His Portuguese teammate may hog the headlines but, once again, Toni Kroos was instrumental to Real Madrid’s win. The German midfielder’s improvement must make Bayern Munich rue letting him go, says DW’s Jonathan Harding.Walking off the pitch with one minute of normal time left, Toni Kroos knew. He threw his hands in the air, clenched his fists and celebrated. Real Madrid were going to be the first team to win back-to-back Champions League titles, but Kroos also knew that, aged 27, he was playing the best football of his career.
In Cardiff, Kroos spent the entire time reminding Bayern what a mistake they had made letting him go, emphatically reminding the German champions just how good a midfielder he is. Remarkably, and yet somewhat typically of this Real Madrid team, the man he plays next to, Luka Modric, played even better.
Kroos’ pass success percentage was over 90 in the final. It was the same throughout the competition this season. His passing is often taken for granted but in a team full of players desperate to attack, Kroos continues to keep Real’s wheel spinning without having to reinvent it. Nevertheless, the man from Hansa Rostock’s youth team finds ways to impress, over and over again.
He has, notably in big games, ironed out the creases. There are fewer errant balls, not that there were many to begin with. Kroos is a slicker, more confident midfielder and his march forward that led to the opening goal showed exactly that.
He won 62 percent of his challenges and had double the number of touches of his Germany teammate Sami Khedira – who, like Juventus, battled hard but faded. Kroos finished the game as the first German to win three Champions League titles, and looks set to win many more.
In an enormous 48 games this season, Kroos has 17 assists and four goals. But it’s his consistent ability to keep his team ticking when the stakes are high that makes him an invaluable asset to a team where Ronaldo writes the headlines, Ramos is the villain and the head coach is always halfway out the door.
Kroos now has a remarkable 20 titles in total for club and country. “I didn’t expect that it was possible to defend this title, it is so difficult to win it once,” he said after the match. Since leaving Bayern he has done what few can and become an even better player, one who now looks set to become the most decorated German footballer ever.