CM Toni Kroos
The worst midfielder on the pitch for Real Madrid, Toni Kroos was highlighted as maybe the most decisive player for the Merengues against Manchester City. And in truth, he did end up deciding the game through his disappointing performance, and Madridistas are still flabbergasted that Carlo Ancelotti did not sub him at any point in the match. Instead, he took out Rodrygo Goes for Eduardo Camavinga to move Fede Valverde to the wing and then inexplicably took out his top performer, Luka Modric, for Dani Ceballos.
Kroos was destroyed defensively just as badly as he was in the second leg against Chelsea, when he was taken out directly for Camavinga. Much to his chagrin. (Maybe Carlo Ancelotti was afraid of another reaction like that!)
Real Madrid have seen volatile performances from Kroos, and he has been overrun in big Champions League games where the team does not have control. Overall, he’s had a good season, but this was another one of those games where Camavinga would have been better in. Casemiro was indeed missed.
DM Luka Modric
Meanwhile, Luka Modric was fantastic, and I truly believe football fans need to be talking more about the performance he had against Manchester City. Without him, Real Madrid would have never been able to keep the ball, carry the ball, or have a prayer at scoring three goals. Modric dribbled out of so many tight spaces, made so many great decisions, and had a few magical dribbles and passes that nearly led to something concrete for his team.
Modric is absolutely a Ballon d’Or candidate, and his excellence should not get overshadowed despite the fact that he was subbed and was not among the Madrid goal-scorers at the Etihad.
CM Fede Valverde
Fede Valverde was more effective on the wing than in midfield in this game, where he found it tough to move the ball against Manchester City’s elite and well-organized midfield group. Despit not being as influential on the ball, Valverde was very important off it, swarming City and stifling a few counterattacks with his tireless running. Valverde is an easy player to underrate, but I know in my heart that if he did not start this game, Madrid would have lost by three.