Toni Kroos arrived at Real Madrid last summer on the back of winning the World Cup with Germany and has quickly established himself as an important player for the reigning European champions.
The capital club paid between €25 million and €30 million (depending on the source) to bring the then 24-year-old to the Bernabeu on a six-year contract from Bayern Munich, and he wasted little time endearing himself to the Madrid faithful.
“I’m incredibly proud to be here,” he said at his presentation. “I’d like to thank Real Madrid for this opportunity. They have given me the chance to play for the most important club in the world.”
Shortly after his arrival at the Bernabeu, an unnamed club director offered a trenchant comparison between Kroos and Asier Illarramendi—a player of the same age for whom Madrid had paid a similar fee just a year earlier. Per Diego Torres of El Pais (in Spanish), the director said that the previous summer, Madrid had signed, in Illarramendi, a child; now, in Kroos they had purchased a man.
Ancelotti, too, was highly impressed with the manner in which his new recruit swiftly adapted to an unfamiliar role as the deepest-lying midfielder. He spoke glowingly of the German’s virtues in an interview with Onda Cero radio (h/t Marca) last November.
He has aced his crash course in replacing Xabi Alonso. I’ve been surprised by the fact that he never gets on edge. He always play the same way, whatever the pressure. He plays at pace, always picks the right pass, doesn’t lose the ball and wins back possession.
Ancelotti’s faith in Kroos is made clear by the amount of playing time he has given the midfielder. Per Marco Ruiz of AS, Kroos has featured for 3,182 minutes so far this season, which represents 88 percent of the total minutes Madrid have played in all competitions.
The most minutes he has ever played in a season was 3,433 for Bayern Munich back in 2011-12. He is currently just 251 minutes away from equalling it, with three months of the campaign still to go.
Kroos has been Madrid’s primary distributor so far this season. Per WhoScored.com, he leads the club in average passes per match in La Liga (69) and is second only to Isco in the Champions League (75.3).
His completion rates in both La Liga (93 percent) and the Champions League (94.7 percent) are highly impressive.
Despite largely operating in deeper territory that he did last season, Kroos has increased the regularity with which he provides direct contributions to goals.
Per data from WhoScored, Kroos has accumulated one goal and nine assists in 2,615 minutes of league and Champions League action so far this season. On average, he therefore provides a direct contribution to a goal every 261.50 minutes—a significant improvement on the 341.33-minute interval between these contributions during his final season at Bayern.
Alonso did provide slightly more on the defensive side of things. Per WhoScored, the Spaniard averaged 5.5 combined defensive actions (tackles, interceptions, clearances and blocks) per match in La Liga and 6.3 per match in the Champions League last season, in comparison to Kroos’ average of 3.6 per match in both competitions during the current campaign.
The German does also need to work on his Spanish. Sergio Ramos revealed ahead of the Club World Cup final in December that he and Kroos communicate via a mixture of English and hand signals when they are out on the pitch. He will be able to better influence proceedings once he is able to converse more confidently in Spanish.
Otherwise, the speed with which Kroos has adapted to the demands of Madrid and La Liga has been highly impressive. The 25-year-old is already a vital part of Ancelotti’s side and will play a key role in any success the club enjoy during the final months of the campaign.