For some strange reason, Toni Kroos was the subject of very intense criticism this week. The Real Madrid center midfielder, in truth, had not been at his best in a few games in 2022, but anyone who actually understands Kroos’ strengths, the gameplan of the opponents, the approach taken by Carlo Ancelotti, and the flow of the games would say that these matches were not suited to the veteran midfielder.
Kroos, like many players, has been suffering during the past couple of years with a condensed schedule and the demands of constantly chasing titles. We are talking about a 32-year-old player who plays multiple times per week and even played through a hip injury last year.
Even so, he’s been great in 2021/22. Kroos is averaging two key passes per game and 1.6 fouls drawn per game in LaLiga. His pass completion percentages in the league (94.9) and Champions League (94.4) are outrageous for a player who is attempting more than 82 and 67 passes per game in these respective competitions.
Yet respect is fickle in football. Even a player who has been successful at the top level for a decade and defined role can be met with cries of “washed” and “must be replaced” after one bad game. Yes, Kroos did have an off night against Chelsea. But 1) It was ONE off night, 2) He was not the only one who struggled, and 3) Anyone could tell you that a game in which Real had no midfield control and were constantly forced to defend transitions was better-suited for Eduardo Camavinga.
Toni Kroos controlled Sevilla during Real Madrid’s sensational comeback
Those exaggerated remarks from opportunistic critics – many of whom sincerely have nothing to do with Real Madrid or even any sort of serious football analysis – were answered emphatically by Kroos in Sunday night’s important LaLiga match against Sevilla.
The Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan is never an easy place to play, as exemplified by the fact that Julen Lopetegui’s side had never lost at home in 2021/22. And it looked like they would reach another victory, having scored two quick goals before the half-hour mark.
In truth, Kroos had a bit of a slow start to the match, as did many of his teammates, including other superstar-caliber players like Karim Benzema and Vinicius Jr. But by the end of the match, all scored high marks, with Kroos being among the true standouts with an 8.5 match rating.
He was in absolute top form. If this excellent article by Mehedi Hassan Pranggon for Managing Madrid didn’t quell the doubters, then Toni Kroos provided a visual representation – really, a clinic – of how to settle a team and make everyone around him greater than the sum of their parts.
Kroos controlled a Sevilla side that is usually in control at home. He made Joan Jordan and the rest of their midfield look powerless, as he took over the game and pulled the strings, quietly, yet masterfully, planning moves from deep.
In the end, he completed 94.6 percent of his 92 pass attempts, adding three tackles and two interceptions to add defensive solidity to the on-the-ball intelligence, neat passing, and purposeful recycling that helped Real Madrid score three second-half goals to turn the tide of this decisive LaLiga battle.
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Those who doubt Kroos have consistently proven two things. Firstly, that they know precious little about the beautiful game. And secondly, that they will, sooner rather than later, be embarrassed by this beautiful game’s most serene, yet most deadly effective, conductor. After all, they don’t call him the sniper for nothing.