ROMEU'S YEAR TO REMEMBER
At the beginning of 2011 Oriol Romeu was unheard of in England, but 12 months on the combative midfielder is getting used to life in the limelight as a Chelsea man.
Signed from Barcelona in the summer, the now 20-year-old was earmarked as one for the future having shown plenty of promise as a 'B' team player in Spain, but he has quickly gone about demonstrating his quality at first-team level in England, convincing manager Andre Villas-Boas he is worthy of a starting spot in front of the defence.
After a debut as a sub against Sunderland in September, he was awarded a first start at home to Fulham in the Carling Cup and impressed with his tidy passing, and deceptive strength, a key facet in allowing him to effectively win back possession.
As he readies himself for the final test of the year against Aston Villa at Stamford Bridge tomorrow, Romeu looks back at the previous 12 months with a sense of pride at how far he has come.
'I started the year with an injury in January and I thought it could be better but now I am really happy with the year and how it has gone,' he told the official Chelsea website. 'At the end it has been absolutely amazing for me.
'I never thought I would be at Chelsea in the Premier League at the beginning of the year, but you never know what can happen, and I am very happy here.
'I am happy to be playing football and things are always going better, things are improving and I am young, I have to learn, I have to play more with my team-mates and learn about the club, going step by step.'
His first half-season in England has yielded 15 appearances, easily surpassing the two he earned in Barça's colours, but he stressed this was never a key part of his plan when considering a move to SW6.
'I didn't think about minutes or games, I just wanted to learn a lot, to enjoy playing football with amazing players, and just tried to give my best in every training session and make the most of the chances that the coach gave to me,' he explained. 'I didn't want to think about the number of games because it is extra pressure and you don't need it, only to enjoy it. Then the coach decided to put me on the field and I am even happier now and very proud, but you always have to try to play more and keep improving.'
Looking ahead, the target is simple - keep going.
'For 2012 it is the same, day by day I want to play well, to try to stay without injury and play well in training and get more minutes, as many as I can, on the field,' said the Spain Under 21 international. 'Beyond that I don't want to think too much, and just to progress week by week at Chelsea.'