ORIOL Romeu remains immensely grateful to former Saints boss Claude Puel for helping him become one of the Premier League's best defensive midfielders.

The 25-year-old - alongside Jack Stephens and Maya Yoshida - flourished under Puel's management and has acknowledged the influence the Frenchman, who was sacked by Saints in June, had on his career.

"He gave me everything to play and feel comfortable," said Romeu about Puel. "He put his confidence in me and I had to give that confidence back. I did that.

"He was probably the first coach to say 'you are going to be the main man here and I want you to play'. That definitely made me feel much stronger and have more confidence in myself."

Romeu previously played for Chelsea and Spanish giants Barca - as well as Stuttgart and Valencia on loan, but never found himself a key player.

Under Puel at Saints last term, the Catalan, who was bought from Chelsea for a bargain £5m in August 2015, became a lynchpin at the base of Saints' midfield, playing 46 games in all competitions.

"I think that [regular games] has made me improve my game and step it up because I need to play games to feel physically good," he said.

"If I go a month or two months without playing I get too slow, too sloppy and that doesn’t make me good.

"Having games, being involved in the team, having the confidence from all the players, managers, club, that has helped me a lot and made me feel much better."

Despite his excellent performances, Romeu is now putting pressure on himself to go and improve further under Puel's replacement Mauricio Pellegrino this season.

"It’s a matter of keep going and do the same. I could play well and I enjoyed last year a lot but now it’s another season," he explained.

"There is expectation and it’s coming from me but I’m happy with that and I’m happy with that pressure and ready to do hopefully even better than last season."

Romeu, who turns 26 later this month, doesn't feel pressured by outside influences but only by the expectation he places on himself to excel in a position he has already become a master at.

“I don’t feel it [pressure] but I put it on myself. I just want to play the same or even better than last season because as a player you always want to improve and get better," he said.

"With the coach [Pellegrino] I can improve some details and as a team we can all get better. That’s why we’re here."