Disclaimer: This is NOT an article slagging off Mikel Merino.
I repeat, signing Mikel Merino is not a bad thing, or at least I hope it isn’t.
However, I do find what many other people are saying, is a little strange.
Imagine back when Newcastle United were desperate for quality signings at various times under Alan Pardew, and then consider if the silver fox had came out telling us what a great signing he’d just found, and it was a loan player who had just turned 21 and played all of his previous first team football in the Spanish second division, apart from two starts in the Bundesliga.
I don’t need to spell it out, we all know what the reaction would have been with Pardew held up for ridicule.
The thing is though, we like Rafa Benitez, and more importantly, we trust him.
However, that doesn’t change the fact that Mikel Merino is a loan player (with possibility of permanent deal) who turned 21 last month, who played two seasons in the Spanish second division for Osasuna before making a £3m move to Borussia Dortmund where he started two league matches last season.
We are in the unknown here, yet if you use social media, Rafa’s fifth signing of the summer has been met by many with grand claims of what he can do this season.
Hopefully he will do great things but a number of Newcastle fans are treating the signing of Mikel Merino as a masterstroke, as though Rafa has spotted something that nobody else has – but what are they basing their opinion on?
Do they watch a lot of Spanish second division football?
Or were they blown away by what he did in Borussia Dortmund’s home draws against Hertha Berlin and Augsburg last season?
Others mention about his involvement in this summer’s Under 21s European Championships, Mikel Merino only started one game and that was the third group match against Serbia when Spain had already qualified, plus the midfielder dropped back to play centre-back in that game.
Or is the reality that some fans have become experts on Merino due to picking him on Football Manager and/or seeing a YouTube compilation?
We can hope that Merino will prove an inspired signing but putting such unrealistic expectations on a player who has achieved nothing yet and who has started only two top flight matches in his whole career, is quite mad.
Putting such expectations on a young inexperienced player is a recipe for disaster, we have spent fortunes on players from overseas in the past and many of them have crumbled under the weight of expectation when thrown into the team and not adjusting.
Rafa Benitez showed little interest last season in gambling on young players to get Newcastle United out of the Championship, only the then 21 year old (turned 22 in March) Isaac Hayden proved an exception.
This is surely a signing that should be rated as one for the future, or at least it would in normal circumstances.
These though are not normal circumstances and you have to also ask yourself, if the United boss had a decent budget available, would he still be looking to bring in a player like Mikel Merino, who still has it all to prove.
Even if early results are poor, I hope that Rafa Benitez still feels able to take it slowly with the young Spanish midfielder and ease him into first team involvement when the player is ready.
When Mikel Merino does play, look at it as a bonus in terms of what he can contribute in the Premier League this season, don’t be throwing your hands in the air if he struggles.
This is the reality, a young player who needs to make a massive step up on what he has done before.
Keep the faith but also keep a firm grip on reality.
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