Mikel Merino was a big hit with the Newcastle fans from the first sightings early this season.

Idiots/attention seekers such as Graeme Souness chose to slaughter the 21 year old, for the mistake he made on his first start that helped lead to Huddersfield’s winner.

However, supporters could see that this was potentially a top quality signing.

Sure enough, Mikel Merino was Newcastle’s best player as Rafa’s team then followed up with 10 points from the next 15, culminating in the draw against Liverpool.

Having begun to get wider recognition as the national media woke up, Merino was then confirmed as a permanent signing for Newcastle.

However, a back injury picked up in the Liverpool match has prevented the midfielder starting any of the four games since.

No coincidence then maybe that Newcastle have won only one of these four recent games and that was when Mikel Merino came off the bench to score the only goal against Palace – the last two games/defeats against Burnley and Bournemouth particularly disappointing in his absence.

The second-half on Saturday would surely have not ended up such a ragged shambles, if the young cool-headed Spaniard had been there to put his foot on the ball.

Rafa Benitez says that they will be monitoring Merino’s back injury over the course of this international break and Newcastle fans will be desperately hoping he is back as soon as possible.

The international break is also a time for both fans and media to get reflective on how things have gone so far.

The Mail have asked their football journalists a number of questions about the Premier League season so far, including ‘Who has been the best Premier League signing so far?’.

Whilst others have gone for the likes of Mohamed Salah, two have made an inspired selection:

Ian Herbert:

“Mikel Merino, the Newcastle loanee, whom Rafa Benitez has monitored through the Spain youth ranks, does not have the complete game.

“Pace is the one aspect lacking.

“But his vision and ability on the ball has enabled him – a mere 21-year-old new to the English game – to become the cog of a moderate team.”

Craig Hope:

“I will pick a player on my North-East patch as I’ve seen more of Newcastle than anyone else.

“Mikel Merino only cost around £6.5million from Borussia Dortmund but already team-mates are talking of him being good enough for Real Madrid or Barcelona.

“The Spain Under-21 midfielder is a class act – enjoy him in the Premier League while it lasts!”