Real Madrid and Germany midfielder Toni Kroos has said he was perceived as a “Nazi” after he criticized former teammate Mesut Ozil over his bitter exit from international football.
Ozil quit the German team in the aftermath of their ignominious exit at the group stage of the 2018 World Cup in Russia, claiming he had been made a scapegoat for Germany’s failings and that he was the target of racism at numerous levels due to his Turkish heritage.
Kroos – who won the World Cup alongside Ozil in Brazil in 2014 – was critical of the way in which the playmaker handled his departure, saying at the time that “Mesut is a deserved international and as a player he deserved a better departure. But the way he resigned was not in order.
“The parts in his statement that are rightly addressed are unfortunately overshadowed by the significantly higher amount of nonsense.
“I think he knows very well that racism within the national team and the DFB (German football federation) does not exist.”
Speaking in an Instagram Live chat with German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the 31-year-old Real Madrid star has now claimed he was branded a Nazi for those comments.
“After the 2018 World Cup I said that I did not like the retirement of Mesut Ozil and the manner in which he did it,” Kroos said, Goal reported.
“And then I was directly a Nazi for a lot of people: blond, blue eyes … everything fit for a lot of people.
“I managed to overcome it, anyone can hide behind a fake profile and then insult other people without anything to stop them.”
Ozil went from being crowned his nation’s player of the year for five out of six seasons in 2011-2016, before becoming something of a pariah.
Germany’s build-up to the World Cup in Russia was overshadowed by accusations of mixed loyalties and questionable conduct after Ozil and teammate Ilkay Gundogan – also a German international of Turkish heritage – were photographed with Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Ozil was unrepentant and has grown closer to Erdogan, even having the Turkish president as the best man at his wedding.
The 32-year-old star left Arsenal in January to join Turkish giants Fenerbahce.
Kroos, meanwhile, continues to play for Germany and reached 100 caps for his country in their game against Switzerland in October.