Oriol Romeu is “not far off” the level of newly-crowned PFA Player of the Year N’Golo Kante and is good enough to play for Spain, according to Southampton boss Claude Puel.
Kante picked up the award on Sunday evening after proving himself as one of the Premier League’s best midfielders and is on course to drive his second club in two seasons to the title, after doing so last season with Leicester City.
Romeu, on the other hand, failed to make the grade at Chelsea after coming through the ranks at Barcelona and was sold to Southampton in 2015 after sending time on loan at both Valencia and Stuttgart.
He has since found himself a key cog in the Southampton midfield, filling the void left by Victor Wanyama when he moved to Tottenham, and Puel is confident Romeu can more than hold his own when he takes his Saints to Stamford Bridge on Tuesday night.
“I think he's not far off Kante,” Puel said. “He is very important for us. He recovers the ball so well and is a technical player.
“If we see the quality of his games since the beginning of the season, N'Golo Kante brings the same qualities as Oriol for us because he's very consistent and in every game he gives good performances, with consistency and quality.
“He's an important player for this team because he can do fantastic work to recover the ball and start the play.
“Without (Kante) for Chelsea it's difficult and the same with Romeu, it's difficult for us without him.
“We will see for the future, we are confident in him and, for me, he can look to getting in the selection with Spain, for example.”
Antonio Conte’s side will be looking to build on their FA Cup semi-final win over Tottenham by reopening the gap to seven points between the two sides before Spurs play on Wednesday.
And while Puel admits the Blues are the best team in the league as a result of their high level of consistency, he also insisted he is only interested on Southampton’s place in the table, and not Chelsea’s.
“They are a fantastic team that want to win the title, but for us as well it is important to take points,” he added.
“I am confident with my players. They work very well in training. It's important to play our game and enjoy it.
“The best team in the Premier League is the one with the most consistency and, for the moment, that is Chelsea.”