Exequiel Palacios (c.) won the CONMEBOL Copa Libertadores at the Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid, the home of idol Toni Kroos, when River Plate beat city rivals Boca Juniors in 2018. - © BorjaB.Hojas/imago/Alterphotos
Exequiel Palacios (c.) won the CONMEBOL Copa Libertadores at the Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid, the home of idol Toni Kroos, when River Plate beat city rivals Boca Juniors in 2018. - © BorjaB.Hojas/imago/Alterphotos
bundesliga

Bayer Leverkusen signing Exequiel Palacios: “Toni Kroos is one of my favourite players”

New Bayer Leverkusen midfielder Exequiel Palacios has stated that he’s a fan of former Werkself and Bayern Munich pass master Toni Kroos, following the Real Madrid man since he started watching the Bundesliga as a youngster back home in Argentina.

Palacios, who joins Leverkusen on a long-term deal from River Plate, was speaking at his new club’s winter training camp in La Manga, Spain, where he professed a fondness for the Germany midfielder.

“I always liked watching the Bundesliga in Argentina and really liked Toni Kroos at Bayern. He’s one of my favourite players,” the 21-year-old said.

Perhaps a coincidence for a player born in the city of Famaillá, in the northeast of Argentina, that is not only known as the national capital of the empanada but also contains a town called Nueva Baviera, or New Bavaria.

Those in Leverkusen could perhaps also forgive their new signing for not remembering Kroos’s 18-month loan spell at the BayArena between January 2009 and summer 2010, coming before Palacios had even turned 12.

It was there that the future FIFA World Cup winner made his breakthrough before returning to Munich and forming the engine room of the record champions’ treble-winning team.

Palacios, too, is hoping that his move to Leverkusen will help cement his place with La Albiceleste alongside the likes of Lionel Messi.

“This is a great opportunity for me with the national team, by playing as many games as well as possible for Leverkusen in the Bundesliga,” the four-time international stated. “My dream is to win a tournament with Argentina.”

Domestically, Palacios has already enjoyed plenty of success with River Plate, being a key member of the team that twice won the Copa Argentina, the famous derby Copa Libertadores against Boca Juniors in 2018 and the Recopa Sudamericana.

With the Buenos Aires outfit he featured in a number of different central midfield roles, like his idol Kroos moving between a No.10 role and a more defensive, playmaker position.

When asked his preference, though, Palacios explained: “I see myself as an attacking midfielder. I like to assist my teammates a lot, but I don’t have a problem helping out when needed to defend.”

Traits he seemingly shares with another former Leverkusen midfielder who made the move across the Atlantic to the Bundesliga. Arturo Vidal boasts a similar all-action approach, and Palacios wants to follow in the footsteps of the Chilean and other South Americans at the BayArena.

Watch: The top 5 Bundesliga goals by Argentinians, including new teammate Lucas Alario

“I’m going to try and do things well like they did, how [Charles] Aranguiz and Lucas [Alario] are doing now for the club. I want to continue down the same path as them.

“They [Aranguiz and Alario] have helped me a lot when it comes to training and playing. It’s something that helps you feel more comfortable.”

While a sending-off in his final league game for River Plate has resulted in a suspension being carried over to the Bundesliga and he’ll miss the first three games of 2020 against Paderborn, Fortuna Düsseldorf and Hoffenheim, Palacios could be in line to make his Leverkusen debut at home to Borussia Dortmund on Matchday 21.

He is, however, most looking forward to Bayern’s visit to the BayArena on Matchday 30. When asked who in the Bundesliga he’d most like to swap shirts with, the Argentine replied: “Thiago or Thomas Müller – they’re both good players.”