Real Madrid: The One and Only Toni Kroos

MILAN, ITALY - MAY 28: Toni Kroos in action for Real Madrid during the UEFA Champions League Final match between Real Madrid and Club Atletico de Madrid at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on May 28, 2016 in Milan, Italy. Real Madrid won the match 5-3 on penalties. (Photo by Bob Thomas/Popperfoto/Getty Images).
MILAN, ITALY - MAY 28: Toni Kroos in action for Real Madrid during the UEFA Champions League Final match between Real Madrid and Club Atletico de Madrid at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on May 28, 2016 in Milan, Italy. Real Madrid won the match 5-3 on penalties. (Photo by Bob Thomas/Popperfoto/Getty Images). /

Real Madrid star Toni Kroos is perhaps the most versatile footballer in the world of football right now.

The German has the ability to slot himself into any given position in midfield; whether that be playing as a defensive midfielder, centrally midfielder, or an attacking midfielder.

He possess this gift; a gift any midfielder in the world would love to have. His abilities to slot into any position in midfield and perform at the highest level is uncanny. He was born and bred as a midfielder who can read, and allocate where he should direct the next pass.  In order to understand Toni Kroos’ style of play, it very important to know his upbringing into the world of football.


Kroos footballing career began with his local club Greifswalder FC. On July 1, 2002 Kroos made a free transferred to FC Hansa stock Youth. He spent the next four years of his career playing for FC Hansa Rodstock Youth under his father. Kroos was quick to mentioned the importance and the impact his father had in his development as a footballer.

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He said while he was at Rostock, the club itself didn’t really help him develop as a footballer. He said out of the four years he was at Rodstock, three and half of those years was his father who trained him the most. Everything he learned as a footballer happens because of his father.

The reason is, Rodstock did not have an  infrastructure on how to develop young players. In order for Kroos to develop and attune his style  as a footballer, it was necessary for him to move away from Rodstock. On July 1, 2006 Kroos parted ways with Rostock and sign for FC Bayern Munich. The transfer fee was 2.3 million euro.

In 2007 Toni Kroos was able to break into the first team. Even though Kroos, was a brilliant player, getting game times under Klinsmann was hard. On January 31, 2009 the club and Toni decided it was best for him to make a move somewhere in order for him to find playing time and develop.

Kroos made a move to Bayer 04 Leverkusen and with substantial playing time, he was able to attune his playing style to what we know now. In the Summer of 2010 Toni Kroos returned to Bayern Munich. Upon his return, he was automatically a very important player for the team.

Around December, before the 2014 world cup, Kroos began the contract renewal negotiation. Bayern Munich was unable to match the fee Kroos requested. In attempt for the club to make some money (instead of losing him for free) they sold him knowing he was an integral part of the team.

In the summer of 2014 Kroos signed for Real Madrid for a sum of 25 million Euro. Kroos later said, he was confident in his abilities and he was a starter. The coach had full faith in him and the amount he requested were more than fair, but Bayern did not want to give him the amount he wanted.


Before joining Real Madrid, Ancelotti called Kroos and ensured him he will be an integral part of his team. Since Ancelotti wanted to play possession oriented football, he knew how important it was to have Kroos.

Even though Kroos was an attacking midfielder who occasionally play as deep-lying play-maker at Bayern, upon his arrival at Madrid, Ancelotti fully trusted him as an anchor in the 4-3-3 formation. Ancelotti has the knack of turning intelligent passer into deep-lying play-makers. He had done so with Pirlo when he was at Milan. He transformed Pirlo into one of the best deep-lying playmaker the world has ever seen.


Toni Kroos is an attacking midfielder. Due to his high footballing IQ and the ability to pass the ball with accuracy, he can slot into many positions in midfield. However, he is not defensively sounds (like most attacking midfielders in the world). Kroos operates best as deep-lying play-maker when he has a destroyer next to him.

When he plays for Bayern Munich as a deep-lying playmaker, he had Schweinsteger who carried the defensive overload. In Madrid, he is given the job to do both. He had to initiate attack from deep, and cover for our defenders, midfielders who at any giver opportunity, enjoy venturing forward. Kroos did relatively well but he wasn’t great because he wasn’t a natural anchor (ala Sergio Busquets).

football formations
football formations /

The above picture illustrates some of Kroos weaknesses when plays as an anchor. Generally when the ball is on the wing and the LB pushes in to defend the ball, by instinct, the anchor should slot into the space vacated by the LB (left back) to avoid any hole in defense. Kroos opt stay in central midfield area because that is what he used to.

By failing to cover for spaces in defense, the opposition CM or even a CF can exploit these spaces. This illustration was one of the major problems under Ancelotti. Casemiro, a pure bred CDM has been able to do that by instinct ever since Zidane took over this year.

When Gareth Bale was sideline because of injuries,  Ancelotti decided to change formation. The Real Madrid boss decided to do away with  the 4-3-3 formation that has brought him success in the previous year.

Instead, he opted to  played the 4-4-2 with Ronaldo and Karim Benzema as the spearhead while Toni Kroos and Luca Modric operated as the two central midfielders along Isco and James Rodriguez.

The 4-4-2 formation allowed Kroos to operate with more freedom because his partner in crime Luka Modric was able to do the “dirty work.” Due to the freedom Kroos’ was allowed, he was able to control and dictate the tempo of the game. Real Madrid were able to went on an unprecedented 22 games winning streak in the club’s history.

Under Benitez, Kroos wasn’t given the same freedom he once had under Ancelotti. Benitez tactics at time was questionable and sometimes flawed (even though Benitez is one of the best tacticians in the world). Kroos ability to distribute the ball (his best quality) hinders.

When Zidane took over, he knew it is very important to remove Kroos from his defensive duties. He slot a very prominent Casemiro into the line up as an anchor and pushes Kroos into the central midfielder role. In Kroos’ new position, with much more afforded freedom, he is able to find his form once again.


In order to fully comprehend the tactically breakdown of Kroos’ way of playing football, it is imperative to understand his style-of-play. Kroos style-of-play resemble (in recent memory) resemble those of Xavi Hernandez–the once upon a time Barcelona Maestro. Kroos was born to play football. He has the gift and abilities to play football and make it seems simple. When was Xavi for barcelona, he was a player that play simple yet effective football.

When Xavi was a Barcelona player, he was the orchestrator. The whole team play to his rhythm including the opposition. Xavi operated best when he drops deep into half-spaces (at times deeper than Busquets) to collect the ball and start plays. Kroos does the same thing for Real Madrid and Germany.

In multiple occasions during a game, Toni Kroos would drop deep and at times deeper than Casemiro to collect the ball and orchestrate plays. This style is calm, collective and repetitive. This style-of-play is not alway pleasing to some viewers, but it is important for possession football.

In a recent interview, Kroos is able to talk about his style-of-play. Here’s the conversation between him and the interviewer: “People say you are a dry quiet person, why do you think that is so?”

“perhaps people judge me based on my way of playing football. I’m not exactly the most spectacular player, but rather controlling player who likes to control games. i guess it’s not that exciting to see me play without spectacular scenes in the box, my play look rather simple. But for it to look simple that’s the hardest part and many people don’t realize that. So I’m not the center of attention most of the time.”

Johan Cruff once said, “Football is simple, but it is difficult to play simple.” Kroos play simple yet effective football. Most football viewers, especially the novices only cares about the output. What most novices forget to understand is, in order for the output to take place, what Toni Kroos does on the ball needs to happen first.

When Toni Kroos intently make those short penetrating passes to him teammates, he is orchestrating plays (mostly from deep positions) that will lead to the goal or the assist whether from him or from someone else.


Xavi Hernandez emphasized the use of space. He said when he is playing all he tries to do is allocate half-spaces. When Kroos play, he seems to always be on the move looking for space. Whether that space be in his half or the opposition half. He is able to find and use spaces to his advantage.

He always have enough time on the ball to make the right pass and the right decision. It isn’t easy to focus, while simultaneously look for space in a game. Kroos does it with relative ease. Space is control! Space is a footballer best friend. Kroos’ ability to find space allows him time to make the pass, whether that be short or long.


There aren’t many players who are as composed on the ball as Toni Kroos. Toni Kroos composure on the ball is similar to Modric, and Iniesta. Yes, Iniesta is an outstanding dribbler, but he is also very compost on the ball. He is just like Toni Kroos, They never panic under pressure.

He intent to always, always find the next pass. He once said “I have always put trust in my ability in every situation.” He knows what he can do on and off the ball. He isn’t afraid to lose the ball because he believes there are bigger things to worry about other than football. This knowledge allows him to stay compose no matter the pressure.


Playing simple football is never easy. It is one of the hardest thing to do. It is a pinnacle of every footballer’s dream. Real Madrid have a gem on their hands; a player that can  dictate a game without breaking a sweat. He is able to predict one, two, or even three passes ahead before he receive the ball. He is smart, compose and effective.  Hopefully, Real Madrid can keep him for many more years to come.