Football Features

Is Toni Kroos the best midfielder of the last decade? Your best responses

By Ben Green

Published: 11:30, 24 December 2020

A World Cup winner, four-time Champions League recipient and a German centurion; there isn’t much Toni Kroos hasn’t achieved in the past decade.

Whether guiding Bayern Munich to domestic and continental success, achieving a Champions League three-peat with Real Madrid, or masterminding world dominance with Germany in 2014, Kroos has been a magnet for silverware and allergic to failure.

A generational talent, Kroos has defined the central midfield role during his career, operating as a world-class distributor and a player who “sees everything”, according to Dutch legend Johan Cruyff. The endorsements do not come much more compelling than that.

But, it is not just his trophy cabinet or the visual elegance of his play that has struck a chord with the wider football community; his passing metrics have stats lovers weak at the knees… which is why we tweeted this:

Indeed the midfield grandmaster’s passing accuracy for Los Blancos has never dropped below 92 per cent in La Liga, while he has also created more chances than any other teammate in each of the past five seasons. There is the small matter of a 93 per cent passing accuracy in the Champions League as well. No biggie, eh!

Statistics rarely paint the full picture, but you would be hard-pressed to remember a time when Kroos last lost the ball. Go on, have a think. You can’t, can you? The midfield maestro boasts the precision of a Swiss watch and the timing of a German train schedule.

But what are your thoughts? There have a number of exceptional midfield talents to grace the turf this past decade alone, and we asked our followers to rack their brains and let us know who they think has been first among equals over the last 10 years.

Andres Iniesta & Xavi

Trophies/individual accolades won 2010-2020 (Xavi): La Liga x4, Copa del Rey x2, Champions League x2, World Cup, Euro 2012, Qatar Stars League | La Liga top assist provider (09/10), FIFA FIFPro World11 x4

Trophies/individual accolades won 2010-2020 (Andres Iniesta): La Liga x6, Copa del Rey x5, Champions League x2, World Cup, Euro 2012, Emperor’s Cup | Champions League top assist provider (10/11), La Liga top assist provider (12/13), FIFA FIFPro World11 x8

By the time 2010 came around Xavi and Andres Iniesta already had two Champions League medals in the bag and Euro 2008 wrapped up but, despite leaving European football in 2015 and 2018 respectively, they have undoubtedly left their mark on the continent this past decade, winning a further two European crowns with Barcelona in 2011 and 2015 — oh, and a World Cup and Euro double for Spain in 2010 and 2012.

The heartbeat of the Blaugrana for many a year, the club just has not been the same since these two were last orbiting the turf with elegant strides, and many users were quick to recognise the exploits of these absolute legends, whose names are synonymous with passing accuracy and midfield majesty.

Toni Kroos

Trophies/individual accolades won 2010-2020: Bundesliga x3, La Liga x2, Champions League x4, World Cup, DFB-Pokal x2 | FIFA FIFPro World11 x3

The luxurious axis in Zinedine Zidane’s midfield, Kroos was indispensable as Los Blancos swept the continent and hogged the Champions League for three years between 2016 and 2018. Described by his coach as the “perfect” player and “the bravest of them all” by former Bayern coach Pep Guardiola, there is no denying that Kroos has catapulted his name into the midfield pantheon.

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Luka Modric

Trophies/individual accolades won 2010-2020: La Liga x2, Champions League x4, Copa del Rey | Ballon d’Or (2018), FIFA FIFPro World11 x5

The man who broke the Lionel Messi-Cristiano Ronaldo Ballon d’Or hegemony in 2018, Modric has been a sensation this past decade. First, guiding Tottenham into the Champions League, before lifting four ol’ Big Ears’ himself with Real Madrid — once before the arrival of Kross, and then a hat-trick alongside his German coeval. In 2018 he took Croatia to the nation’s first-ever World Cup final (collecting the Golden Ball in the process) and was aptly awarded the Ballon d’Or as a result.

Kevin De Bruyne

Trophies/individual accolades won 2010-2020: Premier League x2, FA Cup, League Cup x4, DFB-Pokal | Premier League Player of the Season, Premier League Playmaker of the Season x2, FIFA FIFPro World11

It just would not be a midfield conversation if De Bruyne didn’t enter the equation. The Premier League’s record assist provider for a single season (20, alongside a certain Thierry Henry), De Bruyne has the capacity to be a one-man orchestra, capable of dictating the play by himself and making things happen in the blink of an eye. City fans would have dreaded the day David Silva called it quits at the Etihad, but fortunately for the Citizens they have De Bruyne to carry the playmaker torch.

Other shouts (some good, some, very questionable)

Sergio Busquets

The emblematic ‘Pep’ player, Busquets has Barca blood coursing through his veins and has been a mainstay in the club’s XI since bursting onto the scene in 2008. A metronomic midfielder, Busquets has won silverware aplenty for club and country, including the aforementioned 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012.

Andrea Pirlo

Some excellent candidates on this list. Andrea Pirlo will always be remembered for his masterful midfield elegance in AC Milan’s first-team across the noughties, but for a younger generation, the slick-haired playmaker was dictating the tempo and winning trophies by the bucketful for Juventus between 2011 and 2015. He is now imparting his wisdom on the Old Lady in the dugout (not that his move into management adds weight to this debate).

Bastian Schweinsteiger

A Champions League winner alongside Kroos in 2013 with Bayern; a World Cup winner in 2014; and an FA Cup winner in 2015 for Man Utd. Schweinsteiger was “the brain” in Joachim Low’s national side and “a great strategist” for Jupp Heynckes’ Bavarians, who likened the German engine to a “film director with his script”, as “he has a plan in his mind for matches.” A sophisticated midfield operator whose legacy lives on. 

N’Golo Kante

The keystone in Leicester’s miracle Premier League win, Kante went on to win it again a year later with Chelsea, and then helped France to a second World Cup. What a player!

David Silva

You don’t earn a moniker like “Merlin” without having a magic touch, and Silva certainly brought that to the Premier League during the 2010s. He is arguably the greatest midfield talent the Premier League has ever seen. But across Europe?

Frank Lampard

Chelsea’s all-time top goalscorer, Shed End fans would point to that night in Munich in 2012 as a symbol of Lampard’s ever-lasting greatness.

Steven Gerrard

He bowed out in 2015 with his best years undeniably being throughout the noughties, but he took home a League Cup in 2012 and nearly guided Liverpool to top-flight silverware were it not for a certain mishap against Chelsea. We won’t mention that four-letter word.

Bruno Fernandes

The Man Utd playmaker has been outstanding this season (sorry, this year), but over the past decade? Behave.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Because his Fantasy Football position changed? Either way, no dice I’m afraid.

Toni Kroos’ Football Index stats