FourFourTwo’s Best 100 Football Players in the World 2016: No.23 – Toni Kroos
Stefan Reinartz retired from football in May after completing his final professional season with Eintracht Frankfurt. Injuries had reportedly taken their toll and the 27-year-old defensive midfielder couldn’t carry on.
Still nursing a burning passion for football, Reinartz took a keen interest in data analytics and understanding the game from a statistical viewpoint. You may have since heard of his – and team-mate Jens Hegeler’s – numbers-based examination of the game, which aims to decipher football in a more accurate way than the widely used ‘Expected Goals’ model (German football journalist Raphael Honigstein has written about the new method previously, for one).
Kroos was the best passer at Euro 2016 on account of his unerring ability to push the ball into dangerous areas of the pitch more succesfully than any other player
If not, it’s called Packing. The system measures how many opposition players are taken out of the game by a particular action, namely a pass or dribble. And Reinartz's new process found that Toni Kroos was the best passer at Euro 2016 on account of his unerring ability to push the ball into dangerous areas of the pitch more succesfully than any other player.
Kroos was unable to make the final step with his country, of course, as Germany crashed out at the semi-final stage after losing to hosts France in the semi-finals. Being named in the team of the tournament may have helped the talented midfielder get over the defeat, mind.
It's not just on the international stage where Kroos has excelled, though. Regardless of whether or not you subscribe to Reinartz’s hypothesis, the naked eye is all that's needed to realise the midfielder is an essential part of Zinedine Zidane's Real Madrid side, who won the club's 11th Champions League trophy this spring. In doing so Kroos became the first German to win the Champions League with two different clubs. His 93.9 per cent pass completion rate last term, meanwhile, was higher than any other player in La Liga, and he also recorded the sixth-most assists and ranked 13th for key passes.
His 93.9 per cent pass completion rate last term was higher than any other player in La Liga
It's a similar story this season: Kroos has completed a higher percentage of his passes than any other midfielder in Spain, while only Pablo Piatti has more assists to his name.
Put simply, the German – alongside Luka Modric – is the heartbeat of Zidane’s European champions and one of the most reliable performers for club and country. And at just 26, those long, raking passes are only going to continue being sprayed across the pitch for years to come.