Soccer

Real Madrid's three midfield maestros are still pulling the strings

The REAL holy trinity: Madrid’s midfield maestros Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Casemiro are still pulling the strings for Zinedine Zidane’s side… and they take on Liverpool three years after beating Reds in Kiev final

  • Real Madrid’s midfield triumvirate is the beating heart of the LaLiga champions
  • Ultra-fit Luka Modric and superb passer Toni Kroos form a strong partnership
  • In-between them, the Brazilian Casemiro offers goals from defensive midfield 
  • The trio will be key to stifling out Liverpool’s threat in the Champions League 

‘We are not thinking about the past; this is a different game for both sides,’ said Zinedine Zidane of Tuesday’s Champions League quarter-final with Liverpool.

The irrelevance of the 2018 final in Ukraine is genuine because the motors of that Real side, Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, are gone. Midfield is what matters now for Madrid.

The club have failed to replace Ronaldo. Eden Hazard has made only eight starts all season and doesn’t make the squad on Tuesday night. They are a different animal now — one that depends on its beating-heart midfield of Toni Kroos, Casemiro and Luka Modric.

Real Madrid midfielders Toni Kroos (left) and Luka Modric (right) have formed a strong bond

Brazilian Casemiro (left) plays in between the two and offers goals from defensive midfield

How the three fare against Liverpool’s high tempo remains to be seen but against Atalanta in the last round, and in La Liga so far this season, they have been superb.

With 95 years and 12 Champions League winner’s medals between them, the midfield trio will go down as Madrid’s greatest. Ballon d’Or-winning elder statesman Modric, 35, maintains a level of fitness that puts younger team-mates to shame.

‘It would be easier to ask who loses,’ said a grinning Kroos, 31, in a recent joint interview he did with Modric. 

They had been asked who would win a 100m sprint between them. Modric kept a modest silence before Kroos admitted his team-mate would win. Notoriously languid without the ball, Kroos compensates with an extraordinary pass completion rate.

‘I always knew my speed was average and there were a huge amount of players who were physically quicker than me,’ he says in the book Kicken wie die Profis (Play like the professionals). 

Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane will hope his midfield triumvirate can overpower Liverpool

Speed of thought has been the solution. How fast do you need to be if you never give the ball away? Between Kroos and Modric, Brazilian Casemiro, 29, has been that rare beast: the goalscoring holding midfielder.

He has brought defensive balance to the trio but weighs in with more goals than the others. He is second top scorer this season behind Karim Benzema. He had been a striker but made plugging midfield holes his craft while maintaining a knack for goal.

In an interview with Sportsmail last year, Casemiro admitted still being in awe of his coach Zidane. ‘I tell him: you took a World Cup off us in France ’98 but you were still my idol,’ he said. 




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