Real Madrid CM Toni Kroos
He was signed for just €25 million in the summer of 2014 after an overly impressive 2014 World Cup, even getting himself on the scoresheet in the 7-1 drubbing of Brazil in the semi-final. He was the dictator in midfield for the Germans.
At just 24, he was a part of a Germany team that was full of world-class, highly experienced players. He managed to shine and steal the limelight in a squad that consisted of the likes of Miroslav Klose, Mesut Özil, and Bastian Schweinsteiger.
Kroos was a regular in the starting line-up under Carlo Ancelotti in his first season and was a calming presence in the midfield that was completed by James Rodríguez and Luka Modrić, both of whom are more offensive-minded midfielders.
His impeccable passing has become a hallmark of his game at Real Madrid. He is one of the best passers in Europe’s top five leagues in the last five years. He doesn’t do anything fancy on the pitch as Isco or Modrić do, but very few people can understand the importance of having such a midfielder on the pitch.
The way he orchestrates the play from the deep, functions as a link between defence and attack, funnels or recycles possession, are all crucial aspects of his playing style that go beyond scoring and assisting goals.
His footballing IQ is one of the highest, which is why he is consistently ranked amongst the best midfielders over the better part of the last decade. He can conjure long balls and cross-field passes out of nowhere that can catch the best of defences napping — his influence on how Real Madrid play is magnificent.
Earlier this year, Real Madrid’s Casemiro acknowledged the importance of Toni Kroos in the documentary based on the German. He explained, “He’s one of the most important players in the team because he sets the rhythm the team plays at in the way he manages the ball.”
“If Toni wants the team to slow things down, the team will go a little slower – or if he wants to up the pace, the team will play a little faster. So basically, the way we play is determined by Toni Kroos,” added Casemiro.
He was a vital cog in Real Madrid’s holy midfield trinity during the three-year European reign between 2015-16 and 2017-18. Legendary former AC Milan manager Arrigo Sacchi once said that the battle in midfield determines the outcome of big matches. Toni Kroos epitomized (and continues to do so) that phrase countless times during the big nights. Had it not been for him, the midfield battle would’ve probably been lost almost every time.