Manuel Veth –
It has been a complicated transfer window for Bayern München. Additionally to signing two new centre-backs in Lucas Hernández and Benjamin Pavard Bayern also wanted to bring in a midfielder, a winger and perhaps a striker. In Marc Roca, they may finally be able to tick at least one of those boxes.
“We will have a very good squad, the transfer window isn’t closed yet,” CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said upon Bayern’s arrival in the United States where the club will take part in the International Champions Cup.
“Without transfers, it will be difficult to play for titles,” striker Robert Lewandowski said. “In the last two years Bayern didn’t complete a major transfer,” he added. Whether Lewandowski will see Marc Roca as a major transfer is another topic, because the deal to bring the Spaniard to Germany seems imminent.
Spanish papers Marca and AS reported on Tuesday (Jul. 16) that Bayern’s sporting director Hasan Salihamidžić had already agreed personal terms with the 22-year-old midfielder from Espanyol Barcelona. Furthermore, Sport Bild reported that Bayern wanted to negotiate Espanyol down from the €40 million exit-clause in the midfielder’s contract.
Marc Roca – Transfer imminent?
Then on Wednesday (Jul. 17) kicker reported that Bayern are willing to pay the €40 million to complete the transfer. Marc Roca was part of the U-21 Spanish national team that won the European Championship in Italy and San Marino beating Germany 2-1 in the final.
The midfielder is supposed to act as a backup for Thiago. Signing a central midfielder like Marc Roca, in fact, might be the most important piece of business Bayern will make this summer. Der Rekordmeister was also interested in Atlético Madrid midfielder Rodrigo, the Spaniard, however, opted to sign for Manchester City instead.
As pointed out on the latest Gegenpressing Podcast and in an article on the Futbolgrad Network signing Rodrigo was a key business for Bayern this summer. The midfielder could have ticked various boxes for the Bavarians and filled a big creative void in the centre of the park and also would have added depth in defence as Javi Martínez could be freed up to play as a centre-back.
With Rodrigo joining ManCity, however, Bayern had to move their focus elsewhere. In fact, for some time it appeared that the club would not sign a central midfielder at all and instead burn all their resources on a winger such as Leroy Sané.
Although Bayern remain interested in the Manchester City winger, it now appears that in Marc Roca the club is willing to bring in a key midfielder after all. Finding an alternative to Javi Martínez and Thiago is paramount. On average Bayern have collected 2.52 points and conceded just 0.64 goals when Javi Martínez played for the club, in comparison without the 30-year-old Bayern collected just 1.94 points and conceded 1.25 goals per game.
Javi Martínez, however, is injury prone and the only player that comes close to replacing him in the squad is French midfielder Corentin Tolisso. Tolisso certainly would provide a good backup but he has recently returned from an ACL-injury and is much more attacking minded.
With Roca relatively unknown in Germany the question is what can the 22-year-old add to the Bayern squad and is he an edaquate Plan B given that the club missed out on Rodrigo? Although Roca is a significant talent, the 22-year-old visibly does represent a lower price segment.
Marc Roca by the numbers
In order to get a full picture, we compared Marc Roca to the players in Bayern’s current squad and Rodrigo. The first statistic is pass completion and here Roca’s 89.31% completion rate ranked him behind Javi Martínez (89.58%), Renato Sanches (90.84%), Thiago (92.15%) and Rodrigo (92.68%).
In fact, when it comes to his passing statistics, his overall numbers are more comparable to those of Renato Sanches than Rodrigo, who tops almost all categories. For example, when it comes to passes played per 90 minutes, Marc Roca averaged 51.28 passes, that is slightly more than Renato Sanches’ 49.19 and significantly less than Thiago’s 84.72 passes per 90 minutes.
The Espanyol central midfielder also ranks behind the Portuguese midfielder when it comes to forward passes completed. Renato Sanches managed to complete 88.46% of his forward passes, the most among all players compared for this article, in comparison, Roca managed to complete 80.05% of his forward passes and only Javi Martínez ranks below the 22-year-old with 78.5% completed forward passes.
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Finally, one passing category that Marc Roca did excell in was through passes. Only Renato Sanches managed to complete more through passes per 90 minutes throughout the last calendar year. Roca managed to completed 54.55% of his through passes per 90 minutes, in comparison Renato Sanches managed to complete 66.67% of his through passes.
Where Marc Roca scored high was in the defensive duels department. The Spaniard completed 7.38 duels per 90 minutes, which is second only to Rodrigo’s 8.17 duels per 90 minutes and ahead of any Bayern player currently in the squad.
All of these numbers of course come with a big caveat. Bayern are the best club in Germany, which will have boosted the numbers of the Bayern players in the squad. Meanwhile, Rodrigo was the most desired midfielder in Europe and it is no surprise Pep Guardiola fought Bayern hard to sign the player.
Marc Roca, in the meantime, finished seventh with Espanyol Barcelona in La Liga last season. A good result for the club and one reason why Bayern have targeted him. At the same time, Espanyol would have hardly played the sort of dominant football that is on display by top clubs, which would have curbed his numbers somewhat.
Either way, Roca seems to be a fascinating project. At €40 million, however, he seems expensive for a backup player and will have less than an impact that a Rodrigo type midfielder would have had at a slightly higher cost.
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and among others contributes to Forbes.com and Pro Soccer USA. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which is available HERE. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.