After helping his country to win the 2014 World Cup, Toni Kroos left German champions Bayern Munich and joined Champions League winners Real Madrid in a deal worth nearly £24 million. Ever since then the 26-year-old star has been asked to play in a holding or defensive midfield role with the task of controlling possession and dictating play.
However, the German international first made a name for himself as an attacking midfielder and his natural instincts are to get forward. At the time that Kroos made his senior Bayern debut he was the youngest player to ever represent the Bavarian club and in that game he assisted two Miroslav Klose goals within 18 minutes of coming on as a substitute.
There’s no doubting that Kroos is a wonderful footballer, possessing excellent vision and creativity; he is one of the most accurate passers in world football. He has great composure, rarely loses the ball and his reading of the game is second to none.
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Kroos isn’t a defensive player
Despite being a consistently good performer throughout his Real Madrid career to date, Kroos isn’t suited to his current role in Zinedine Zidane’s side. He simply doesn’t have the traditional or desired characteristics of a top-class defensive midfielder.
The ex-Bayer Leverkusen loanee isn’t a physically dominating presence in midfield, he lacks tenacity and tactical awareness when his team doesn’t have the ball and he isn’t naturally an aggressive tackler. He doesn’t have the ability to sense danger and snuff out opposition attacks before they become serious problems for his defence.
Bayern’s Xabi Alonso swapped Madrid for Munich in the same transfer window that Kroos did the exact opposite, having made over 230 appearances for Los Blancos in his five-year stay at the Bernabeu.
The 34-year-old Spaniard is the perfect example of a holding midfielder because he doesn’t just have good technique but he is also extremely astute from a defensive point of view as well. Alonso, the fifth-most capped player in Spain’s history, is just as good going backwards as he is going forwards.
The main question that then comes to mind is, why don’t Real get a naturally defensive-minded midfielder and use Kroos in a different position? The answer is, they have one sitting on the bench in the form of 23-year-old Brazilian Casemiro. The issue that Zidane faces is one that his predecessor Benitez also faced, that is, whenever Casemiro plays it inevitably results in one of the team’s big names and star forwards being withdrawn from the starting line-up.
What is the solution?
By no means should Kroos be dropped from the Madrid starting line-up, but instead he should be given more freedom to showcase his undeniable qualities further forward. Kroos is a technically gifted footballer and at his best when has a license to roam around the pitch, take up different positions and affect the game in the final third.
Since Zidane was appointed as Real Madrid manager last month, the Frenchman has decided to play with a back four, a front three - usually Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo -and three central midfielders; two slightly advanced and one - Kroos - adopting a holding role.
For nearly two years Kroos hasn’t played as an attacking midfielder and the fact that he has still managed to create countless goalscoring opportunities in that time is yet another indication of how fine a talent he really is. The World Cup winner has been constrained at Madrid to a certain extent and it’s a real shame because he most certainly would offer more if he was positioned in one of those more advanced central midfield roles.
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