With Jonjo Shelvey finally looking like the same player that earned six England caps, a casualty of his resurgence has been Mikel Merino.

The 21 year old last started consecutive league games in December.

Rafa’s aversion to pairing Shelvey and the young Spaniard together, has left Merino marooned on the bench in recent months.

It must be said that Mo Diame has won over plenty of his doubters with some solid displays in the centre of the park and Isaac Hayden remains a solid back-up on the bench. Even so, Mikel Merino looks like a long-term prospect with serious potential.

He may not be an explosive playmaker or attacking dynamo but the ex-Osasuna prodigy impressed in his first months with the team.

What struck me most was his competency with basic, yet often overlooked, aspects of the game. He kept possession and spread it through the team. He didn’t panic or make rash decisions. And unlike his more-celebrated midfield counterpart, could maintain his discipline at all times.

It seems as if some of that spring has gone out of his step since the winter winless run but Rafa needs to find a way to keep nurturing this exciting talent.

With the right coaching (admittedly not one of NUFC’s strong points with previous hot prospects) his development could benefit this club immensely.

With at least a decade of career time still ahead of him, Merino has plenty of years to grow and prove himself.

I’ve always been disappointed by how Davide Santon, a highly-rated Italian international when he signed, never quite made the grade at St James Park. His sale back to Internazionale felt very short-sighted and never entirely made sense to me.

Hopefully Mikel Merino can avoid that same stagnation.

The risk, however, is giving him enough game time in order to make those leaps in experience. I hope he gets the chance.

To feature like Stephen Thorne submit your article to [email protected] and/or for more info go here



  • Paul Patterson

    Trouble is, we can’t allow him to think this club is a stepping stone, ala- Cabaye, Sissoko etc.
    This club needs to be the club that this sort of cracking lad makes it at and stays long term. To do that we need to build. Over to the clubs owner for the summer transfer kitty . .

    • MichaelMaximusMoose

      This is the only Kitty Nufc has
      🐈

      πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

    • Jezza

      It’s not players who have seen our club as a stepping stone, it’s Ashley. He has consistently bought promising young players from the continent purely for the purposes of selling them on at a big profit within a couple of years. If a big offer comes in for Merino he will be off. No question. Ashley will make sure of it.

      • Paul Patterson

        Yeah, but my point is, that the club won’t be sold to a player like that with Rafa . .

      • Dingus

        I think it is almost certain that those players thought of the club as a stepping stone. They were, of course, encouraged to view the club as a stepping stone. But they were certainly on board with it and justifiably so. Both moved on to clubs with greater ambition which can obviously be good for their careers. And their bank accounts. Sadly for them, their moves from NUFC didn’t quite work out in terms of their careers. I certainly feel a twinge of sympathy for Spurs mind. Talk about duped!

    • Dingus

      I think he will go back to Spain one day. I can’t see our lot ever making it as a top 4 club in the premier league. But he could be playing at one that consistently does so. However, he has said he’d like to go back and I think, when the opportunity arises, it’ll be to a top 4 club there. In my experience, Basque people are generally very passionate, loyal, and strong willed. I think he will have the integrity, a la his compatriot Xabi Alonso, to leave this league at the same time he leaves NUFC. He has already said some very positive things about the support, the club, and the area. But is entitled to his ambition of making it back home.

  • Clarko

    Here come all the moronic, uninformed and wrong comments about him playing as a CAM…

    • MichaelMaximusMoose

      πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

    • Kev-82

      Whilst I think his position is centre mid are you telling me you don’t think he could offer more than Perez at CAM while he can’t dislodge the in form Shelvey & Diame?

      • Clarko

        I didn’t state or imply anything that would provoke the question that you’re asking.

        Providing an argument as to why Perez shouldn’t be in the team is not the same as providing an argument as to why Merino should play at CAM, he’s a DM (defensive midfielder).

        • Dingus

          Yes you did. If people believe he can be best utilised there, especially with Diame and Shelvey currently hogging the 2 central positions (justifiably) then that is the next place one would look to play him. Especially so given that Perez isn’t playing as well as the other 2 and Merino’s own personal preference.

          • Clarko

            I can’t have a conversation with someone who will just ignore what I have posted, lie to try and make a point or imagine something that hasn’t happened.

            “Yes you did” – No I didn’t.

            “then that is the next place one would look to play him” – Not if he’s a CDM.

            “Perez isn’t playing as well” – Providing an argument as to why Perez shouldn’t be in the team is not the same as providing an argument as to why Merino should play at CAM

          • Dingus

            You can’t have a conversation with anyone. You really are limited in your cognitive functions.

          • Dillon Tovak

            Block, I’ve done it and my life is better for it πŸ˜‚

          • Clarko

            The standard “he’s right, I have nothing to say so I’ll just call him stupid, that will show him” post.

            πŸ˜‚ πŸ˜‚ πŸ˜‚

        • Peter Graham

          No he’s not a DM. He said he isn’t and I guess he knows a wee bit better than you. Perhaps.

          • Clarko

            I don’t care what he thinks, I care where he plays, I care about what he does on the field, he’s a defensive midfielder, of the 92 club appearances recorded by transfermarkt he has played 49 of those as CDM/DM, 40 of those as a CM and 3 as a CB. For the U21 national side of the 12 appearances he has made he has played 6 as a CDM/DM, 3 as a CM and 3 as a CB. This season, out of our four central midfielders (Shelvey, Diame, Hayden, Mernio), Merino has won the most tackles, made the most blocks and made the most interceptions, again he’s a defensive midfielder.

    • Dingus

      Merino even said himself that attacking midfield is his preferred position.

      “… with a midfielder behind that gives me more freedom because I like to get to the area, shoot on goal… It’s where I think I am the best footballer.”

      Moronic indeed.

      • Clarko

        Nowhere in that quote does it say he plays as a CAM, I don’t care what he thinks, I care where he plays, I care about what he does on the field, he’s a defensive midfielder, of the 92 club appearances recorded by transfermarkt he has played 49 of those as CDM/DM, 40 of those as a CM and 3 as a CB. For the U21 national side of the 12 appearances he has made he has played 6 as a CDM/DM, 3 as a CM and 3 as a CB. This season, out of our four central midfielders (Shelvey, Diame, Hayden, Mernio), Merino has won the most tackles, made the most blocks and made the most interceptions, again he’s a defensive midfielder.

        • Dingus

          My apologies. That quote accurately describes the role of an attacking midfielder, but that isn’t something that would be picked up on by someone with the mental limitations you have been burdened with. My bad. Also, you’ll see (actually, you probably won’t) what I posted was part of a larger quote. See that for even more clarity if you can stand the thought of being wrong. Posting more stats won’t prove you right or others wrong. There are no doubt plenty of players in various attacking positions that have “better” defensive stats than certain central midfielders at Newcastle United, and elsewhere. That doesn’t make them defensive midfielders. It could just mean they’re good at their job. And I’d say Merino is certainly that. Even having been played as a defensive midfielder, doesn’t remove the validity of people who would like to see his abilities employed further up the field. Which you’d know if your brain weren’t made of cake.

          “I don’t care what he thinks, I care where he plays”. And who are you exactly? His opinion means less than yours? There are a lot of fans (a sufficient number in fact, for an article to have been written on the subject) urging for him to be played in the position he clearly wants to be played. A position where it could even be argued the squad has a weakness. And we all have to submit and be quiet because you don’t care? Get over yourself.

          • Dillon Tovak

            Officially told.

          • Clarko

            “with a midfielder behind that gives me more freedom because I like to get to the area, shoot on goal… It’s where I think I am the best footballer”

            You think the above quote “accurately describes the role of an attacking midfielder”? πŸ˜‚

            I knew of the quote before I posted my comment, he is talking about playing in the “No.8” role, not the No.10 role/CAM.

            “Posting more stats won’t prove you right or others wrong”. No it does, it’s called evidence, it supports an argument, you saying “there are no doubt plenty of players in various attacking positions that have ‘better’ defensive stats than certain central midfielders at Newcastle United” means absolutley nothing without any evidence, you’re just saying words that have no validity.

            “It could just mean they’re good at their job”. Is their job a CDM/DM? πŸ˜‚

          • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

            The thing is, teams do not play to the same formations. Diame for instance now plays more of a Rob Lee role whereas he had a more advanced role earlier in the season.

          • Clarko

            Has absolutley nothing to do with what I’m talking about…

            “teams do not play to the same formations” – Yeah, no sh!t, where did I say that every team plays the same formation?

            “Diame for instance now plays more of a Rob Lee role whereas he had a more advanced role earlier in the season” – Where did I talk about Diame? Where did I talk about his position?

          • Jezza

            Piece of advice for you, marra. Clarko is a troll who posts on this forum under multiple ID’s purely to wind people up and provoke a reaction. He is a sad pathetic little nobody and internet trolling is one of his few pleasures in life along with fantasy warcraft games. He is not even a Newcastle supporter. He lives in Manchester and is a season ticket holder at Old Trafford. Just block him, don’t give him the satisfaction of getting into an argument with him.

          • Dingus

            Thank you. Out of curiosity, how do you know that? The Manchester stuff that is

          • Jezza

            Ha ha that’s easy. You can discover an awful lot with a bit of perfectly legal online digging.

          • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

            Piece of advice for you, marra. Ignore Jezza, he continually makes stuff up. I don’t always agree with Clarko but his posts are based on facts even if his interpretation may not align with mine. Jezza on the other hand hears some gossip from an old soak in the pub and passes it off as absolute truth. Jezza constantly proven wrong and should you pull Jezza up on it, he/she has a melt down and blocks any nay-sayers.

  • Dingus

    Hasn’t he been out with an injury? I’m of the understanding he has had a persistent back issue. It’s the kind of thing that can become a real bain to an athlete’s career and the coaching team has decided it’d be best for his (and therefore NUFC’s) future to afford him the time he needs to recover properly. I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t play again this season. Diame’s form has been a real blessing in more ways than one. Get in, Mo.