Whenever there’s a signing on any team that involves upwards of 50 million euros ($67M,) all eyes focus on that player. This transfer window has had several big cash moves, David Luiz to Chelsea, Luis Suárez to FC Barcelona and now James Rodríguez to Real Madrid. The Colombian is also the youngest on the list. On top of that, James is moving to a team that already has plenty of players in his position. This gives him and the club a lot of pressure, as the signing is expected to be successful, since they will most likely need to get rid of other talented midfielders.
However, it’s easy to overlook other key signings when such big names and cash are involved. Players like Mikel Arteta, Pablo Zabaleta, Yaya Touré, Xabi Alonso or Diego Godín are some that are underrated. They give their teams a lot of depth that big signings don’t usually give, because they make the team function. You can put a lot of stars together, but if you don’t have those true “team” players, you’ll fail.
He may have just won the World Cup in style and won the treble with Bayern Munich not too long ago, but Toni Kroos can be seen as an underrated player. At just 24 years old, he has the maturity and talent to play for any big team. He may not score 20+ goals per season or be the assist leader, but he makes his teams work properly.
Converted from a more attack-oriented player, Pep Guardiola wanted him to be the Xavi of Bayern Munich. Kroos has an incredible passing ability and he thinks faster than his teammates, which helps him provide more dangerous balls to the attackers. Toni has learned to play in a deep role, but has that versatility to adapt to any other role Ancelotti gives him.
Not too long ago, Real Madrid was one of the most powerful counterattacking teams under José Mourinho’s tenure. While Ancelotti retained that philosophy with the addition of another speedy player like Gareth Bale, the Italian manager always insisted that the team maintain their equilibrium and give equal importance to attack and defense. The men that provided this to him last season were Luka Modrić, Ángel Di María and Xabi Alonso, the latter slowly nearing the end of his career.This is why Kroos was brought to Madrid. Nobody will ever be able to replicate Xabi Alonso, but Kroos can give Madrid the same as he did and even more should his progression remain unstoppable.
James will bring a lot of quality to Real Madrid, don’t get me wrong, but having only stars is like having a beautiful car design, but not a quality engine to get it going. It’s up to Ancelotti to give Kroos the right role, but there’s no doubt that for his price tag, the return on investment can be enormous. Toni is set to join his teammates on August 5th and could potentially play his first match for Real Madrid at the European Supercup a week later.