Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, and Carlos Henrique Casemiro — Real Madrid’s legendary midfield trident — started in an official game together for the first time about six years ago. On October 4, 2015, Real Madrid visited the Vicente Calderon stadium in Rafael Benitez's first Madrid Derby in charge. The game ended in a 1-1 draw. The rest of that night’s starting line-up had Keylor Navas, Dani Carvajal, Raphael Varane, Sergio Ramos, Marcelo, Isco, Karim Benzema, and Cristiano Ronaldo. Zinedine Zidane would start this exact lineup in two separate Champions League finals in 2017 and 2018 to annihilate his opponents in both. But little did anyone know, what symphonic chaos the midfield trio of Kroos, Casemiro, and Modric was going to create in the coming years.
Kroos, Casemiro, and Modric (KCM) have won almost everything there is to win in club football together (barring the Copa del Rey). They have been absolutely instrumental in Real Madrid’s extraterrestrial and almost medieval success in Europe in the last decade. Toni Kroos, a progressive passing cyborg; Luka Modric, an artist of the highest order with the ball at his feet; and Casemiro, a defensive juggernaut, together form a midfield trident that hardly gets more diverse as this one. Casemiro has been a liability on the ball at times, but when these three players are on the same wavelength, they have been the best in the world by a country mile.
The theme of the current season has not been much different - especially during a brutal string of matches where Real Madrid had to compete against three direct title rivals in LaLiga (Sevilla, Real Sociedad, and Atletico Madrid) and Inter Milan in the fight for the top spot in their Champions League Group. Madrid also played the postponed fixture vs. Athletic Bilbao. They came out on top in all of these games, conceding just one goal in five fixtures. Toni Kroos, Casemiro, and Luka Modric have been as essential as ever during this run (and the entire season so far). We’re going to take a deeper look at how each of the three midfielders connects with the other two on the pitch.
The German midfielder operates from the left-hand side of the pitch. As far as the pitch length is concerned, Kroos covers almost the entire pitch in search of his midfield partners. He uses Casemiro as an outlet to play short passes and receive them back. This is one of the ways Kroos evades pressure. More on this later in the column.
On the other hand, as Modric covers the right side of the midfield, he is mostly targeted for Kroos’ precise switches or longer passes across the pitch. Kroos and Modric are Real Madrid’s most reliable players to switch play quickly and safely.
Casemiro is second on the list of Real Madrid players with most switches this season (behind Toni Kroos). As seen in the illustration, he looks for Modric on the right just like Kroos. On top of that, Casemiro is actually much better at providing longer passes than shorter ones. As discussed already, his connection with Kroos remains short and quick to allow the German to get into positions where he can operate without much pressure.
This illustration of Modric’s passes to Kroos and Casemiro firstly shows how he compliments Toni Kroos. When Modric needs to switch the ball on the other side, he mostly finds Kroos. Again, this is not limited to one-half of the pitch. They can do it anywhere, against anyone, any day. Modric’s connection with Casemiro shows how he can be a two-way presence when one of the maestros needs an outlet to evade pressure or build a sequence on either wing.
Real Madrid’s overall press resistance depends a lot on Modric and Kroos because, at the end of the day, as a forward, there’s a limitation on how much Karim Benzema can drop deep to help them out. This tweet demonstrates Modric and Kroos’s way of dealing with the press in the most eloquent manner.
Modric and Kroos evade pressure in different ways. Modric receives it in tight spaces knowing full well he can accelerate out of pressure. Kroos reads opposition pressure early and always moves into positions so he receives it in space.— UtdArena (@utdarena) December 12, 2021
Both end up in space and with the ball.
Even with a potential contract extension on the horizon for Modric (and possibly one for Kroos too), it’s unlikely we’ll be able to witness the magic of the KCM trio beyond the next couple of seasons. It’s time to rejoice and enjoy them while we can.