Leeds United transfer target gets unanimous verdict from La Liga and Bundesliga pundits amid questions
If Marc Roca’s move to Bayern Munich didn’t work out as he hoped, it wasn’t for lack of trying or lack of ability.
That’s the view of La Liga and Bundesliga pundits who all rave about the midfielder’s playing prowess and note similar physical concerns.
A glance at the 25-year-old’s career is not enough to detect nuances of Junior Firpo or even the almost white Michael Cuisance.
A move to an elite club that was arguably too much, too soon, and therefore did not deliver the success or regular playing time the player wanted and needed.
For Firpo it was a move to Barcelona from Real Betis, while for Roca and Cuisance it was the leap to Bayern Munich from Espanyol and Borussia Mönchengladbach respectively.
Leeds gave Firpo a chance to rebuild, were determined to do the same for Cuisance until that deal collapsed in the 11th hour and could now make Roca their next restoration project. But there is an important difference between Cuisance and Roca’s time at Bayern that ESPN’s Bundesliga reporter Archie Rhind-Tutt is keen to point out.
“Roca was one of those players that Hasan Salihamidzic had his eye on for a while and he came into a Bayern team where getting in between or getting in front of Leon Goretzka or Joshua Kimmich is almost impossible,” he said. Rhind-Tutt told the YEAH.
“And then there was the moment this season when he finally managed to have three or four games in a row in the Bundesliga and played very well. Julian Nagelsmann said how much he loved him and really chose him for But when the players above him in the pecking order returned, he didn’t have playing time, so it’s understandable that he wants to move on. chosen for his accolades, you’ve never heard anyone do the same for Cuisance. And in fact, it says a lot about his perseverance that he finally got an injection and took it, albeit for a short period of time.
A deep midfield operator whom Leeds view as a potential replacement for Kalvin Phillips, Roca is “everything you would want” in a possession player and someone with high technical quality in the eyes of Rhind-Tutt.
This has been the case since he appeared at Espanyol.
“Roca is a variant of Rodri, but the Rodri that first arrived in the Premier League,” CBS and La Liga TV’s Guillem Balague told YEP.
“His distribution is very good. He is a bit like the [Toni] Kroos from Espanyol. But drop a few levels and you get there – obviously he’s not as good as Kroos but he has good short passing, smart passing in front, not like Kroos with accurate passing from 50 yards, not yet. He sees a pass. For the possession game, he is absolutely brilliant, he is also good at reacting.
Jamie Kemp, editor at Opta, and Colin Millar, European football writer for The Mirror, echo Balague’s view.
“Roca was technically excellent and looked almost certain to break into the senior Spanish international scene,” Millar said.
“Intelligence and high passing in the game.”
Kemp added: “His breakout season came in 2018/19 at Espanyol, which timed the club’s move to a more progressive manager in Rubi, who began to exploit his quality in possession. His best football there came playing as the deepest of the three midfielders – he was their main outlet to control possession and help build playing spells.
“It’s really that side of the ball that he’s most to his advantage – getting his touches in, feeling connected to the game, moving the ball with determination. He was really climbing the hierarchy of Spanish midfielders at this point. moment and he looked set to be quite special.
Kemp’s concern is that he’s struggling to see Roca fit seamlessly into what he calls “the more erratic environment” of Jesse Marsch’s pressing style.
That and how he will cope with the physical demands of the Premier League are the only real caveats from those who have seen his career develop so far.
“He doesn’t have the biggest stature, the biggest presence, which might be something in the Premier League given you usually have destroyers in that position from what I see,” Rhind-Tutt said. .
Millar agrees, but argues Roca cannot be judged on less than 1,000 minutes of football at Bayern Munich and suggests it might be possible to compensate for any physical impairments.
“It lacked athleticism in particular [in Spain] and I think physicality is a concern, but it all depends on who is around him, system etc. said the man from the mirror.
“My question is physically, he may struggle at the start,” added Balague, who predicted last summer that Firpo’s problems at Leeds could come, as they did, one-on-one in defence.
“Because he has not played regularly for two years, three years, we will have to see, there is always a question mark, especially on the pace, he was not the fastest. It’s difficult to take the ball away from him but he was taking too many risks, even if they [Bayern] could have taken that out of his game.”
The Spanish expert sees plenty of room for optimism alongside any potential problems.
“Because he’s been in Germany, he has to be stronger than he was when he was in Spain,” he told YEP.
“He’s a smart lad and he’ll absorb things and you know, he’ll adapt his game, there’s no doubt about it. And he’s got a lot of personality too.
If they sign him – Roca is one of many options they are exploring – Leeds don’t expect the 25-year-old to come to the same level as Premier League ‘destroyer’ Phillips , but as with every signature, there is an element of risk and a dose of the unknown.
There are huge upsides too, not least that he’ll be hungry to get his career back on track and prove he belongs in one of Europe’s top leagues.
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