Toni Kroos continued to back-up his status as “one of the best midfielders in the world” with an inspired performance during Real Madrid’s 3-1 win over Barcelona on Saturday.
Los Blancos dominated their El Clasico rivals to extend manager Zinedine Zidane’s record to six games unbeaten at the Camp Nou, with goals from Federico Valverde, Sergio Ramos and Luka Modric sealing the three points.
But although he didn’t get himself among the goals or assists, it was arguably Kroos who put in the strongest performance of the afternoon on both sides of the ball.
Back in September, Zidane hailed Kroos as “spectacular” and “one of the world’s best” midfielders.
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“Toni Kroos will be remembered as a spectacular player, one of the best in the world in his position,” he said. “When I arrived, well, you can imagine, I was really happy to be his coach.”
The Germany international more than backed that assessment up on Saturday. As always, Kroos was an incredible creative influence, laying on no fewer than five chances for his teammates — only two fewer than the entire Barcelona team combined — and firing two shots at goal, both of which hit the target.
Kroos was as safe as houses with the ball at his feet, too, completing 67 passes at an astounding 94% completion rate, while he was dispossessed just once throughout the match and had more touches of the ball (89) than any other Real Madrid player.
However, it was arguably Kroos’ defensive output which stole the show. In a Real Madrid performance predicated on stifling Barcelona with tough tackles and hard work, the former Bayern Munich man was still able to stand about above the rest, making a match-high four tackles along with five ball recoveries and two clearances.
Toni Kroos created more chances than any other player on the pitch against Barcelona and no player made more tackles.
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) October 24, 2020
After the match, Zidane was keen to praise the team effort put in by his side, especially the wake of Real Madrid losing consecutive games to Cadiz and Shakhtar Donetsk.
“I’m thrilled for the players. It’s a team victory. We put on a perfect display,” said the Frenchman. “Taking all three points here is not easy. We had to think like a team and it was a great game to do just that.
“It’s only three points but at the same time, especially given the criticism we’ve faced recently, we have to stay calm, stick together and play when we have to play, just as we did today.
“We deserve it and I’m pleased for the players, after all that’s been said in recent days.”
Whether it was a crunching tackle or a defence-splitting pass, Kroos completely dominated this Clasico and his performance embodied the response Zidane demanded from his players.