In between lifting three Champions Leagues at Real Madrid and tweeting his curious affection for Robbie Williams, Toni Kroos has been quietly working his way towards world-class status.
Throughout his illustrious career, in which he has won a World Cup, three Bundesligas and four Champions League titles, he has repeatedly taken moments of intense pressure and importance and stripped everything back to produce simple but highly effective football.
Kroos sees a different game to most players, fans and pundits, captured when he spared Germany’s blushes with a 95th-minute winning goal against Sweden, scored as a result of his meticulous obsession for precision. “I am delighted for Toni Kroos after he’d given the ball away for the goal, which really isn’t like him,” said Joachim Low of his match winner.
Kroos knew the angle he needed to score, and he capped off his performance with the match winner. Much of Kroos’ best work goes under the radar, with players with more flair usually taking the headlines, but this was his night, and he rightly received the recognition he deserves.
However in Germany’s crucial Group F match against South Korea, the match which would decide whether they qualify from their group, the 2014 champions put in a dismal display. Germany laboured up the pitch with slow, pedestrian passing which allowed South Korea to get bodies behind the ball and keep them at bay.
The exception to this rule was Kroos. His passing was crisp and adventurous in an attempt to quicken the pace of the game and get his teammates looking lively in attacking positions. Low was playing him as deep as Sami Khedira, with Mesut Ozil trusted to play the key passes on his return to the team.
As Germany scrambled to win the game and save their World Cup after Sweden led against Mexico, Thomas Muller and Mario Gomez were brought on which saw Kroos drop deeper and deeper. It proved ineffective, with Germany losing 2-0, meaning Kroos’s goal and performances had been in vain.
Pep Guardiola was at Bayern Munich when Kroos left for Madrid, but is reportedly interested in bringing him to Manchester City. Reports in Spain say he has emerged as a transfer target, with City getting nowhere in their pursuit of Jorginho.
Manchester United have also been long-term admirers of the German midfielder and are arguably in greater need of his services. Nemanja Matic or Fred will likely be starting every match if fit, along with Paul Pogba. Add the passing prowess of Kross to that duo and United will have arguably the most balanced midfield in the league.
Kroos’s willingness to do the kind of work in the midfield that receives less plaudits and recognition could be crucial to getting the best out of Pogba, who can be relieved of his defensive responsibilities, flourish further up the pitch and finally fulfil his potential at Old Trafford.