German Bundesliga: Toni Kroos Becomes Key Player at FC Bayern München
FC Bayern München are setting the pace at the top of the German Bundesliga, leading current champions Borussia Dortmund by five points after just five matchdays in the season so far.
The Bavarians—occasionally known as "FC Hollywood"—have opted for a ruthless, efficient approach in their early-season dealings, bulldozing any opposition that stands in their way. After two years of playing second-fiddle to the impressive Dortmund, FC Bayern have sent out a stark warning to the rest of the league, both on the park and in the transfer market. Only recently, the club spent 40m Euros on Spanish midfielder Javi Martinez from Bilbao.
In the shadows of their luxury additions, young midfielder Toni Kroos provided incision, creativity and goals from his most comfortable "attacking midfielder" position in Jupp Heynckes' 4-2-3-1 formation. Kroos, for long spells, has been forced to feature more in a defensive-midfield position or a deep-lying playmaker, which has seen him look out of sorts for the last six months.
But the 22-year-old is already close to reaching his goal return from last season, with three goals in four games for FC Bayern. Subsequently, Kroos has taken the ascendancy in the battle for a first-team berth in the attacking-midfield, nudging 23-year-old Thomas Müller to a wide-right position.
The midfielder has scored in his last three games—against FC Schalke 04, Valencia CF and FSV Mainz 05, respectively—and has created a promising partnership with Croatian striker Mario Mandzukic. One of the interesting things about Kroos' play is that he takes up a "playmaker" role early in the game naturally, when most matches are tight and very little space is available against sides, who pack in against FC Bayern.
However, in the second half, Kroos' ability to pick up pockets of space in the attacking third is fantastic. The young German's goals this season have come after the halftime interval, with goals against FSV Mainz and Valencia coming in the final quarter of the match. Kroos has been handed a licence to roam just behind Mandzukic, which has seen him appear in more goalscoring opportunities than earlier in the game.
The 22-year-old is not just known for his goals, of course. Kroos has a terrific range of passing, reaching 90 percent pass completion in 230 attempts, and in a creative sense, he has made another 28 chances for his team-mates.
Kroos, though, has had to battle with a number of critics in his time at the Allianz Arena, even at this early stage in his career. In January 2012, Uli Hoeness admitted he has reservations about how Kroos' performances were matching his potential. The youngster ended up out on-loan to Bayer Leverkusen.
He told German sports magazine Kicker (h/t Goal.com), "For a long time I thought that he had no further potential and would not develop any more."
Those comments might have been the perfect motivation for Kroos, who is now an established member of the FC Bayern first team squad and the German national team setup. As FC Bayern chase dominance domestically and continentally, Kroos is certainly an underrated star in this impressive team.
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