Kroos control: German engine allows Real Madrid and Ronaldo to hit top gear

The World Cup-winning midfielder may not have arrived in the Spanish capital as a ‘Galactico’, but he has shown himself to be very much of that level

On Wednesday, 38 days on from his ill-advised shove of a match official during a Super Cup clash with Barcelona, Cristiano Ronaldo will be unleashed from the shackles of a domestic five-match ban to terrorise La Liga defences once more.

The return to action of the Portuguese superstar will dominate headlines in the Spanish capital and around the world, with the Blancos hoping to see their talismanic forward slip seamlessly back into the fold as if he has never been away — much like he did when netting twice in a 3-0 victory over Apoel Nicosia in the Champions League.

It is, however, important to note that Ronaldo is not the only key man ready for a recall as Real Betis prepare to place themselves firmly in the firing line at Santiago Bernabeu.

Toni Kroos is also expected to be available to Zinedine Zidane, having shaken off the slight knock which kept him out of Sunday’s 3-1 victory over Real Sociedad.

The German’s return may slip under the radar, but his presence in the side could be considered as important as that of his more illustrious colleague who will be expected to breathe fresh life into the title defence of the reigning Spanish champions.

Ronaldo will be expected to kick Real through the gears following a mixed start to the 2017-18 campaign which has seen Zidane’s side avoid slipping into reverse, but struggle to get out of first at times.

The four-time Ballon d’Or winner remains very much the talisman in a star-studded squad but, as much as he might like to believe otherwise at times, he cannot carry a club of that size by himself and requires the assistance of others in order to truly flourish.

That is where Kroos comes in.

If Ronaldo is to make the impact expected of him throughout the remainder of the campaign, certain things need to happen that remain outside the control of even his remarkable skill set.

If he is to be a match-winner, then Sergio Ramos and the rest of his defensive cohorts need to ensure that the back door remains bolted, while those charged with the task of controlling things in the middle of the park must lay the foundations for those at the business end to do their job.

Real and Ronaldo cannot shine if they do not have the ball, it is as simple as that.

At 32 years of age, and despite being the almost super-human physical specimen that he is, Real’s on-field leader requires others to put him a position to do the most damage — be that with a carefully threaded pass, a pinpoint cross or a measured run which pulls opponents out of position.

Kroos has shown time and again that he makes those around him tick.

Acquired from Bayern Munich for just €25 million in the summer of 2014, a man who had just conquered the world with Germany ended up seeing his arrival overshadowed by the €80m purchase of James Rodriguez which fitted more into the ‘Galactico’ mould in Madrid.

The true value of a deal for the 27-year-old is now all the more apparent, with James moved out to Bayern in the most recent transfer window, as fees around the world soared on the back of Neymar’s €222m trade of Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain.

Kroos’ agent Volker Struth has told Sport Bild on a fine piece of business: “If you look at the fees today, and remember that Toni moved for €25 million, you can say that he is the bargain of the century for Real. The Real Madrid board are still happy to have signed a player of such class, as they told us after the Champions League final in Cardiff.”

Recognition of Kroos’ endeavours is well deserved, as the aforementioned European outing in Wales saw the creative midfielder add yet another honour to a glittering CV which has seen him achieve just about everything there is to achieve.

His former Bayern manager Jupp Heynckes said after a 4-1 mauling of Juventus: “Toni is 27 and has won the Champions League three times, won the treble with Bayern and lifted the World Cup with Germany. He should just hang up his boots now…”

Real’s rivals would likely second that statement, as Kroos continues to torment them in a manner which makes the game seem almost unfair.

He makes it all look so easy, as only the best can do, with the numbers he posts quite staggering.

Since arriving at Real three years ago, nobody in the Spanish top-flight can get near him in the passing accuracy stakes (92.76) — only Sergio Busquets, who has played five games more, has made more passes — while Kroos sits fifth on the La Liga assist chart (29) and fourth in terms of chances created (80).

Moving over onto a Champions League stage, where the real cream rises to the top, and Kroos sets the standard when it comes to passes (2746), accuracy of said passes (94.28) and chances created (89).

All of this has been achieved in a role of playmaker, not enforcer — Kroos is not selected for club or country as a destructive force whose job it is to get it and give it, his figures are accumulated as a man who is always looking to pick the lock and make something happen.

He is a special talent, with even the legendary Xavi prepared to acknowledge that a suitable heir has been found to a midfield kingdom he once ruled over with Barcelona and Spain, telling Bild: “I think that Kroos is the engine of Real Madrid. He has a way of playing that reminds me a lot of myself. He is like my successor on the field.”

Praise does not come much higher than that, with said comments offering further proof — as if it were needed — that life at the Bernabeu really is not all about Ronaldo.