Toni Kroos made his 100th La Liga appearance this weekend for Real Madrid. Signed in 2014, the German midfielder has been a superb addition to the Spanish side. Still only 27 years-old, Kroos has had a decorated career. A World Cup winner, three time Champions League winner, La Liga winner, multiple Bundesliga titles, as well as a whole host of other Cup wins. The German maestro has been integral to these successes at both club level and on the international stage.
Naturally Ronaldo, Bale, and Benzema get all the headlines and plaudits for scoring goals. The majority of football audiences crave goalmouth action and all other facets of the game tend to go unnoticed and underappreciated. Without question, all three players deserve huge credit for Madrid’s success but few will talk about the influence of Toni Kroos to everything. In the wake of Neymar’s big money move to Paris, I saw an interesting question making the rounds on Twitter this week.
“If Messi, Ronaldo and Neymar are the best 3 players in the world, who is the 4th best?”
The question generated a bit of discussion; a lot of people suggesting the likes of Suarez, Lewandowski, Modric, Dybala, Isco, Griezmann, Hazard to name but a few. To be honest, I’d question Neymar’s inclusion in the top three but that take is for another day. For me, Toni Kroos is easily the best footballer in the world outside Messi and Ronaldo. Watching Kroos, it always seems like he has so much time on the ball when in reality he’s being pressed hard by the opposition. That’s just testament to his composure on the ball while making the difficult look so easy. His signature first-touch-second-touch-drive has left many a presser for dead. Kroos is an absolute joy to watch.
Kroos can do it all as a midfield player. Much has been made of what exactly his best position is. He can play the box-to-box role, holding defensive midfield role, as well as both the deep-lying playmaker role and playing in the hole. As complete footballers go, there’s arguably no one more complete than Kroos. No question Kroos’ greatest strength is his accurate distribution of the ball. Since joining Real Madrid in 2014, he has averaged 91% passing accuracy for both club and country. That’s phenomenal when you consider how much of the ball both Germany and Real Madrid have in the vast majority of games. Just a staggeringly impressive statistic. It’s not like he’s only attempting and completing five-yard passes sideways and back. The German’s range of passing is unrivalled; game-changing through balls and cross field pingers are all part of Kroos’ repertoire. It’s incisive and effecting. Last season, Kroos dished out twelve assists. Only Luis Suarez dished out more. Kroos is the guy with the key to unlock the opposition’s defence.
Perhaps not an obvious leader and not the most vocal, Kroos’ influence on games is clear for all to see in how he dictates the pace of play. If the killer, game-changing pass isn’t on, ball retention remains the key focus for Kroos. Toni Kroos is the centre of everything good on the pitch and most importantly he makes his teammates better. He’s the conductor of a high-powered orchestra in Madrid. Dare I say, with Xabi Alonso’s recent retirement, Toni Kroos is the rightful heir to The Pass Master’s throne.