When Marc Roca arrived on the campus of Säbener Straße, the deal was labeled a steal and many fans celebrated his transfer as a huge victory for the club. Bayern Munich was able to procure the former Espanyol midfielder for just €9 million, just a year after his selling price was allegedly over four times that amount.
By all accounts, Roca was a value-buy. Unfortunately for Roca and those fans who championed his arrival, though, things have not exactly worked out to date — and it will not be getting any easier.
Joshua Kimmich, Leon Goretzka, and Javi Martinez are all back at full strength, while Corentin Tolisso is also in the mix. More, Bayern Munich manager Hansi Flick has also used both Thomas Müller and Jamal Musiala in deeper-sitting midfield roles than either player is really accustomed to.
You could really argue that Roca is holding steady in the seventh slot of the depth chart for the “double pivot” positions without even factoring that Flick is likely to use Tiago Dantas with the senior team now as well. Now that Dantas is eligible to be called up, eight players for what amounts to be three positions (if you count Müller’s customary second striker/attacking midfielder role) is not exactly a desirable place to be if you are Roca.
And none of that above includes Tanguy Nianzou, who could also be used as a defensive midfielder. Clearly, there is a — you guessed it — midfield logjam.
The back-up is so bad that Adrien Fein was shipped away on a loan to PSV Eindhoven and Angelo Stiller is not even willing to stay with the Bavarians any longer because he won’t be able to break through.
So...what went wrong for Roca?
We know that there is some sort of quality that Flick needs to see from his midfielders that Roca is currently lacking as the Spaniard was rarely called upon even when Kimmich, Goretzka, Martinez, and Tolisso all missed time with injuries. To the naked eye, Roca performed admirably in his appearances, but there is speculation that his spacing, positioning, and foot speed are all giving Flick a reason to hesitate in pulling the trigger on using him regularly.
In a way, though, it is almost ideal if Roca does not play a lot if you are a Bayern Munich fan. If remains firmly on the bench, it would hopefully imply that Kimmich, Goretzka, Muller, et al., have remained healthy enough for Flick to not to have to reach too deep into his bag of tricks for the midfield. If you are Roca, however, that scenario would be less than ideal.
So where does Roca go from here?
As a young player, he needs to tread lightly and continue to work as hard as he can in hopes of proving himself at one of the world’s premier clubs. Still, one has to wonder if he can even overcome the amount of bodies in front of him to climb up the depth chart.
There is a lot of speculation that both Tolisso and Martinez could be leaving Bayern Munich this upcoming summer. And sure, Dantas could go back to Benfica when his loan assignment ends, but Bayern Munich has also been linked to several midfielders with varying specialties, so even with some potential departures, there could be some new bodies to contend with next summer for Roca.
Worse, Kimmich and Goretzka are considered by some to be the top-defensive midfield combination in the world. You can argue semantics of how that relationship works and what number position that each player occupies, but both carry heavy defensive and ball distribution responsibilities. Frankly, Roca has very little chance to unseat either player as a starter any time soon.
So, depending on what moves Bayern Munich makes between now and the end of next summer, Roca could find himself in exactly the same position he is now — which is trapped on a top-heavy roster. For a young player who needs playing time, that is no place to be.
Surely, neither Bayern Munich nor Roca is going to bail on this arrangement just yet, but for the 24-year-old Spaniard, he is going to need to see a pathway to playing time by the end of the 2021/2022 season or he is going to have to move on for his own good.
Otherwise, he had better get used to he concept of being a back-up for longer than he would probably like.