Toni Kroos is back at his best, and the Germany game against the Ukraine at EURO 2016 proved beyond doubt that he is an exceptionally gifted player.
On Sunday night, the Germans took the lead through defender Shkodran Mustafi’s header, with the right-back getting above Serhiy Sydorchuk to head a Kroos free-kick beyond the outstretched hand of Andriy Pyatov, before Bastian Schweinsteiger sealed victory with seconds on the clock.
But it was Kroos’ involvement in that first goal and the way that he ran the game that stood out. 130 passes during the match outshone every other player and even when the opposition looked tired, Kroos was still orchestrating the German team and played a commanding role.
Kroos’ assist for the breakthrough and generally outstanding vision means that he became Man Of The Match for many. He created five chances, produced six crosses and a further four dribbles. Of those 130 passes, an impressive 38 were in the attacking third.
Despite the German team looking unsettled in certain areas during the match, Kroos’ eye for a pass, short or long, rarely went astray and the same has been seen in Madrid since Zinedine Zidane took over the reins of Los Blancos.
After only a handful of games under the Frenchman, the stats for Kroos clearly showed that compared to the 20 passes per game he’d previously played under Rafa Benitez, Kroos averaged 20 more passes in each match, with the success rate of those passes also up by a further 2%. Furthermore, the German midfielder was getting on the ball much, much more and assisted 0.66 goals per game, an increase on the 0.25 he was managing under Benitez.
A useful partnership with Luka Modric, and a better connection with Gareth Bale, has seen Real Madrid’s play alter almost overnight and Kroos’ form has been rejuvenated. Zidane gave him more freedom, more movement to dictate and the German coach also used Kroos to his best advantage and the 26-year-old stole the show on Sunday.
He can pass, dribble, tackle, he has terrific vision and he can score goals. His all round play is underrated, but when you play in a league with the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, you would expect to be somewhat out of the limelight at times.
On Germany’s performance against Ukraine, Kroos admitted that the team needed to do better saying: “This is just the beginning. Winning 2-0 and not conceding is great for self-confidence. We had our impressions throughout this game, we passed well in the spaces.
“We’re not at the level that we want to achieve in this tournament, but it’s quite a nice feeling.”
In the last day or so, Real’s pursuit of France’s Paul Pogba has upset Juventus. So, as a way of testing the Spanish sides true intent and with the idea of deterring any further approaches, Juventus are now demanding a large cash figure, plus Kroos.
Kroos is an integral part of the midfield set-up at the Santiago Bernabeu so it is difficult to envisage a scenario where Real Madrid give up a large amount of money along with a player who, himself, is probably worth at least €60m in today’s market.
What Germany and Real have is a leading central midfielder, capable of complete vision across the field of play, where he provides the necessary assists. His versatility suggests he can play anywhere along the middle of the park and as England saw recently, he can strike a ball with accuracy.
During the 2014 World Cup, Kroos finished top of the FIFA rankings for the most complete player at the tournament. Kroos contributed two goals and four assists during his side’s win in Brazil. In the incredible 7-1 semi-final win over Brazil, he ran the game from the middle of the park, scoring twice, laying on another and winning the Man of the Match award.
That is Toni Kroos at his best.
It is therefore incredible to think that Louis van Gaal vetoed a chance to sign the midfielder two years ago when he left Bayern Munich and then again this year. United signed Ander Herrera from Athletic Bilbao instead in 2014 and Kroos’ Germany team-mate, Bastian Schweinsteiger, the following year. Manchester United had re-ignited their interest in Kroos recently, but it was reported that LVG would not permit his transfer. The claim is even more remarkable given the Dutchman managed Kroos and helped him come through the ranks at the Allianz Arena.
However, as the EUROs progress, if Kroos can amplify his abilities on the European stage this summer, his value, should any club come knocking, could increase by another €10m-€20m. The World Cup and Champions League winner has turned a corner in 2016 and who would bet against him and Germany collecting yet another title?
The fact remains that the World Cup winner is once again the Toni Kroos that first arrived in Spain 18 months ago.