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Four players who could succeed Toni Kroos at Real Madrid following shock retirement

Toni Kroos is set to retire from football in the summer after a glittering career at Real Madrid.

The German international will play for his national team at Euro 2024, which is being staged in his home country, before calling it a day.

The 34-year-old has just two matches left to play for Real Madrid, against Real Betis on the final day of the season and the Uefa Champions League final against Borussia Dortmund.

“I am happy and proud, that in my mind I found the right timing for my decision and that I could choose it by my own,” Kroos said in a statement.

 

“My ambition was always to finish my career at the peak of my performance level. From now on there is only one leading thought: a por la 15!!! HALA MADRID Y NADA MÁS!”

Kroos could win an unprecedented sixth European Cup next month, having won one with Bayern Munich and four with Real Madrid.

The midfielder had agreed a contract extension with Los Blancos to remain at the Bernabeu for at least another year, but club president Florentino Perez will now have to find a replacement for a seemingly irreplaceable player.

Four players who could succeed Toni Kroos at Real Madrid:

Joshua Kimmich

Joshua Kimmich’s future appears up in the air with suggestions that the German could look for a new challenge in the summer. The 29-year-old has epitomised the unrelenting standards at Bayern Munich across the last decade, winning a catalogue of major prizes that includes eight Bundesliga titles, four German Cups and the Champions League.

Though more combative than his compatriot, Kimmich has long held a similarly conductorial role for club and country. He ranks in the 99th percentile of midfielders in Europe’s top five leagues for crosses per 90 minutes, the 98th for attempted passes and progressive passes, and in the 97th for key passes.

Kimmich will enter the final 12 months of his contract this summer at the Allianz Arena and a decision will need to be made on his future. Bayern will not want to lose such a key figure on a free, raising the prospect of a sale should new terms not be agreed.

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Rodri

Spanish football’s big two have watched from afar as Rodri has evolved into world football’s finest defensive midfielder outside of his homeland. Spells at Villarreal and Atletico Madrid pre-dated a £62m move to Manchester City in 2019, where Rodri has since flourished under the watchful eye of Pep Guardiola at the Etihad.

An indispensable part of the Citizens side, he has won three Premier League titles, three domestic cups, and was named Champions League Player of the Season as City ended their wait for European success last season.

His unbeaten streak inside 90 minutes has now extended to 15 months and over 70 games, the clearest example of his influence on this side. He leads the Premier League for touches, passes into the final third, and progressive passes this season, while producing career-best numbers with seven goals and nine assists.

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Signing him, however, will be a difficult task. Manchester City have been able to hold onto their top talent amid interest from Spanish football’s giants, when other Premier League clubs have struggled to do so.

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Exequiel Palacios

Bayer Leverkusen’s swashbuckling side have caught the imagination of Europe this season, winning the Bundesliga title for the first time in their history under Xabi Alonso.

The Spaniard has implemented a brilliant brand of football at the BayArena, with Leverkusen leading the league for average possession (61.9%), and ranking behind only Bayern Munich for shots per game and xG.

Exequiel Palacios has been a crucial cog in midfield for the newly-crowned German champions, with only Aleksandar Pavlovic bettering his 92.1% pass accuracy among Bundesliga midfielders. The Argentine also sits among the league leaders for passes into the final third (4th), successful take-on percentage (87%) and fouls drawn (6th).

Martin Zubimendi

An option from closer to home could be Martin Zubimendi. An integral part of the Real Sociedad side that reached the Champions League’s Round of 16 this season, it is expected that the midfielder’s €60m (£51.5m) release clause will be activated in the summer.

Barcelona and Arsenal have been heavily linked with the 25-year-old, who has earned five caps for the Spanish national team since his debut in 2021. Zubimendi’s game is built on composure and awareness of his surroundings, with an ability to turn away from pressure as if in possession of wing mirrors.

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With a defined release clause, homegrown status, and experience of La Liga, he looks a sensible signing for a Real Madrid team who have moved away from the lavish glamour signings of past regimes, in favour of long-term planning.

Read – Five who played for both Real Madrid and Bayern Munich

See more – 90s Hitmen: Raul – Real Madrid and Champions League royalty

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