Saints play Chelsea in the Premier League
Southampton manager Claude Puel believes Oriol Romeu is not far off Professional Footballers' Association player of the year N'Golo Kante when it comes to ability and attributes.
The midfielder moved to St Mary's from Chelsea in August 2015 after failing to cement his place in the Blues team while at Stamford Bridge after moving from Barcelona in 2011.
Before moving to Southampton, the 25 year old spent a season each on loan at Valencia and Stuttgart.
Meanwhile Kante has made midfield his own at Stamford Bridge after moving from Leicester City where he had been an integral part of last season's famous Premier League title win.
While Kante is now recognised as the Premier League's best among his peers, Puel says Romeu has similar attributes.
"I think he's not far off Kante," said Puel.
"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."
The Frenchman added: "Kante brings the same qualities as Oriol for us because he's very consistent and in every game he gives good performances."
Romeu has played internationally for Spain from under-17 level to the under-23s.