Toni Kroos 22 Midfielder Bayern Munich
“Unbeatable for years to come”. Not an idle boast, but a very reasonable assessment of the future for a unified German Football Team, declared by none other than Franz Beckenbauer after leading his charges to victory in the World Cup Final of 1990. Very reasonable because of the calibre of personnel available to future Nationalmannschaft coaches with a pool of personnel which included the current World Champions from the West, but also a highly technical legion of talented footballers from East Germany.
While not entirely ‘unbeatable’, the newly unified Germany was in good shape during the early 1990’s. Finalist, Quarter Finalists and winners in their next three international tournaments, things looked as good as ever, but by 1998 issues that had been raised by several commentators within German football were beginning to look very significant.
Suggestions that the Bundesliga, drunk on money generated by rapidly increasing TV and sponsorship deals so commonplace around Europe at the time, had become a league of mercenaries were beginning to look true. An influx of expensive foreign recruits, a shift in focus away from the national team and towards self-absorbing club sides were not the German way. Debt was becoming a problem and, more significantly, the question for watchers of the German national team was all too obvious; where were the new players?
It took the perfect storm of failure at France 98, the fragmentation of national youth coaching and the collapse of the Kirsch Media Group for Germany to put its house in order. At national level, things were not working and the groundwork undertaken by Beckenbauer and a number of other visionaries at the end of the 90’s has manifested itself into a full blown production line now.
With the buy-in of Bundesliga clubs, Germany is in the rudest of rude health at both club and international level. While Spain will continue to take the plaudits, we are only really at phase one of a new Germany right now. Where Schweinsteiger, Podolski and Lahm made the first inroads, Müller, Ozil and Khedira soon followed. The next batch looks better again.
At the forefront of the newest Germany is a player that was described in 2010 by Werner Kern, head of player development at Bayern Munich, as, “the most naturally gifted player I have seen since Karl Heinz Ruminegge”. That player is Toni Kroos.
The coaching staff at Bayern were already well aware what a wonderfully gifted player they had on their books in 2009, but opted to send the precocious Kroos out on loan to Bayer Leverkusen to gain first team experience and to get to grips with the Bundesliga.
The move was a resounding success; Kroos had been a stand out performer for the Workself and returned to Munich in prime condition. Yet there remained some doubts within the club. Kroos’ talent was so abundant that he had, on occasion, been forced to play with no boots as a youth player, so far was he ahead of the players in his age group. With the Leverkusen stint just adding to the clear confidence Kroos had in his own ability, there remained a tendency to coast through matches, rather than become completely ruthless. Hardly a trait that sits well in Germany.
However, since the turn of this year, whatever it is that Bayern have done, Kroos looks a truly imperious player now. While many foreign observers will point to how impressed they have been by Thomas Müller’s ascendance, we will say this: Toni Kroos is a much better player and will be the focal point through which all attacking play will channel for club and country for the next decade.
Versatile, creative, strong, intelligent – all of these traits are in evidence. This time last year, we’d have picked out Mario Götze as the best thing happening in German football, but right now it’s the boy that would have been playing for East Germany had things been different If we have any criticism at all, it is that we still maintain a sense that the true Toni Kroos is not yet fully visible
In terms of mark, there’s a very valid argument for giving a young man from Griefswald an A, so important has he become for club and country, but are we really witnessing a player operating at full tilt? Not for us we aren’t. There is a lot more to come.
Magnificent at times, if he can engage that extra gear, then the prospect of the next best player in the world being German is entirely plausible.
"There are times when football just looks too easy for Toni Kroos, it'll be interesting to see how well he maintains focus over the next few years. If he does, he'll be a monster." - Jeff Livingstone (IBWM)
B The voyage to legendary status has already begun
TeamFC Bayern München
Minutes On Pitch1,750
Mins per goal291.67
Right footed goals5
Left footed goals1
Goals inside box4
Goals outside box2
Direct free kick goals0
Shots On Target17
Shots Off Target14
Touches per game66.5
Pass Completion %89%
Pass Completion in final third %82%
Duels won %49%
Cross Completion %30%
Dribbles & Runs48
Dribble Completion %56%
Tackles Won %82%