Kroos, Pato, Muller: What happened to the best teenage XI from 2009/10?

Last Saturday evening, Toni Kroos was crowned European champion for a fifth time.

The German international played the full 90 minutes in Real Madrid‘s 1-0 final victory over Liverpool at the Stade de France.

Kroos’ trophy cabinet now boasts five Champions Leagues, three La Ligas, three Bundesliga titles, a World Cup and much, much more.

Not bad, eh? He’s had quite the career and it seems Kroos was always destined for greatness.

At the end of the 2009/10 season, the metronomic midfielder was named in WhoScored‘s highest-rated teenage XI following a successful campaign on loan at Bayer Leverkusen from Bayern Munich.

Kroos certainly wasn’t the only high-profile name to feature in the team either. It was stacked with iconic figures.

Toni Kroos celebrates a Real Madrid victory
Soccer Football – Champions League Final – Liverpool v Real Madrid – Stade de France, Saint-Denis near Paris, France – May 28, 2022 Real Madrid’s Toni Kroos celebrates after winning the Champions League REUTERS/Lee Smith

Check out the XI in full…

GK: David De Gea (Atletico Madrid) – 6.75 rating

De Gea burst onto the scene as a teenager at Atletico Madrid and then signed for Manchester United in 2011. The Spaniard has been brilliant for much of his time at Old Trafford and will go down as one of the club’s greatest ever goalkeepers.

RB: Cesar Azpilicueta (Osasuna) – 7.04 rating

Azpilicueta was a regular in Osasuna’s starting XI at the age of just 17. The man capped 55 times by Spain then moved to Marseille in 2010, before securing a move to Chelsea two years later. He’s become something of a legend at Stamford Bridge over the past decade, captaining the club to Europa League success in 2019 and a Champions League triumph in 2021.

Cesar Azpilicueta in action for Osasuna vs Barcelona
BARCELONA, SPAIN – MARCH 24: Lionel Messi (L) of FC Barcelona competes for the ball with Azpilicueta of Osasuna during the La Liga match between Barcelona and Osasuna at the Camp Nou Stadium on March 24, 2010 in Barcelona, Spain. Barcelona won 2-0. (Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images)

CB: Nicolas Nkoulou (AS Monaco) – 6.96 rating

Nkoulou hasn’t quite been the success many hoped. Sure, he was decent for the likes of AS Monaco, Marseille, Torino and the Cameroon national team, but never quite fulfilled his full potential. The 32-year-old spent last season at relegated Watford, making just three appearances in total. He’ll become a free agent this summer.

CB: Mamadou Sakho (Paris Saint-Germain) – 6.84

A Liverpool fan favourite for a few years, Sakho’s career has tailed off somewhat of late. The former PSG defender joined Crystal Palace on a permanent deal in 2017, before jumping ship to Montpellier in 2021 when his contract at the London club expired. Sakho has 29 France caps to his name, having made his international debut way back in 2010.

LB: Davide Santon (Inter Milan) – 6.92

Santon opted to sign for Newcastle in 2011 after forging a glowing reputation as a youngster at Inter Milan. He did okay on Tyneside, but his performances were nothing to write home about in truth. Santon returned to Inter in 2015 and then moved to AS Roma three years later – where he remains to this day.

Davide Santon with Inter Milan
MILAN, ITALY – OCTOBER 20: Davide Santon of FC Internazionale Milano in action during the UEFA Champions League group A match between FC Internazionale Milano and Tottenham Hotspur at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on October 20, 2010 in Milan, Italy. (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)

RM: Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich) – 7.40

He’s done okay for himself, hasn’t he? Muller is still at Bayern like he was back in 2009/10 and is now firmly one of their greatest ever players. The World Cup winner has 227 goals, 242 assists and 30 trophies to his name with the club and is arguably playing the best football of his distinguished career in the present day.

CM: Toni Kroos (Bayer Leverkusen, on loan from Bayern Munich) – 7.59

Kroos is actually the highest-rated member of the XI and yes, he really was sensational at Leverkusen during 2009/10. Playing in a more attacking role, Kroos scored nine goals and assisted a further 12 in 33 Bundesliga matches. He then returned to Bayern and smashed it there until 2014, before signing for Real Madrid – and the rest, as they say, is history.

CM: Miralem Pjanic (Lyon) – 7.10

An ill-fated move to Barcelona has meant the last two years haven’t been overly kind to Pjanic in a footballing sense, but lest we forget how good he was for a prolonged period of time. He was magnificent at Lyon, Roma and – in particular – Juventus, winning seven trophies in four years with the latter.

Miralem Pjanic with Lyon
LONDON, ENGLAND – AUGUST 01: Miralem Pjanic of Lyon in action during the Emirates Cup match between AC Milan and Lyon at Emirates Stadium on August 1, 2010 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

LM: Eden Hazard (Lille) – 7.21

One of Kroos’ current Real Madrid teammates and a bona fide legend of the game. Hazard quickly became one of the most sought-after players in world football thanks to his displays at Lille, with Chelsea the lucky club to acquire his signature in 2012. The Belgian was absolutely electric with the Blues and is in the mix to be labelled the club’s best ever player. It’s a real shame things haven’t worked out in Madrid, though…

ST: Alexandre Pato (AC Milan) – 7.53

Pato never quite lived up to the hype after hitting the ground running at AC Milan as a teenager. The Brazilian, who was tipped to be a Ballon d’Or winner, was plagued by injuries and is now playing for Orlando City following spells with Corinthians, Sao Paolo, Villarreal, Chelsea and Tianjin Tianhai.

ST: Mario Balotelli (Inter Milan) – 7.34

Ah Super Mario, one of the biggest characters of the modern era. The often controversial striker secured a move to Manchester City after lighting up Italian football as a teenager with Inter Milan. He enjoyed some success at the Etihad, but not as much as he should have. Balotelli is now playing in Turkey with Adana Demirspor having previously represented the likes of AC Milan, Liverpool, Nice, Marseille. In case you missed it, he recently scored a potential Puskas-winning rabona goal

Champions League quiz: 20 questions on the all-time records

1 of 20

Which team holds the record for longest unbeaten run in the UCL of 25 games?

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