The Spanish media has fallen in love with it, spending the last two weeks rolling out a string of quotes from Carlo Ancelotti to justify Toni Kroos’s new moniker. The Professor is what he’s been dubbed, a name that more often morphs into “the Other Professor,” with Real Madrid head coach Ancelotti lauding his on-field tactician. And to think, some people thought the Merengues didn’t need the German star.
Perhaps in absolute terms, those critics were right. After all, Real Madrid won the European title last season. Did it really need anybody new?
But that’s not Real Madrid, and perhaps more importantly, it’s quickly becoming difficult to imagine El Real’s game without the 24-year-old metronome. Most completed passes in La Liga. Most completed passes in the opponent’s half in La Liga. Six assists in 11 games. Any fears there’d be a World Cup lull or an adjustment period in Spain never materialized. Kroos has hit the ground passing at the Bernabéu.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of Kroos’s move (beyond the millions of euros) is its impact on his still emerging legacy. Bayern Munich is no small club by any stretch of the imagination, but the international spotlight doesn’t shine as passionately at the Allianz as it does at the Santiago Bernabéu. And there, in the Spanish capital’s soccer cathedral, Kroos is quickly becoming this generation’s Pirlo.
No, he’s not defined by the long, ranging incisiveness that’s been the trademark of the Italian great, but he embodies the more modern qualities an analytical generation has come to adore. He’s prolific, pacing Spain’s midfielders in passes. He’s also precise, matching Barcelona’s legendary Xavi Hernández as Spain’s most accurate passer, thus far. He is the Pirlo for a modern age, one where he’ll eventually VORP the hell out of the rest of Spain’s midfielders.
Still, the quality that has been in focus most over the past weeks, the one that really underscores the Pirlo parallel, is vision. That’s why he’s The Professor, with those who cringed at the departure of Xabi Alonso confining their doubts to whispers instead of the prolonged outrage that would normal accompany a great’s departure.
Instead, the Bernabéu has welcomed another great to the fold, and while Kroos may not still be developing the off-field charisma to match some of his teammates, his emerging stardom on the field is enough to carry him to this spot.
The Fake numbers
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