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Bayern Munich

The case for the three candidates

Ballon d'Or
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 By Susie Schaaf

Bayern is bigger than Toni Kroos

On Sep. 26, 2007, I found myself in Munich for the Oktoberfest and went to the Allianz Arena to see Bayern Munich take on lowly Energie Cottbus. In the 71st minute, there was a triple substitution by then-coach Ottmar Hitzfeld: Bastian Schweinsteiger for Franck Ribery, Lukas Podolski for Luca Toni, and 17 year-old wunderkind Toni Kroos for Ze Roberto.

Young Kroos had a meteoric rise to Bayern's senior team after coming over from Hansa Rostock's youth set-up, and he didn't disappoint on his debut. My friends and I watched in awe as this kid zipped down the left flank, serving up two fine crosses for Miroslav Klose to complete the striker's hat trick in just 18 minutes of play.

What a way to make an impression. Unfortunately for him, his fast start failed to carry on to the 2008-09 Bundesliga season, and having made only nine Hinrunde appearances for the club, the first of Kroos' grumblings started as he asked out of Bayern. FCB, unwilling to let the talented youngster leave completely, instead loaned him out to Bayer Leverkusen to gain match experience under Jupp Heynckes.

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He'd come into his own under Heynckes, and his nine goals in in the 2009-10 season helped propel die Werkself into a Champions League spot.

And although both Kroos and Leverkusen were keen to remain partnered up, Bayern remained firm and got him back for the 2010-11 season. "It is not important whether I want to remain with Bayer Leverkusen," the midfielder said at the time, "If Bayern Munich wants me back then, I will have to return to the club."

That season, under Louis van Gaal, was disastrous for Kroos, as he was used in defensive midfield behind a marauding Schweinsteiger. Van Gaal, for all his great recognition of talent, got this one wrong.

Kroos' lack of defensive prowess and lack of speed meant he'd be caught out against better, quicker opposition and unable to let his true offensive qualities shine. But he'd return to winning ways the next year -- partnered again with mentor Heynckes, and would become an integral part of the squad; culminating in Bayern Munich's 2013 treble-winning season.

Toni Kroos at Real Madrid's presentation at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.

With Kroos' contract ending after the end of the 2014-2015 season, negotiations started between the player and the club midway through last season. Those talks stalled quickly as Kroos and his agent, Volker Struth, asked for salary commensurate with the likes of Mario Gotze, Robert Lewandowski, Ribery and Schweinsteiger (around 10 million euros per season). On four million euros a year himself, he'd reportedly ask for double and was smartly turned down by the Bayern brass.

To make things worse, he and Struth would use interest from Manchester United to fan the flames, trying to get Bayern to acquiesce to his wage demands. It worked -- for a short time as Bayern chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and co. would come back with a smaller counter-offer. That, of course, was rejected by the player and his agent as their whole scheme backfired completely.

Struth and Kroos' mistake was thinking that they could push the Bayern brass around. And if you know anything about Bayern Munich, you know knew that the midfielder's time with the club was quickly coming to an end.

The question now was -- would Bayern keep Kroos for the 2014-15 season and let him walk for free, a la Lewandowski and Borussia Dortmund? Or, would Munich try to get as much money as possible for him with just one year left on his contract? The 10 million euro signing of Juan Bernat from Valencia signalled Bayern's intentions, as the left-back frees up David Alaba to start in his natural position -- holding midfield.

While Manchester United had Kroos on their want-list under David Moyes, the interest would be rescinded after van Gaal's appointment as manager; remembering the two had a disaster of their time together at Bayern Munich. But, as soon as Man United was off the table, Real Madrid came calling and here we are today.

Bayern will have been glad Kroos was shortlisted for the Golden Ball award at the World Cup, as it certainly increased his market value, and Madrid was willing to let go of a reported 30 million euros for him.

"We thank Toni Kroos for his time in Munich," Rummenigge said in the official news release, "We have achieved great success here together with him. We wish him and his family all the best in Madrid and with Real."

Finally, this agonisingly protracted transfer comes to a close. You won't find many Reds supporters that are upset over the conclusion, as it's been playing out for months now. And Kroos has long been known as a bit of an outsider -- not quite a team player. And his lack of a true connection showed in his Facebook message, as he didn't thank the fans of Bayern for their support of him over the past eight years.

In the end, Real Madrid gets an uber-talented midfielder, and Bayern -- what do they get beyond the transfer fee? Possibly nothing but money. And money may be the only thing Kroos gets out of the deal, as well. But, this proves -- once again -- that no one person is bigger than Bayern Munich. No one.

Susie Schaaf

Susie Schaaf is longtime blogger for ESPN. She co-hosts the only English-speaking Bayern Munich podcast @Rekord_Pod and talks Bundesliga on BBC World Service and SiriusXM FC. Follow her on Twitter @fussballsusie.