Germany's Kroos is the complete midfielder
Germany are blessed with the complete midfielder
Toni Kroos laughs easily in interviews. He breezes though press conferences.
If he doesn't quite charm, he doesn't grate in a way that Joachim Loew occasionally can when he dislikes a particular line of questioning and clams up.
Germany's midfielder can be disarming, engaging and self-deprecating, comfortable in his own skin to make jokes of both the Real Madrid rumours and his own role within the national side.
Throughout the World Cup, Kroos has been entertaining company, willing to answer questions in German and English and winning over the locals by apologising for his lack of Portuguese.
It's only when one listens back to his interviews that the truth dawns.
He gave away nothing. He was gregarious and seemingly forthcoming, but anything but revealing.
He never slipped, stumbled over his words or lost focus long enough to commit any kind of verbal faux pas.
Kroos was always in control.
He speaks as he plays, confidently and effortlessly, but concentration is paramount.
His attention to the smallest details never wavers.
He is always the master of his environment; the complete midfielder in a counter-attacking game that has evolved rapidly during the World Cup.
In many respects, Kroos is a creative minimalist; his flashes of brilliance are less flamboyant but usually decisive.
Sami Khedira trained the eye on his swashbuckling, rampaging runs through Brazil's jelly-legged defence, but Kroos' cool running was more understated.
In a Germany side built on swift counter-attacking, Kroos is its quiet, unfussy heart. He determines the beats per minute, the ebb and flow of Die Mannschaft's devastating dynamism, instinctively knowing when to hold back and when to proceed.
He gets Teutonic blood pumping.
He has Germans dreaming of their first World Cup since 1990. There isn't a nation in world football that doesn't dream of boasting such a midfield talent.
Javier Mascherano will come closest in the Maracana on Monday morning (Singapore time).
He can rival Kroos' industry, but not his ingenuity. The Real Madrid-bound midfielder has no discernible weaknesses and is the most pliable of performers; an essential quality favoured among malleable managers.
As Louis van Gaal and Loew amply demonstrated here in Brazil, tactical adaptability has had a greater impact than individual artistry. Indeed one enhanced the other.
England, Italy and perhaps even Brazil were strategically straitjacketed by coaches who failed to make decisive changes during games or they lacked the personnel to do so.
Kroos is a veritable bendy toy for Loew to shape into any fashion or style of his choosing.
Through the tournament, and particularly during the knockout stages, Kroos has started nominally on the left, but drifted away the moment the teamsheets were handed out in the press box.
When the shape-shifting Germans tweak their 4-3-3 into a central midfield diamond, with Bastian Schweinsteiger and Khedira adding the spit and polish to their attacking gem, Kroos is equally adept at the apex or tidying up loose ends at the bottom.
His crossing is exemplary from either flank - he's German. The Bundesliga do not typically endorse one-footed footballers.
And he slips hand in glove into a No. 10 role should Loew feel compelled to push either Thomas Mueller or Miroslav Klose further forward.
And to keep the old-school, sleeves rolled up and socks round ankles fans suitably pacified, Kroos has no qualms in carrying out box-to-box duties when an antiquated 4-4-2 approach is reluctantly called upon.
But such transparent blood and thunder histrionics are almost beneath him, like using a Rolls Royce to take on boy racers along the East Coast Park slip roads.
His metronomic, fastidious brain negates the brawn. The ball runs on his behalf.
France found his football intellect deeply frustrating; a permanent source of irritation. He was an itch they couldn't scratch; omnipresent without being overwhelming, unflashy but effective.
He never went away.
But his superlative performance in the semi-final defined his understated consistency. Against Brazil, Kroos delivered a peerless PowerPoint presentation on what encapsulates the modern footballer.
He offered a captivating slideshow of midfield mastery.
Less rambunctious than Khedira, not quite as physically imposing as Mueller and unable to fully replicate Mesut Oezil's wizardry, Kroos eclipsed all three by playing matchmaker. He brought the trio together.
Without Kroos, they're gifted chemists in white coats standing over test tubes, Bunsen burners and lots of florescent liquids. He's the alchemist for their artistry.
Against Brazil, he dropped deeper, scampered forward, broke up Brazilian play. He picked out incisive runs while making a few of his own, scored two made another and topped most of the game's passing charts.
He's not a monstrous presence to rival Yaya Toure or Paul Pogba, but a chameleonic one; an asset highly prized in a tournament that has expelled rigidity and championed a more refreshing fluidity.
And he's still only 24.
At this World Cup, van Gaal has been Kroos' coaching kindred spirit, sharing his ability to adapt to his evolving environment quickly and efficiently. They were made for each other at Old Trafford.
Instead, Real Madrid are finalising the signing of the European summer. La Liga will be lucky to have him.
And unless Mascherano shackles Germany's midfield fulcrum, Spanish football will welcome a World Cup winner.
Kroos is a wonderful player. He's doing everything right, the pace in his passes is great and he sees everything. It's nearly perfect.
- Johan Cryuff on Toni Kroos
I love watching Toni Kroos. I think he's brilliant. I love the way he controls the ball and controls games... I just wish Man United had signed him.
- Paul Scholes on Toni Kroos
KROOS' WORLD CUP STATS
CHANCES CREATED: 13
PASS ACCURACY: 92%
AVERAGE PASS LENGTH: 20M
AVERAGE DUELS WON: 59%
SHOT ACCURACY: 50%
SHOTS PER GAME: 2.2