence.”

Coupled with Thomas Müller’s observation on Tuesday that he hoped Germany could “give the spectators the power football they want to see”, it underlined that, tactically as well as ideologically, they are grappling with identity questions on a level they have not faced since the early 2000s. France’s more cautious, predatory tactics present another way of skinning a cat and it was eye-opening to hear Kroos compare the two. “We don’t have the players France have,” Kroos said. “They can create chances out of nothing and score out of nothing. We need to find another way.”

Germany hope to demonstrate their unity on all fronts and may get the chance to do so at greater length when, on 27 September, Uefa chooses between their Euro 2024 bid and that of Turkey. The team manager, Oliver Bierhoff, left no doubt that a positive outcome would present a timely shot in the arm. “That’s the reason we have to get the European Championship in 2024,” he said when asked about the team’s status as a symbol of immigration. “To show the world that this country is different.”

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