In this article I analyse the beating heart of Real Madrid's team
7th April 2021
What a week of Champions League football!
On Tuesday night I watched as Real Madrid took control of the tie against Premier League champions Liverpool.
They say the game is won in midfield and Madrid’s three stalwarts honoured this old adage. The holy trinity have played with each other since 2014 yet have rarely got the credit each one of them deserves. In the past, all three have often gone under the radar due to flashier or more vocal players who have represented Los Blancos such as Cristiano Ronaldo or skipper Sergio Ramos but they have been just as integral to the team.
What more is there to say about Toni Kroos; the way he reads the game is second to none and Liverpool were duly punished when they neglected to press him even for a second. Kroos sent a raking 60 yard ball over the top of the Liverpool defence which Vinicius scored after a great first touch to make it 1-0. The German’s ability to ping insanely accurate defence splitting passes from deep is a rare and wonderful trait that any team in the world would love to have. He was at it again for Madrid’s second, forcing a mistake from Alexander-Arnold which led to Asensio’s goal. Finishing the game with a 90.7% pass accuracy and 4 key chances created, there is no denying how valuable an asset Kroos is – the epitome of a deep lying playmaker.
While he might not have the technical brilliance his midfield partners possess, Casemiro is a top top player in his own right. The Brazilian racked up eight tackles on Liverpool (just one less than they managed as an entire team). He is the enforcer of the team, bringing some much needed steel while also always being able to play the correct pass. A lot about what makes a good player is when they do the simple things consistently and Casemiro is as professional as they come. He is also a superb reader of the game, knowing how and when to commit tactical fouls. Despite this he also pops up with an impressive scoring rate - contributing 6 goals and 4 assists from his defensive position. While he would never win a Ballon D’or or World Player of the Year award being a CDM, anyone who has ever played football knows how vital a good defensive midfielder who screens the back four is.
Last but not least we come to Luka Modric who at 35 was putting younger teammates and opponents alike to shame with his relentless work ethic. While I personally do not have that much love for Real Madrid as a club, the timeless Croatian has always been a player I have admired and respected. Talent is talent and the way he silkily dribbles with the ball evading players with ease, combined with his innate ability to position himself correctly defensively mean Modric is still the glue who holds this team together. He never neglects his defensive duties (3 tackles against Liverpool) while always keeping his team moving fluidly in the right direction with his remarkable engine. Statistics do not do this man justice, simply watch him play. In my opinion, he has been the best central midfielder in the world since Xavi declined.
Combined together, this experienced midfield triumvirate means Madrid will always be a threat in the UCL. With Ronaldo now out of the competition at Juventus for the third year running it does show how valuable Madrid's midfield are in the biggest games. Real lost a legendary goalscorer but retained the core of midfield players who won Three Champions leagues in a row. It’s time to put some respect on these multiple champions league winners who absolutely dominate the midfield area. Three outstanding players … Three Kings!