A really good Sky Sports piece on Mikel Merino ahead of the Burnley match.
The midfielder has found himself on the bench the last two games but after impressing in the final half hour against Southampton and scoring the winner to beat Palace, surely he will find himself starting at Turf Moor.
Mikel Merino started his professional career at Spanish club Osasuna, before moving on to Dortmund in summer 2016, the transfer agreed though during a season when he was instrumental (at the age of 19) in taking the club back up to La Liga.
Sky Sports have talked to two journalists, one who covers Osasuna and another who reports on Borussia Dortmund.
Spanish journalist Santi Zuza raves about Merino’s ability from a young age, the player thrown into the team as an 18 year old after Osasuna were relegated from La Liga and a transfer embargo was imposed due to the financial situation at the club.
Meanwhile, Jurgen Koers explains what went wrong at Dortmund.
The German journalist believes that then manager Thomas Tuchel didn’t choose to sign him and that when Mikel Merino arrived he found two quality players who were guaranteed to be first choice.
The move to Germany going from bad to worse as Tuchel then tried to change the midfielder into a centre-back and even blocked a loan move in January, despite giving the Spaniard only two Bundesliga starts all season.
Borussia Dortmund’s loss is Newcastle United’s good fortune.
Mikel Merino looking an absolute bargain, with Rafa Benitez having paid out a reported £2.7m loan fee, followed by the £6.5m permanent move which has already been triggered due to the midfielder making a certain number of appearances for Newcastle.
Santi Zuza, a Spanish football journalist who has covered Osasuna for local newspaper Diario de Navarra since 2002, talking to Sky Sports:
“I knew him from their (Osasuna) youth teams.
“Normally when a player jumps a few age groups to the first team, he needs some time to adapt. There aren’t many who immediately improve their level in that situation but that was the case with Mikel.
“It (Merino came into Osasuna team as an 18 year old in 2014/15 season) was a big responsibility and the circumstances were far from ideal.
“That season was very complicated for Osasuna as they had just been relegated to Segunda (second tier – after 14 years in La Liga), the league had banned them from signing players in order to clean up their finances, and the institutional situation at the club was very delicate (they ended up avoiding a second successive relegation by a point – Merino making 29 league appearances).
“From making his debut in August 2014, Mikel became a genuine leader of the team in less than a year.
“The second season was when he truly exploded (38 league appearances and 7 goals), without him Osasuna wouldn’t have achieved promotion, that’s for sure.
“Mikel has always been a player with enormous ability to organise the game, to slow things down when necessary.
“Defensively he was very important to the team in central midfield but he also has a great sense of when to get into the box to score goals.
“Let’s just say he is a very complete player, also good in the air and in a tactical sense.
“He was a decisive player even though the move (to Dortmund) was finalised in the winter transfer window – it didn’t distract him; his football actually improved throughout the season.
“In very little time at Osasuna, Mikel demonstrated that he is an intelligent player who learns every day,
“He has a lot of room to keep progressing and he’s at a fantastic age for that. He is a very normal, humble person. He has kept those values and they translate on the pitch.”
Jurgen Koers, a reporter for the Ruhr Nachrichten newspaper in Dortmund:
“Dortmund are known for signing young and talented players and Merino’s background in Spain and with Spain’s U21s was promising, but it was interesting that he signed very early. I am not sure if the club’s hierarchy and (manager) Thomas Tuchel had the same opinion of him.
“Tuchel was never satisfied with Merino’s development and performances, he is a very demanding manager and Merino wasn’t too self-confident in the beginning, so they missed each other.
“It was difficult for him, incentral defensive midfield, German international Julian Weigl didn’t miss games. He was Tuchel’s number one. Nuri Sahin, a Dortmund hero and Turkish international, was number two. So Tuchel insisted Merino should become a central defender.
“Tuchel said he needed him (when blocking any loan move in January 2017), which he did not, so he lost another six months.”