Kroos is no longer Germany's shadow man
BERLIN: Toni Kroos is used to living in the shadow of other players, be it at his clubs or with the national team, but Euro 2016 looks to be the tournament where the hugely gifted midfielder will finally take centre stage.
During his title-rich time at Bayern Munich, Kroos was always overshadowed by the team's alpha males including Bastian Schweinsteiger and Philipp Lahm.
More praise was heaped on keeper Manuel Neuer or defender Jerome Boateng than on the unassuming midfielder, whose exact contribution to Bayern's game may not always have been instantly recognisable.
The same players took the front row for Germany ahead of Kroos while Real Madrid's star-studded strike force of Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo have claimed all the headlines since Kroos's arrival in 2014.
The 26-year-old World Cup-winner, however, has gradually emerged as the brain of Real, steering Zinedine Zidane's team to the Champions League final with a string of eye-popping statistics, including a completion rate of 90 percent from close to 1,000 passes.
That figure rises to close to 94 percent completion rate from some 2,300 passes in La Liga.
"He can mark an entire era at Real," Zidane said of a player who has prospered under the new manager, oozing control and confidence in setting the pace and rhythm of their game.
A seemingly natural successor at Euro 2016 for captain Schweinsteiger, who is struggling to recover from injury in time for the tournament, Kroos's duties were always going to be stepped up from the 2014 World Cup.
With the absence of the injured Ilkay Guendogan, however, and Sami Khedira also nursing a minor muscle injury at the end of the season, Kroos's role has just become even more crucial.
Despite his late arrival to the team's training camp in Italy, due to the Champions League final, Kroos will quickly need to assume his lead role as Germany challenge for their first European crown in 20 years.