Transfer rumors smothered Toni Kroos's great season

Shaun Botterill

Toni Kroos spent the entire season showing just how important of a cog he is in the Bayern Munich machine.

When Louis Van Gaal put an end to his side's interest in Toni Kroos, you could hear Bayern's collective sigh of relief all the way from Manchester. Such is the 24-year-old's importance to Pep Guardiola's team that losing him would constitute a major step backwards for the club. Despite the transfer shenanigans and recent slump, this season saw the German midfielder cement his place as one of Bayern Munich's most important players.

When an injured Bastian Schweinsteiger spent a spell from November to February on the sidelines, Kroos stepped up and confirmed his position as one of the first names on the Bayern team sheet. In these games, he seemed to grow from one of many players in Bayern's midfield orchestra to its leading conductor, echoing Xavi's performances at Barcelona as he dictated the pace of the game and consistently registered a pass completion of over 90%.

What Kroos is not, of course, is a towering defensive monster, and his steady possession game was at times susceptible to the kind of speedy counter-attack that Manchester City took advantage of in December's frustrating Champions League loss. Kroos was also forced to come deep for the ball against other sides that pressed high up the pitch, dulling his playmaking threat in the process. Even so, his energetic displays ensured that he was capable of some sharp interceptions to cut out opposition attacks and become one of Bayern's most complete midfield options.

It's a shame that the transfer rumours surrounding Kroos coincided with a comparative dip in form towards the end of the season. Whether it was down to morale, fatigue, or a combination of both, Kroos simply wasn't as dynamic as he had been in preceding months. Games like the 6-1 win at Wolfsburg were characterised by comparatively wayward passing from the midfielder, and he seemed to lack the same defensive hustle that made him such a regular choice at the heart of the Bayern lineup.

And while judging a player of Kroos' abilites on stats alone is missing the point, they may highlight a couple of potential areas for improvement. Take his tally of four assists in the league - only half the number he managed the previous season. If you were feeling harsh, you could even point to Kroos' two Bundesliga goals (five in all competitions) as a sign that he could build on his finishing. Games like the DFB Pokal final saw his long-range shooting verging on wasteful, and yet his deft strike against Arsenal showcased that the German is more than capable of scoring from outside the box.

If we could all get selective amnesia and forget about the last couple of months, it would be easy to give Kroos a straight A. He's confirmed his status as a world-class midfielder capable of assured passing and ball retention. Unfortunately, his otherwise stellar season was marred by some unsettled and inconsistent performances late on. With the likes of an improving Thiago knocking on the door for a place in Guardiola's midfield, Kroos will look to recapture some of his earlier form when the Bundesliga returns in August.

Grade 2013-2014: A-
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