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Marc Roca: "I’m a far more complete player than when I moved"

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Marc Roca is a prime example of the need to always be ready as a professional footballer. The 25-year-old trained hard every day until called upon. He's also highly professional away from the game and is now reaping the rewards.

Interview with Marc Roca

Marc, nowadays it's usual for players to do everything to perform at their best. You also started expanding your horizons outside of training years ago.
"Back when I was 16 or 17, my coach told me we should try to imagine passages of play that could happen in a game. I've steadily intensified myself in this method. Everyone develops their own methods to concentrate."

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You didn't feature at all over the first 14 matchdays in the Bundesliga but have since become an in-demand player at Bayern. Did you believe yourself that your role could change so quickly?
"I think that I and every player here always train with real focus. We all have to be ready. My chance came a bit late, but I always tried to train as well as possible, focus on myself and be a bit better than yesterday so I'd be ready when the time came."

The crucial turning point for you was the game against Stuttgart in mid-December when you got to start. Julian Nagelsmann hugged you at the end and praised you in front of the team in the changing room.
"That all felt really great. It was a very important game for me. Julian Nagelsmann had always helped me in the time before then. He told me what I can improve to help the team. I listened to him. We have a very good relationship. That hug really meant a lot to me because he expressed his appreciation. It's very important that the coach communicates with his players, both those who play and also those who don't. He makes sure there's a good atmosphere in the changing room. That way we can all get the best out of ourselves."

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Roca made his first start of the season for Bayern away at Stuttgart in mid-December – and left a lasting impression.

You recently said in an interview with a Spanish sports paper that Bayern hunt the ball like wolves. What did you mean exactly?
"I said that because it's not usual in Spain for you to increase pressure on the opponent again so quickly after losing the ball as we do here. Instead, you work back and defend as a team. The key to success for us here is that extreme gegenpressing that I personally find so interesting. It means you give the opponent barely any chance or time to build up their own attack."

Are you now a Bayern wolf?
"[laughs] I definitely always try to help the team. It's a key role as a holding midfielder in this system to defend from the front and quickly look for contact with the opponent. I like Julian Nagelsmann's style of play."

The issue of identity has played a big part in Spanish football for so long. What's your experience of FC Bayern's identity, both on and off the pitch? What does this club stand for?
"FC Bayern isn't just a big club but also very much like a family. It's an honour for me to be playing here, at a club full of legends. What's so extremely pronounced here is the incredible winning mentality. Everyone at Bayern always wants to be better, every day, bettering yourself again all the time. That fits my mentality. It was also really important for me to learn the language quickly, to be able to understand the culture here better. I understand pretty much everything and can talk well."

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"When things are bad, he works more," your compatriot Javi Martinez -- who you played with in your first season at Bayern -- said about you. Is he right?
"What I can say is that I like working hard, both when things are going well and when they're not. I always try to surpass myself. We're playing at the highest level, we're one of the best three teams in the world. You always have to give 100%. You always have to strive for perfection."

What new skills have you gained in your first year and a half at FC Bayern?
"I'm a far more complete player than when I moved. My positional play has improved, the way I challenge for the ball, the way I read the game. The football in Spain was slower, more interruptions. Everything's quicker here, more back and forth. I had to adapt to that at first, but I've come to terms with it really well now."

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Marc Roca is at home at the heart of play.

Which players have you learnt the most from?
"One of my role models is Xabi Alonso, who played here for a while. I think he played my position perfectly, was always in the right place, worked well defensively but also initiated attacks and on the whole brought the team a lot of calm. I think he's one of the best midfielders there ever was. Unfortunately, I've not yet been able to speak to him yet. I'd like that because he could give me some valuable tips. Maybe it'll happen one day."

Your contract at FC Bayern runs until 2025. What are your goals until then?
"I try to focus on my goals every day and contribute as much as possible to the success of the team. Everything else will come. But I feel very good and would like to be here for many more years. Hopefully we can win a lot of titles -- that's definitely our goal. The key is to work hard every day. That's how I've always done things and will continue to do so."

The extended interview is in the February edition of FC Bayern members' magazine '51'. It also includes a discussion between Nagelsmann and FC Bayern Basketball coach Andrea Trinchieri, which you can watch below: