Real Madrid: Is Toni Kroos not being used to his full capability?

Toni Kroos of Real Madrid (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
Toni Kroos of Real Madrid (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images) /

Real Madrid have arguably the world’s finest passer controlling the pitch, but it seems like the attacking struggles are hiding Toni Kroos’ talent.

There are so many debates around who is the best midfielder in the world, but Real Madrid star Toni Kroos undoubtedly stands with the likes of Kevin de Bruyne and Thiago on that shortlist. Kroos has been at the top of the game for the last several years, barring a downturn in form in 2018-2019, and he is an important fulcrum for Los Blancos.

Kroos’ passing accuracy is astounding. Per, the 30-year-old completed 93.5 percent of his passes in the league and 93.8 percent of his passes in the Champions League. Kroos did the latter while averaging more key passes per game than anyone during the competition’s group stages.

But after the first six Matchdays of the 2020-2021 La Liga season, it feels like Kroos’ gifts aren’t yielding the best results. It was disheartening to see him in an uncomfortable position as the most central midfielder between Luka Modric and Isco against Cadiz, and his performances suffered accordingly.

It has, however, been most frustrating to see Kroos’ passing and creativity gone to waste because of the issues in the attack.

Real Madrid’s attack isn’t giving Toni Kroos chances for killer passes

Managing Madrid’s Matt Wiltse did an excellent job of breaking down how static Real’s attack was against Cadiz on Saturday, including highlighting a specific play in which Kroos wanted to make a pass in behind the defense but nobody made the run.

The Cadiz game is a glaring microcosm of Real’s attacking issues, because these are not new issues for Zinedine Zidane to deal with since his second stint as the club’s manager. Flooding the central regions of the field and crowding the area around the penalty box makes it difficult for players to find passing or even shooting lanes.

And that hurts Kroos. We know how adept the technical maestro is at scoring from long distance, because he did it several times early in the 2019-2020 season as an attacking midfielder. He also had a delicious goal from long range against Eibar this summer, showing that unstoppable finesse shot of his. Kroos isn’t getting those same opportunities now, because defenses know it’s coming from that left side and the movement isn’t there to generate those windows.

More importantly, Kroos isn’t able to make those precise, dropped-in-a-bucket early crosses or through passes. Those longer-distance key passes can cut apart a defense from nowhere, but Real Madrid haven’t been able to give him those chances.

Toni Kroos can be a bigger asset to Real Madrid’s attack

Maybe giving more opportunities to Rodrygo Goes (on the left) and Luka Jovic can help, since those two players are great at getting into goal-scoring positions and making those necessary movements in the box. But by and large, the issue with Real Madrid seems to be systemic and requires changes from Zidane.

Toni Kroos is a real weapon in Real’s side. Every opposing manager and player speaks glowingly of the German international, understanding the asset he is to any side. Zidane needs to do a better job of unlocking the world-class midfielder’s ability, because Real are leaving chances on the table when the attacking movement and processes are too unimaginative.

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Note that Kroos has 3.3 key passes per game this season but zero assists. In the four seasons prior to 2018-2019, he never had fewer than seven assists. Those are some additional stats to chew on, because, theoretically, Kroos should be even better at this age as a passer and midfield conductor.