Last week we brought you Mikel Merino quotes from an interview he did in Spain whilst on international duty.

The Newcastle midfielder asked yet again about the possibility of a move to Athletic Bilbao.

His answers were fine (see below), saying that he was enjoying life at Newcastle under Rafa Benitez and whilst he would be open to a return to Spain, that was for a time in the future depending on the circumstances of the moment, rather than looking for any early exit from St James Park.

With a lot of competition for places now at Newcastle, with a pretty much full squad for Rafa to choose from, Mikel Merino has now only started two Premier League games since December.

Having to settle for a place on the bench, it was a bit of surprise that he was left out of the 18 on Saturday, with Isaac Hayden taking his place amongst the subs, the former Arsenal player coming on to help beat Huddersfield.

After the game Rafa sad simply that there’s a lot of players competing and Hayden had trained well (with possibly Merino away on international duty counting against the Spaniard).

However, and ‘exclusive’ on Tuesday morning has claimed that Mikel Merino has now actually told Rafa Benitez that he wants to leave Newcastle.

Allegedly Athletic Bilbao making their interest clear and the Basque midfielder supposedly keen to return to his homeland.

Whether Teamtalk do know something, or whether this is simply kite flying and putting out an easy two plus two guess at a story, is open to question.

Whatever the truth, or not, of this story, Rafa will surely be very keen to keep a player who is only 21 and has already shown with his early form this season he can play in the Premier League, before picking up a back injury in October.

Jonjo Shelvey and Mohamed Diame are excellent at the minute but you need more than two central midfielders in your squad anyway, plus Merino has so much scope to potentially be a big star of the future.

Teamtalk ‘Exclusive’:

‘Athletic Bilbao are lining up a summer deal for Newcastle midfielder Mikel Merino, after he told the club he wants to join the Basque giants.

Merino, who only joined Newcastle on a permanent deal in October after signing an initial season-long loan from Borussia Dortmund, has found life tough going in the North East.

The 21-year-old has been unable to become a regular, but he is also unsettled and TEAMtalk can reveal he has told Rafa Benitez of his desire to leave the club.

Now Bilbao have expressed their desire to sign him, and Merino is keen to move back to his native Basque country.

Merino completed a permanent move to Newcastle from Borussia Dortmund in October 2017 after an impressive start to his career in England

He arrived at St James’ Park on loan in July with the possibility of a full transfer included in the deal, and has done so well on Tyneside that the club handed him a five-year contract.’

The Mag – 26 March 2018:

Mikel Merino started 12 matches for Newcastle United before the turn of the year.

The Spaniard a key player in the wins over West Ham, Swansea, Stoke and Crystal Palace, as well as the credible draw at home to Liverpool.

A back injury picked up against the scousers back in October then ruled out the 21 year old and it has taken him a long time to get his fitness and then form back, only starting two PL games since December. The form of Shelvey and Diame in recent times ensuring only a place on the bench for the former Borussia Dortmund player.

A bit like Andy Carroll with Newcastle United, each transfer window sees Mikel Merino supposedly a target for Athletic Bilbao, an easy/lazy story as with their preference/insistence on Basque credentials, the likes of the Newcastle midfielder is always going to be of interest.

Merino is away with the Spanish Under 21s and starred on Thursday night, contributing an excellent assist as they beat Northern Ireland 5-3, a home game with Estonia follows on Tuesday.

Interviewed by AS Sport over in Spain, the Newcastle man has been asked about the interest from Athletic Bilbao and whether he would be interested in a return to Spain, especially the possibility of playing for Athletic Bilbao.

Highly thought of in Spain, Mikel Merino says he is ‘very happy’ with Rafa Benitez despite a lack of games and also reveals that he sees his best position as an attacking midfielder, rather than the more defensive role he tends to play for Newcastle.

Mikel Merino talking to AS Sport:

Would you like to return to Spain?

“Yes. I am very happy to be in the Premier and the experience in the Bundesliga, but someday I would like to return to the Spanish League.”

Does it bother you to be associated with Athletic (Bilbao) in each transfer market?

“No. The fact that both Athletic and other teams are said to be interested is a sign that you are doing things right. I am very grateful for the interest they put in each market because it means that I’m doing things right.”

Do you see yourself playing in San Mamés (where Athletic Bilbao play)?

“You can never guess where you are going to play (in the future).”

In what position are you most comfortable?

“In the position of ‘eight’, as I did in the (Spanish) Under-19s, 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.”

(Spanish Under 21 colleague) Ceballos – Do you understand his small role in Madrid (only two La Liga starts for Real Madrid this season)?

“He is a spectacular footballer who, if he were me, would have many more minutes in his club because he deserves them for the quality he has. When you’re young and you’re in a big club I know it’s hard to have minutes, but a coach has to be brave and give the youngsters who earn it minutes.”

At the age of 21 years you have already played in Spain, Germany and England … What differences are there?

“They are very different.

“The German is a very strong football, very physical, in which the teams are very well planted and work very well tactically.

“And the Premier is the top step for a football player. It is the most difficult league, very intense. The players are physically the best there is.

“The tactical and technical level is not as good as the Spanish League but the physical level is brutal.”

How does it go with Rafa Benitez at Newcastle?

“Very happy. He is very clear about what he wants, he works a lot tactically.”

Which footballer has surprised you most in the Premier?

“Salah. Shutting up many mouths of all those who doubted.”

Do you see him playing in Madrid?

“With that level, you are ready to play for any team.”

  • Monkseaton Magpies

    Think he will give it another season but he seemed very unhappy not to be in the squad before the game when I saw him just before kick off which is understandable.

    • Wor Monga

      Any fit player would be unhappy not to be included…be very strange if they weren’t, but we are seeing that Rafa has a strong midfield now, and Hayden was here training while Mikel was away…Merino will be here until a better alternative is already in place or the money is right, for Rafa, to ensure that the better alternative can be brought in…

      …Teamtalk are putting their spin on his perfectly innocent remarks to see how much of a flap they can stir up…did they say who had given them this information…no, or how much Atletico were prepared to pay for him…no…a bit like the Chelsea to Lascelles rubbish that’s been doing the rumour rounds for a week or two now!!!

      • Kneebotherm8

        Merino will be here for a lot longer than the ‘exclusive’ states……..I’d bet on that…

    • Ram Kishore

      U assume a lot and lie a lot

      • Kneebotherm8

        Cloud cuckoo land…..

      • Monkseaton Magpies

        Explain yourself as do not like your tone. What he said to me is I am not in the squad in a voice which was not a happy one and shrugged his shoulders. Take it from me he was upset by it.

        • Dillon Tovak

          Pahaha you’re an idiot 😂

          I bumped into him after and he said he was fine and enjoyed the win.
          There we go, 1-1.

          • Monkseaton Magpies

            Stick to hippy festivals with that awful music where people do not wash for days that’s more your thing than football that’s for sure.

          • Dillon Tovak

            Good one 👍🙄

          • KRS1

            I bumped into him buying his shopping in Tesco. He said don’t believe a word Monkseaton Magpie says because he is a complete fantasist!

        • Ram Kishore

          I’m not mocking you or anything pal.. or my tone isn’t absurd..
          At times you make statements saying that seems farcical..
          Like what u said only u and three others were true fans and others are not..
          It just made me have a different opinion about u.
          I’m not judging just saying.

  • Paul Patterson

    If true, £25m+, if they can afford it, he goes.
    I’d wouldn’t be happy about it, but hey ho, if you don’t want to be here . .

    • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

      I don’t think Bilbao would pay that, They have only paid big money out when they sold Laporte and although the Basque approach narrows their market somewhat, Merino is not the big star name for them to justify bringing him in.

  • MichaelMaximusMoose

    The curious case of Mikel Merino.
    I still can`t figure out why he was left out in preference to Hayden & I like Hayden. but we were playing at home & Merino was a perfect fit if anything happened to Jonjo.

    • Leazes.

      Have a look on transfermarkt….. it looks like a recurrence of a back problem that he had when we bought him….. without looking at his record…. he’d been out of the squad or injured for an entire season in Germany.

      I warned about these players that were being lined up, Slimani included….. couldn’t understand the logic of going for crocks.

      • MichaelMaximusMoose

        I`ll have a look

        • Leazes.

          Go to blue button ‘Complete performance data’ and season 16/17 from the drop downs menu.

          • MichaelMaximusMoose

            I see what you mean

      • Down Under Mag

        The logic is that they are available cheaper than the normal asking rate, are willing to come here to try and ressurect their career and because no-one else is willing to take the risk. It’s about last chance saloon for the players to get onto a big stage to try and showcase themselves and about low cost alternatives with a risk from the owner.

        • Leazes.

          Yup we got him on loan, then purchased him after he passed our stringent tests…. now we are trying to sucker someone else!

      • Like we had any other options available? Merino did well when he was called for and was a pity he had the back injury again.
        I think German and English football are too physical for him to fully recover and may as well go back to Spain.

        • Leazes.

          He hardly played in Germany, this was a strange buy and I think Down Under Mag has the reason….we knew he was a risk but went for it anyway.

      • Ram Kishore

        Chill Leazes not all are crocks?
        Just one bad season doesn’t make him a crock?
        Obviously When the club buys a player they would see all the records.. You must know better when these fake news or so called sources make a pop now and then in the news

        • Leazes.

          Looks like he’s continued where he left off….. long term recurring injuries…. ‘crock’ is perhaps too simplistic but it looks a case of the club seeking out players with injury records….. most of them! It is strange.

    • Ba ba.

      Been away on international duty, Hayden fresher and rafa see’s them everyday in training.

      • thewildchimp

        In my opinion, Hayden was just a sub for Diame, who had an enormous task in the
        midfield. Rafa knew he will eventually get tired and brought a defensive
        replacement. It’s not a case of Hayden vs. Merino.
        And I believe what you said also had a lot of weight.

        • Ba ba.

          Agree he is your defensive midfield cover

  • Wor Monga

    Maybe you should have texted in to Rafa, and told him how he’d got his team choice so badly wrong then!!!

    • MichaelMaximusMoose


  • Down Under Mag

    First season blues for a young player being brought through slowly but surely who isn’t th ebig deal he may think he is just yet…given we don’t even know who will be owner or manager next season let alone which players will still be around it’s hard to make any calls right now.

  • Peaky

    Hugo Viana anyone ???? Odd situation this…..

    • TheNutJob

      everything about the Toon is odd

      • Peaky

        All Pardew’s fault…..

        • TheNutJob


    • kingfisher

      Where’s Magpie gone Mr Peaky ?

      • Peaky

        Dropped it….gone single name….like Cher,Pele,Lulu or Kingfisher……

  • Rich Lawson

    Tend not to believe it,even if he went there is no guarantee he would be a regular starter for Atletico.His previous interviews have shown a considerate and level headed boy who’s game will only improve under Rafa’ when he is fully fit.Patience.

  • TheNutJob

    Mitro, Mbemba, Merino, Lascelles, Fatty will sell the lot & head down the
    Old Bull & Bush for a gargle
    job done

    • Rich Lawson

      ”Knees up Mother Charnley”

  • Kneebotherm8

    A lot of assumptions in the comments below that this”exclusive” is actually true……………pinch of salt time I suspect….

    • TheNutJob

      you`re most likely right but he won`t be happy not being in the squad

      • Kneebotherm8

        He’ll be twice as eager when he gets back in the team/squad,which he will,these are Rafas man management skills to get the best out of each squad player…….if MM spits the dummy out,which I don’t think he will,then he won’t be part of Rafas plans for long.
        Rafa rotates the squad to keep everyone on their toes……..part of the reason we’re gonna survive this season,and I think the players respect his decisions….and are putting a shift in for him every game.

        • MichaelMaximusMoose

          there`s half a dozen players that wouldn`t agree with you

          • Kneebotherm8

            The players I’m watching each week are playing for the shirt each week……..whoever’s on the pitch……..for me that’s down to Benitez……….if there’s any discontent in the camp Rafa is handling it well…

        • Mike Adam

          Like he rotated the strikers in the first half of the season???

          • Kneebotherm8

            He isn’t in Rafas plans,for whatever reason,disciplinary or tactical……….not really a squad member is he?…….

          • Mike Adam

            In the first half he certainly was.

          • Kneebotherm8

            He had a squad number……..but he was an enforced squad member by the hierarchy……..who couldn’t/wouldn’t sell him…… Benitez wanted ………

    • Damon Horner

      No transfers are happening for me unless you see something more solid than an article. When it comes to buying players though, nothing’s true… When it comes to selling players, everything’s true!

  • NUFCDan

    All Basque players get linked with Athletic Bilbao. Its an easy story to write since they have to buy from such a limited market.

    • Kneebotherm8

      Easy story after he was left out of the Huddersfield squad………

  • Damon Horner

    Think people are reading too much into not being in the squad. Diame and Shelvey look solid so keep a winning team in place, after that, it is then about which young, defensive midfielder is the one dropped from the bench? The lad’s a bit unlucky I think, I agree with some of the comments though, a link to Bilbao for a Basque player is an obvious transfer link.

    • Mike Adam

      I agree about reading too much into it. But I still cannot see any reason short of injury that he wasn’t on the bench ahead of Hayden on Saturday. He is a duel threat and leads our team in tackles.

      • Damon Horner

        I agree he beats Hayden in most stats and I love the guy but equally wouldn’t wish banishment on Hayden so just taking the decision in my stride, as you say though there could have been a factor of injury, mentality (homesickness etc) or just because Hayden’s trained throughout with the club as reasons, no excuses there just possible reasons as to why he wasn’t there. Any activity in the summer would be interesting but playing more next season or later this season should be the aim for him.

  • robbersdog

    Merino is one of those guys who can play in so many positions that it actually counts against him nailing down one specific position as his own. He’s a ‘utility’ player, and when a team is performing as consistently as we are doing right now, he’ll probably have to wait for an injury (or suspension) to the likes of Diame, Shelvey or Perez before he can be slotted in.

    I hope he stays because I think he’s very talented – and he’s young so he can only get better. But if that happens, Rafa needs to nail down a position for him.

  • Mxpx

    well we signed him from Dortmund I’d assume he moved to play regular football Diame is 10 years older than Merino and while right now he’s playing well but Merino has so much more potential than Diame’s present I’d give him a few games as before long we’ll have to replace Diame regardless this being said if Rafa really can’t drop Diame its worth trying to appease Merino with a loan move rather than selling him

    • Damon Horner

      The midfield worked so getting him minutes without disrupting that form would be hard, arguably once we’re safe then there would be little reason not to give more minutes to those Rafa expects to be in or around the first team which would include Merino. Loan move is an idea in theory but wouldn’t it just leave us with three midfielders?

  • Thefootballerwhocouldfly

    Merino’s definitely off to Athletic Bilbao this summer and Ashley will not sell the club…..

  • Mrkgw

    If he has asked to leave then it’s pointless keeping hold of an unhappy player for the detrimental effect that they can have on morale. His form appeared to dip and it could just coincide with his desire to move elsewhere. I will trust Rafa on this one. That said, there’s Mitro notched another goal tonight….!

  • MadMag83

    Can’t see him asking for a transfer in late March.