The resurgence of Real Madrid under Zinedine Zidane this season is best exemplified by the upturn in form of their midfield. Last season, the centre of Zidane’s team looked in bad shape. It was expected that at least one new midfielder would be signed in the summer, with Paul Pogba widely reported to be on the radar of the Santiago Bernabeu club.
Of course, Pogba ultimately stayed at Manchester United and Zidane was made to make do with what he already had. Nonetheless, Real Madrid’s midfield has been key to their turnaround. Luka Modric has reignited his spark, while Fede Valverde has emerged as the central operator Zidane needed all along, becoming one of the first names on the team sheet.
Toni Kroos has also enjoyed something of a career renaissance. It’s not so long ago that speculation swirled over the German’s future at Real Madrid, with some reports claiming a move to the Premier League or back to Bayern Munich was on the cards. Now, though, Kroos is central to Zidane’s masterplan.
It’s for this reason that Kroos‘ recent comments will have caused some alarm at the Santiago Bernabeu. “I’m 30 years old and it’s a good age to think – what more do I want?” the German midfielder said in an interview. “[My career] won’t last much longer. I’m sure that I won’t play until I’m 38.”
Of course, Real Madrid were always going to have to rejuvenate their midfield at some point in the near future, but Kroos’ comments suggest that point might come sooner than initially expected. Modric is out of contract at the end of the season, with a long-mooted move to Serie A a possibility, and so the Croatian’s exit has at least been comprehended,
Kroos will be even tougher to replace than Modric, though. The German is the one who starts many of Real Madrid’s moves, setting the pace and tempo for his teammates. Kroos does more for the tone of Real Madrid’s play than Modric even if the Croatian’s drive, energy and creativity are also integral.
There is a sense that despite being top of La Liga, Real Madrid are in the midst of a transition. They are somewhere between relying on the Old Guard, the likes of Karim Benzema, Kroos and Modric, and moving into a new era with Valverde, Rodrygo and Ferland Mendy. Zidane must come up with a succession plan for Kroos in particular.
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