13th January 2017. By Edward Stratmann.
In the build up to Villarreal's massive clash with Barcelona at the Madrigal, the coach of the Yellow Submarines, Fran Escriba, made a point of praising star midfielder, Manu Trigueros, on what a fantastic season he's enjoying.

To get a sense of just how highly he rates his trusted charge, Escriba even compared him to the Barca genius, Andres Iniesta. Trigueros, being his humble, well grounded self, promptly downplayed the lavish praise, however, explaining: "Comparing me with Iniesta are big words. He has always been an idol though."

For Trigueros, who's unquestionably been enjoying his finest season to date since breaking into the Villarreal first-team four years ago, Escriba's comments were a testament to just how well the once Barca youth trainee is playing. Aside from being his side's standout player, the midfielder's also already scored more goals than in any of his full previous season tallies this campaign - a feat that took him only 15 games to achieve.

His form has been so impressive, in fact, that many are justifiably calling for him to be included in Julen Lopetegui's next Spain squad. Considering the outrageous talent La Roja have to choose from in midfield, the fact he's being mentioned in the same breath as the likes of Thiago Alcantara, Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, Koke and David Silva is indicative of the consistently high level he's performing at.

In a recent interview, a hopeful Trigueros noted that playing for Spain is a dream he's vigorously striving towards, insisting: "I will continue working as before and if the call-up comes I'll be raring to go. I know it will be very difficult, but I will keep trying to raise my level."

Trigueros lived up to his manager's billing in his side's pulsating 1-1 draw with Barcelona too, putting in a shift full of upside and that aptly exemplified his well rounded set of attributes.

Even though he wasn't able to get as much time on the ball as he's usually accustomed to, due to Barca's dominance over possession, he still displayed what a class act he is with the ball at his feet.

The technically exquisite Spaniard illustrated why he's comparable to the great Iniesta, with his close control, neat, tidy yet advanced passing ability, two footedness and penchant to manouvre his way around fierce pressure serving him beautifully. Being so unfazed, in combination with his masterful decision making, ensured he helped his team only retain and circulate possession, but also create vital chances.

Put simply, he just uses the ball so cleanly as though it's a precious commodity, never wasting it aimlessly. Patient, composed and thoughtful, Trigueros' poise was a joy to watch.

While his offensive output was hugely effective, his defensive work was of equal importance and intelligence. With Villarreal settling into a compact 4-4-2 without the ball, Trigueros, from his right sided central midfield post, undertook his role with the utmost diligence.

Showing smooth synchronisation with his colleagues in his side's ball oriented lateral shifts saw him and his mates successfully nullify the space, particularly in central areas, for Barca to find openings. While Trigueros' constant blindside checks gave him the information he needed to take up ideal positions to block off passing lanes to the likes of Luis Suarez, Neymar (when he drifted infield) and Iniesta (when he pushed forward).

Indeed, the nippy 25-year-old's overall input, not only cemented his reputation as one of the premier players in La Liga this term, but would've vitally done his chances of getting a Spain call up no harm at all.

It seems bizarre that a player as talented as him hasn't even been selected for the national team at any level, but if he keeps up his formidable form, that should all change before too long.

Despite interest from Valencia and Everton in the summer, Trigueros' decision to remain with his beloved club, where he's recently signed a new contract that will keep him there until 2022, has been a fantastic choice. Moreover, his desire to win a trophy and follow in some of Villarreal's legends was definitely another key motivating factor in him staying in Castellon. "I hope to continue many years more in this club, a place where I am so at ease. This is a great club and I hope to stay for many years like Bruno and Marcos Senna.

"Little by little I have been improving and I am happy to stay here. I have worked hard to get where I am. Seeing as I've got this far, I don't want to waste it and I will continue to focus on helping the team. My dream is to achieve the first title with Villarreal. Let's see if we get it over the next five years."

Although he's some way off reaching the extraordinary level of Iniesta, another player who relies on his technical mastery not his physicality, there's no doubting Trigueros is still a wonderful footballer in his own right.