Masterful Kroos puts himself out of the reach of Man Utd


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By the end of a masterful 90 minutes in which he struck a brilliant opening goal, hit the post with another gorgeous effort, opened up the Arsenal defence to win a penalty, completed nearly 150 passes and displayed his near total mastery of a football, the prospect of Toni Kroos being allowed to leave Bayern Munich for Manchester United had receded as far into the realm of the ludicrous as thoughts of Arsenal qualifying for the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

In truth, while negotiations between Bayern and Kroos remain stagnant over the midfielder's desire to earn a yearly wage of €8 million (£6.6m) instead of the €4.5m the club have offered, persistent suggestions of a possible move to Old Trafford, with David Moyes in the stands at the Emirates last night, have always seemed far-fetched. After a night when he embellished his reputation as one of the finest midfielders in the business, Bayern must bend to accommodate his demands. As Pep Guardiola said: "Today he played on a very, very high level. We all want him to extend his contract."

The elegant yet ever dangerous Kroos was Bayern Munich's outstanding perfomer on a night when, for a second season in succession and exactly a year to the day, they outplayed Arsenal in the Champions League at Emirates Stadium. Though Arsenal's nascent dominance - which surprisingly had Bayern rocking on their heels - was ended by a red card shown to Wojciech Szczesny in the first half, Bayern's awesome display in the second must still rank amongst the most one-sided in Arsenal's recent history, even if it came against 10 men.


If there were only two goals – both assisted by Philipp Lahm, who was only marginally less effective than Kroos after being moved to a deep midfield role at the break – Bayern's complete dominance in possession made this a brutal experience for an Arsenal team that had started so encouragingly. The margin of defeat was the same as last year's 3-1 reverse, but by the end, this felt like an even more emphatic dissection. Stroking the ball around with a confidence befitting their manager, and with Arsenal having only 12% possession in the second half and completing only 38 passes, Bayern set a new Champions League record with a total pass accuracy of 94.6%.

No one made more than Kroos. A midfielder of rare talent, this was arguably the 24-year-old's seminal performance to date as he showcased his wide repertoire of skills. Inside three minutes he established his intent when his stunning 20-yard effort forced Wojciech Szczesny into a fine save.

After Arsenal had missed a penalty – Mesut Ozil's poor effort symptomatic of a careless and inattentive performance which paled in comparison to that of his colleague in the German national side – it was Kroos who opened up the Arsenal defence with a Xavi-esque dink over the top for Arjen Robben to run onto, the Dutchman drawing Szczesny, who clattered into him to earn a red card and concede a penalty which David Alaba contrived to miss.

Arsenal's cause with 10 men was doomed from its very inception. It was only a matter of time before Guardiola's side wore down the hosts with their relentless passing and probing. And on 54 minutes it was Kroos, of course, who opened up a one-goal lead, the midfielder exchanging passes with Lahm to the right and bending a remarkable first-time effort into the top corner.

Strangely enough, for a player whose proficiency from range has been long established since a loan spell with Bayer Leverkusen between 2009 and 2010, this was only Kroos's second goal for Bayern since he punched a volley into the turf and into the net in that 3-1 win at Emirates Stadium exactly a year ago. Having scored nine goals during the treble season - cruelly cut short by injury - as he performed ahead of Javi Martinez and Bastian Schweinsteiger and more as a No. 10, drifting in between the lines, under Guardiola he has dropped deeper into midfield.

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Here he started as one of a central pair in a 4-1-4-1 before coming a bit deeper in a 4-2-3-1 for the second half as Martinez moved into defence. It did not limit his influence; rather he excelled at controlling the game as Bayern pushed up enthusiastically on their battered and bruised opponents. Kroos also drifted wide on occasion to help target Arsenal's porous left flank, combining to great effect with Lahm, Rafinha, Mario Goetze and Arjen Robben at various points as he gave a little insight into how he is also capable of performing in a wide role.

A complete midfielder, Kroos, surely, is the kind player Lahm had in mind when saying in January of Bayern's multi-talented, multi-faceted team: “It’s one of the main developments of recent years, with the various types of player becoming more and more similar to each other. I guess you still have central defenders and a handful of strikers with a different style of play. But full-backs, holding midfielders, inside forwards, playmakers and wide players are all extremely flexible, quick-witted, technically excellent and versatile in terms of position - myself included.”

Despite his excellence across great swathes of the pitch, Kroos hasn't enjoyed untouchable status under Guardiola. Only recently Moyes was pictured attending a Bundesliga match with the player's agent and Kroos also invited speculation over his future when petulantly throwing his gloves to the ground when being substituted in a Bundesliga game against Stuttgart in January.

Guardiola, as we know, is not afraid of demonstrating his power by sacrificing big names, but Kroos is not Ronaldinho, an ageing talent he can afford to jettison to make a point; he has started 16 of 21 Bundesliga games and is the future of the Bayern midfield. Guardiola certainly spoke of Kroos in revealingly glowing terms after his luminous performance against Arsenal.

"Incredible," the Bayern manager said. "I like players like this, in such a difficult situation, in such a big game, in a stadium like this, they take the ball and play and play and play. Toni was great, with an incredible goal. I am very happy with his performance."

And Kroos did play and play and play. There was every kind of pass amid the 147 he completed: the dink for Robben to win the penalty; a lofted chip for the same man to test Szczesny with a volley off his instep; a perfectly guided through-ball on the floor for Rafinha to run on to; prods and pokes; square balls and incisive forward passes.

If his impressive, purposeful performance in the 2012 Champions League final, as Bayern were beaten at home by Chelsea, hinted at a great talent, this was that talent gloriously fulfilled; a tempo-setting but also match-defining display. Kroos deserved a second when, in injury time, his instinctive, guided shot rolled lazily against the base of the post.

To lose him would be a criminal act. Last night, Kroos proved he belongs at the heart of the best team on the planet. Manchester United, seemingly destined for the Europa League at best, must seek out other targets.

Tom Adams at Emirates Stadium - @tomEurosport

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