Recent reports are that Toni Kroos is no closer to agreeing a contract extension with Bayern Munich. At this stage, it appears unlikely the German international will stay on with the Bavarian club, at least beyond next summer when his current deal runs out.
It initially seemed unthinkable that Bayern could allow such a player to move on. Though there are obvious flaws to Kroos’ game, the trouble at replacing him with a player of equal or better standard is far greater than simply offering the midfielder what he wants: parity with the other high earners at the club.
As of now, Manchester United, Chelsea and Real Madrid are the clubs who have made the most noise in declaring interest in the 24-year-old. For Real Madrid, it makes sense. Xabi Alonso is nearing the end of his career, Asier Illarramendi still has some way to go in order to properly fulfil his apparent role as Alonso’s heir, and Sami Khedira’s future, like Kroos’, remains clouded.
But United and Chelsea are also not shying away from this potential deal.
The Old Trafford outfit make the most sense – certainly on the surface. United need a midfielder who can supply the forward line, who can dictate the tempo of the game and generally give the team some personality in the middle of the pitch. Michael Carrick has offered some of those qualities, but he’s had a poor season by his standards, and his age, among other things at the club, necessitates the signing of a star midfielder.
The early signs were that United wanted to build their team around Kroos. There may be a wealth of attacking talent in the side in Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata, and, of course, Adnan Januzaj, but teams who are looking to play an attractive brand of football need to start their building from the midfield and work their way out.
It’s difficult to see where Kroos fits into the current Chelsea team. They’ve recently acquired Cesc Fabregas, and Nemanja Matic was brought back to the club in January and enjoyed a fantastic second half to the campaign. There is every possibility that Chelsea will line up with three in the midfield, but two players of the style of Kroos and Fabregas alongside one another just isn’t Jose Mourinho’s game.
The other drawback is Kroos’ temperament and his suitability to Mourinho’s team. The Portuguese isn’t known for setting up his teams to control the game with possession, but rather to frustrate and wait for openings. In high-profile games last season, notably Manchester City and Liverpool away, Chelsea were exemplary in shutting out both sides, two sides who had comfortably been the Premier League’s best attacking teams.
Kroos doesn’t work to such limitations. He’s a distributor, a possession-player of the highest calibre with the smarts to open up a defence. What he isn’t is a player known for the dirty work, the defensive side of the game and remaining disciplined. When faced against the wind, Kroos has a tendency to go missing.
United won’t be overly concerned about that. They need high quality and ornamentation added to their midfield. A defensive midfielder is also a must, but such is the state of the current squad, it isn’t a case of one or the other. Kroos alongside someone more defensively sound would be ideal for Louis van Gaal’s team.
Chelsea aren’t far off having the most complete team in the Premier League. A left-back of the quality of Filipe Luis would round out the team nicely, and it shouldn’t be forgotten just how much depth there is at the other end of the pitch. Diego Costa may not be the only centre-forward signing this summer.
But Kroos’ age, 24, makes him the ideal addition for United. Figures in the £20 million range have been thrown out; either that or Bayern accept that the player will leave on a free next summer.
With the budget available to van Gaal when he arrives following the World Cup, a fee in that region should be considered a bargain for a player who can be the team’s centrepiece well into the future.