If Real Madrid win the Champions League, it will be thanks to Toni Kroos
The Germany international is aiming for a third straight Champions League title and his continual, reassuring presence has provided the platform for success.
Toni Kroos moved to the Spanish capital in the aftermath of the 2014 triumph, involved in a de-facto swap deal with Xabi Alonso.
Spanish international Alonso joined Bayern Munich with his departure from the Bernabeu viewed contemporarily as a significant blow.
It was his calming influence from the base of midfield which allowed Los Blancos to not only spring quick, flowing counter-attacks but also control possession and territory against sides of inferior quality.
In many ways, Kroos has enjoyed a similar impact at the Bernabeu.
Real Madrid have dominated the Champions League in recent seasons – they have won three of the last four titles and are on course for another in May, reaching the semi-final stage in seven successive seasons.
Forming a formidable midfield partnership with Luka Modric, the two have built a reputation of two of the calmest, most technically gifted players on the planet. With tough-tackling Casemiro shielding the back four, the two’s relative ineffectual defensive aspects are not exposed.
The pair have an incredible level of in-game awareness and both are totally assured with their own ability.
Such technical control allows Madrid to face all sorts of opposition – against lower-ranking opponents, they can dominate possession and territory while against more adventurous, prestigious opposition, they can sit deep, hold their shape and pick the right ‘out ball’ to allow their pacey and decisive attack to do damage.
While Modric’s qualities are more defined to the retention of possession and movement, Kroos is the slightly more offensive and adaptable of the two. He provides a direct goal threat by taking up positions outside the box and hitting adept efforts from range.
The German international is also supremely gifted at set pieces: we all remember flying headers from Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos, but we forget that it is usually the right foot of Kroos which delivered the chance.
Having won three Champions League titles with two different clubs alongside the World Cup in the space of five years, it is no wonder many consider the 28-year-old to be one of the finest footballers of his generation.
He comes up against former club Bayern Munich in the Champions League last four this time around and he is cited as the Bavarian giants one mistake – the one player who they foolishly created the conditions for a departure.
This will be the midfielder’s seventh straight semi-final of the competition – a feat not too many players can boast about.
When Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are removed from the equation, it is hard to ignore his status as one of Europe’s most influential footballers of the past decade.
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