There are afternoons in which Toni Kroos meets Modric, and together they chew the game, and afternoons in which the German prefers to associate with Benzema, and they jump together to bite. On Tuesday, at the Alfredo di Stéfano, he applied to tame Atalanta along with the Croatian, who was the one who gave the ball the most times, 22, and this Saturday in Balaídos he threw himself into the jugular of the match hooked to the French, the greatest Receiver of his passes this time, 8. Each occasion has its own tempo, and he usually chooses it, as Casemiro said: “Madrid’s games always go to the rhythm of Kroos”.
Of those eight passes to Benzema, two were assists, one after stealing a ball from Renato Tapia in the front of the area, and another, the first, after a fleeting cut to Hugo Mallo, whom he showed the ball on the right and left standing. with a brilliant change of direction to the left. The German advanced and put a pass into the area to Benzema among three other defenders.
That change of direction, a kind of unexpected whiplash, also served him on Tuesday to escape again and again the conscientious pressure of Atalanta. And to deny those who see the German in the same way as Bernd Schuster, who called him a “diesel tractor”. In the match in which Real Madrid qualified for the Champions League quarterfinals, Kroos was the footballer of the two teams that completed the most good dribbles, four, the same as Benzema and the Brazilian Vinicius Jr.
Against Atalanta it was more than ever the footballer who uses slowness as a decoy, to wake up suddenly and escape. He repeated a cut chained to a control: when the pass reached him to the left, the first touch was thrown to the right while the opponent was hooked where his left foot had been. In that movement, as in the dribbling that preceded Benzema’s first goal in Balaídos, there is nothing accidental.
The process is related in a book that gathers advice from soccer players for young people, recently published in Germany, Kicken wie die Profis (Play like the pros) by Kai Psotta: “I knew that my pace was normal, that there were an incredible number of players who were physically faster. That is why I have set a goal to be faster than others, especially upside down. And then also in the movement. Today sometimes it seems very simple, but it is not at the speed of the game. During years of repetitions, many exasperating, I have automated the process of receiving the ball in such a way that in many situations it gives me that small advantage of milliseconds to start the action, “he says. “I didn’t have to do it once, not ten, not a thousand, but a few tens of thousands of times. (…) All that extra work allows me to survive in this fast football today ”. The persistence of the false slow.
In Balaídos, Celta, like Atalanta days before, was seen for long stretches of the game chasing Madrid’s wake, as Felipe Miñambres, Celta’s sports director, described during halftime: “We were going to push, but we couldn’t find the ball.”
The complicity of the Kroos-Modric couple to hide the ball at Madrid’s exit has been essential for the team to link ten games without losing in a month that has been severely understaffed. With the match in the 70th minute, and 1-2 on the scoreboard, Zidane withdrew the German as if he were crowning the mountain that precedes the national team break. Despite not playing the last 20 minutes, no other footballer generated more chances than the three for Kroos.