During the World Cup 2014 at Brazil, it has become more evident that Germany’s new maestro is Toni Kroos. Bastian Schweinsteiger is still a vital component in the team’s offensive configurations. Sami Khedira has proven that he is still Germany’s best defensive anchor in midfield, while Mesut Özil – despite a disappointing World Cup campaign – still has Joachim Löw’s confidence. But if Özil used to be the heartbeat, the very center of pulsation, of Germany’s attacking patterns, this role has now been taken by Toni Kroos who occupies a role in front of Khedira and behind Germany’s three front men – a typical number 8 able to both defend and (even more so) attack.
And yes, there are many things typical about Kroos. Historically, German soccer players have never been afraid of shooting from long range, and this is also the case with Kroos. His technique, power, and balance endow him with a very powerful, “pure”, and elegant long shot. The same can be said of his winning mentality: it is steeped in a German tradition of never giving up. As is the case with his own generation of “new” German soccer players (Özil, Götze, Reus, Schürrle, all trained within the German academy system that was reformed in the beginning of this century), Kroos is also technically gifted, and his passing ability is on the highest level of precision.
However, there are also things unusual about Kroos. With his recent performances for Germany and Bayern Munich, Kroos is about to earn himself a place in the same very exclusive category to which players like Andrea Pirlo, Xavi, Luka Modric, and Paul Scholes also belong. That is, the category of the great maestros of soccer. Like a conductor in front of an orchestra, the soccer maestro must be a master of his craft. He must possess an exemplary level of passing accuracy, technical ability, and tactical awareness. But the skill that more than anything else sets the maestro apart from his teammates is his ability to dictate the rhythm of a game.
We can (inspired by the French linguist Émile Benvéniste) define rhythm as a changing structure that realizes itself in time. That is, rhythm is a temporalized becoming-form. Rhythms thus constitute a certain inertia against formlessness and pure fluidity, mainly because of their dependency of repetitions. However, within this structure of repetition, and in order to prevent deadly monotony, rhythms are also dependent on movements and differences. In other words, rhythms are a finely tuned balance between continuity, identity, and repetition (in order for there to be form), on the one hand, and contrast, difference, and change (in order to avoid monotony) on the other.