Saying Bayern Munich’s Spanish midfielder Marc Roca has found minutes limited in his one and a half seasons in Germany, would be an understatement. Roca played a paltry 577 minutes in his first season and has an even weaker 153 minutes this term. Roca was so out of favour that Julian Nagelsmann deemed the Spaniard inadequate to even make the match day squad on multiple occasions earlier in the season. However, the way he has dealt with his struggles in Munich has been striking — and all his effort and strengths were shown in Bayern’s recent 5-0 win over Stuttgart.
Low down in the pecking order under Hansi Flick, Roca saw the increased intensity and strength needed in German football compared to La Liga. This prompted hard work and dedication from Roca which was evident from his body transformation before 2021-2022 pre-season. The Spaniard spent lots of time in the gym to go from his formerly thin and lean stature, to become more muscular.
His weak physical prescene had translated into his defensive game leading to serious weaknesses in defensive duels, aggression and speed. Yet, while he was a defensive liability during Flick’s stint at the club, Roca has looked sharp and much more able defensively this season. This was strikingly illustrated through a great defensive performance in Bayern’s match vs Stuttgart. Roca was tenacious and would always pressure the player and fight his best to win the ball. This was exemplified as Roca won back possession which led to the counter attack that catalysed Bayern’s second goal. His former defensive liabilities could not be seen and his pace and agility have clearly increased.
Also in Bayern’s recent game, Roca showed off the passing capabilities that prompted his purchase in the first place. There were countless long range passes which were therapeutic in their beauty but also incredibly effective. Such passes resulted in chances for Serge Gnabry and Leroy Sane on the wings and great tempo switches for Bayern’s general play. With such passing, Roca could definitely play an important squad or even starting role in the future with Xabi Alonso-esque dictation of play possible with his skillset.
It was meaningful that Roca and Nagelsmann shared a warm embrace on the touchline after the game. It paid a testament to all of Roca’s efforts to improve and better himself in the past year, fighting tooth and nail to break into the team — and doing so despite Nagelsmann’s self admitted skepticism. Roca had even passed up the once in a lifetime opportunity of an olympic medal with Spain to have a full and uninterrupted pre-season with Bayern in the summer. A sacrifice which shows him commitment and ambition to break into one of the world’s best sides.
Finally, the defensive midfielder has always kept a positive attitude despite his hardships at the club. Read any interview from Roca and all you will hear is praise for the club, its coaching staff and his players — in addition to acknowledgements of his weakness’ and areas of improvement. This type of attitude is simply great for the club and a far cry away from the likes of the egotistical, step-over merchant Mickael Cuisance. An attitude recently described as “sensational” by Hasan Salidhamizic (kicker). Another sign of Roca’s character can be seen in his already competent German ability. While player’s like Benjamin Pavard still struggle speaking German after five years in the country, Roca does not after one and a half. This clearly required a large amount of time and shows Roca’s desire to really do his best.
Simply put, Roca has done a tremendous job in challenging circumstances at Bayern — improving physically, showing great mental resillience and being a class act whenever on and off the field. Hopefully the nice and dilligent Spaniard can continue getting minutes and improving his play in the next months. If he does receive more consistent minutes, he has certainly earned it.