Spain U21 international Marc Roca could be the midfield general Bayern Munich have been looking for. - © 2019 Getty Images
Spain U21 international Marc Roca could be the midfield general Bayern Munich have been looking for. - © 2019 Getty Images

Marc Roca: Who is Bayern Munich's long-awaited heir to Xabi Alonso and answer to Barcelona's Sergio Busquets?

Bayern Munich have moved quickly to replenish stock levels following Thiago Alcantara's move to Liverpool by bringing in Spain UEFA Euro U21 winner Marc Roca from Espanyol. lifts the lid on a player who was reportedly on Real Madrid's wish list and has been compared to Xabi Alonso and Sergio Busquets...

Marc Roca

Age: 23
Club: Bayern Munich
Position: Defensive midfielder
Country: Spain U21s (7 caps, 2 goals)

Key stats

Catalonia is fertile breeding ground for cerebral midfielders, but it was at Espanyol rather than the region's football powerhouse, Barcelona, where Roca rose to prominence. After moving up through the youth ranks and featuring for the club's B team, the 6'0" left-footer was handed his La Liga debut by Quique Sanchez Flores in August 2016, aged 20. He went on to make 121 competitive appearances in blue and white, registering three goals and six assists.

Bayern did not sign Roca for his playmaking abilities, however. The record champions wanted an Alpha midfielder - someone capable of putting out fires at the back and driving the team forward - and the numbers suggest that is exactly what they are getting. On average, Roca won seven challenges per 90 minutes in La Liga last season - more than any Bayern midfielder in the Bundesliga - whilst his 89 per cent pass completion was only narrowly shaded by new the outgoing Thiago (92 per cent).

Roca was also part of Spain's U21 EURO-winning squad in 2019. He began the first two games on the bench, but played the full 90 minutes in the next three, scoring in the semi-final triumph over France.

Plays a bit like: Xabi Alonso

Renowned for his composure on the ball, footballing intelligence and passing ability, it is little wonder Roca has been likened to former Bayern, Real, Liverpool, Real Sociedad and Spain midfield great, Alonso. His defensive reading of the game, meanwhile, has drawn comparisons with Busquets, Barcelona's master of dirty work and distribution.

Watch: A reminder of what Xabi Alonso brought to the table in his three seasons at Bayern prior to his retirement

Did you know?

Although Roca has represented Spain at youth level and is eligible for the senior side, he once represented a Catalonia outfit coached by the late Johan Cruyff.

Barcelona trio Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets missed out, but Roca played alongside the legendary Xavi Hernandez as the Catalans played out a 3-3 draw with Tunisia, before losing a penalty shoot-out.

Catalonia is not affiliated with either FIFA or UEFA, so is only permitted to participate in international friendlies.

Roca (No.21) helped Spain dethrone Germany at the 2019 UEFA U21 Euros. - 2019 Getty Images

What they're saying

"In my position it's important to be aware of everything, and only when you play without thinking are you the true version of yourself, so that's how I train - to play without thinking." - Roca on his football philosophy

"Very big European clubs are interested in Marc." - Roca's agent, Juan Mata Rodriguez, following a summer of speculation linking his client with a move away from Espanyol

"Marc Roca is one of the best young deep-lying midfielders in the world" - Tiago Estevao, football performance analyst