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Toni Kroos' versatility will be crucial for Carlo Ancelotti

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The so-called German robot has come to Madrid to improve Real Madrid's roster. How will his presence affect the team's style? Let's discuss it.

Pablo Blazquez Dominguez

As we were expecting, Toni Kroos has landed in Madrid just after the World Cup. The recent World Champion is the first signing for a Real Madrid side that wants to confirm its authority in Spain and Europe and fight for six titles in a single season. Bringing Kroos is, clearly, a good way of improving our options towards that goal.

The opportunity of buying a 24-year-old world-class midfielder (arguably, last season's best midfielder in the world, sharing the spot with -ehem- Luka Modric) by 25 million euros, after a brilliant World Cup in which he has been appointed the best player by the numbers is not one that shows up very frequently. It may not be yet very clear which his role in the team will be, but we definitely needed to sign him and, for sure, Ancelotti will be able to find the right spot for him.

Kroos's original role is that of an attacking midfielder, a "number 10". That is where he played in Bayer Leverkusen and, later, when he got back to Bayern Munich, with Jupp Heynckes as a coach. His long-distance shot is his greatest asset there, but so are his ability to keep the ball and -almost- never lose it, and to hit the pause button so that his team gets ordered around himself and he can find the best possible pass to improve the attack. He may not seem a player with a great physical deployment but, actually, he is. He is very useful in high pressure systems since his positioning is superb. Definitely, if you are going to play in a 4-2-3-1 with two fast wingers and a tank-like striker (Ribéry, Robben, Mario Gómez), he should be your favourite number 10. In case you don't remember, he proved this to us a couple years ago.

Under Guardiola's orders, Kroos register has been enlarged. Pep needed a Xavi for his Bayern, and he found him in Toni Kroos. Playing as a central midfielder, accompanying Schwensteiger or Lahm, he became the ultimate tool for the infinite conservation of the ball. He is great as an attack starter, close to his own box, since his long/short passing precision is unbeatable, and once the possession is installed on the rival's side of the field, he does not hesitate to incorporate to create numerical superiorities and threaten the rivals with the possibility of a shot. All these features can be found in last season's Bayern's game against Arsenal in the Emirates Stadium (sorry, Bozz and Ireland), which he dominated as he wanted. He is not a box-to-box player, but I believe he can evolve into such a character under Ancelotti's orders if Real Madrid needs it from him.

He has come to Real Madrid to be a regular starter, that's for sure, and our coach has many alternatives at his disposal to accomodate him in the lineups. He will, most likely, take Di María's spot and accompany Alonso and Modric as a central midfielder in a 4-3-3, or he will take a step forward to find himself in the hole while leaving Xabi and Luka as a double pivot in a 4-2-3-1. These alternatives are absolutely possession-oriented and, with Kroos taking either of those roles, Real Madrid's ball possession will definitely be increased by a 5-10% in comparison with last season. However, without Di María and Khedira in the lineup, there would be no one to disorder our rivals (maybe Marcelo, coming from the left-back) and our attack could become a bit slow and predictable.

Another possibility is to get back to the celebrated 4-4-2 we used in last season's hardest games to let Alonso rest. Kroos and Modric can form a very reliable double pivot that would excel in all phases of the game, with Luka lying a bit deeper and unleashing Toni to focus in more offensive tasks. In fact, they could also form the double pivot behind Isco or James, if he finally comes to Madrid, in a 4-2-3-1 that, I have to confess, is the option I am most attracted to, but the one I find the least plausible given our coach's mantra with the balance, which I'll never criticize since, after all, is what brought us the Décima.

Taking all this into account, it seems clear that some midfielder must leave the team unless Ancelotti is thinking of setting up a strong rotation policy, which would be quite interesting given the huge challenge the six trophies suppose. We have not mentioned Khedira or Illarramendi in our analysis, Di María only shows up in one out of the three main options and Isco seems to be relegated, once again, to a secondary role coming from the bench, a circumstance that would be stressed if James Rodríguez's deal is finally confirmed. Some of them will, most likely, leave the team.

Did we need to sign Kroos? Well, this depends on how you interpret this question. I think we have his natural spots covered with our midfielders, but I don't think we'd be able to buy any other player of his quality, by less than 50 million euros, in the following five years, so I think finding a place for him it's worth a try. Finally, if we have Kroos it means that no one else has him, which is also a great deal. I mean, I did not think we needed to sign Gareth Bale last season, and now... Well, I just can't imagine our lives without him. Let's hope Kroos's business with us will be so successful!