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Manu Trigueros sets Villarreal appearance record vs Lech Poznan

Getafe Cf V Villarreal Cf - La Liga Santander Photo By Oscar J. Barroso/Europa Press via Getty Images

If any of you happen to have our 2012-13 “Hem Tornat” promotion shirt handy, take a look at the player roster on the back. There are only two players left from that squad. One, Gerard Moreno, wore #51 then and was called up from the second team midyear. The other is Manu Trigueros.

Manu has always slipped under the radar, so it’s somehow appropriate that he’d set a new mark for all-time appearances for Villarreal playing in a group-stage match in the Europa Conference League. His 426th appearance broke the record of Bruno Soriano.

Manu started today and was subbed at halftime (he’s coming back from injury) and was playing on the unfamiliar left wing, but was a key midfield link. And that’s also typical. Manu is probably the most underrated player on our roster—he scored seven goals last season, his all-time best, but no one talked about them. He’s averaged over 2000 minutes per year, each of the last 10 years, for Villarreal’s first team. He’s adapted to various coaches (Marcelino, Escribà, Calleja, Emery) and various positions and responsibilities on the pitch—from being part of a classic doble pivote in the middle of the midfield to a wing (either left or right), to being almost a second striker.

I have always liked Manu, I admit (Robin ribs me about this, Zach suggested I write this article, so...there you go) but truth is, he is an amazing cog in our machine, and he’s not going to be done soon. He’s still only 30! Look, I’d love to tell you that when we signed him from Real Murcia’s second team in 2010—for our C team—we knew we had something, but the reality is he had a good campaign with our B team in 2011-12 (don’t forget, they actually finished twelfth and were only relegated because of the first team’s relegation) which was when most Villarreal fans first noticed him.

And with the first team in 2012-13, he actually saw a good deal of playing time under Julio Velásquez—it’s not as if Marcelino plucked him off the bench—but his last-second headed goal against his old team Real Murcia to rescue a point in April is one of the talismanic moments of that promotion season.

How to describe Manu’s game? Well, start with his passing style, especially through balls. Manu is more a direct than a side-to-side passer, and his ability to produce outstanding balls on the ground for a teammate to speed toward goal is legendary. It always seems to me as if he is falling backward as he hits the ball—that’s his style. Crossing is not his thing, though when he shoots on goal it’s typically in the air. And he’s a hardworker on defense, though he is not the best at it (i’m sure he’d admit). He’s much more tactical now than he used to be, but still loves to tackle and pick up a yellow card if he needs to in order to stop a counterattack.

And if you want to know more about Manu off the pitch, this Sid Lowe piece is a classic. (I rather liked the bit where he tried finance and accounting first and didn’t like it; I can’t imagine teaching kids, but more power to him!!!) He’s also a proud native of the town of Talavera de la Reina, and while he doesn’t post much on twitter anymore he still finds time to post some Talavera-related items. He’s been on instagram much more and his photos of hanging in his backyard with a glass of wine and a typical Spanish meal, or photos of his wife and daughter, or a visit to the beach, are worlds away from the high-profile, high-ego football player.

Congratulations, Don Manu! May you play another 200+ matches for the Yellow Submarine!