There doesn’t look much doubt now, Mikel Merino definitely appears to be on his way out of St James Park.

He looked a class act early this season, something that many Newcastle fans appear to have quickly forgotten.

Arguably Newcastle’s best player in the opening months, his first six starts included wins over Swansea, West Ham and Stoke, plus a draw against Liverpool.

A back injury then came along and Rafa Benitez tried to manage it by only using Mikel Merino from the bench – but after coming on and scoring the winner against Crystal Palace he had to be rested completely.

Since the season ended, speculation has grown and grown that Merino will be leaving and yesterday brought the revelation that a relatively low £10.5m release fee was in his contract (read below), meaning Newcastle would be powerless to stop him heading back to Spain.

I can understand Newcastle fans being disappointed but I can’t believe the vitriol from many of them.

Nobody wants to see any decent player (apparently) wanting to leave but I do see double standards at play here.

Many of those same fans will be the ones also saying they wouldn’t blame an ambitious Rafa Benitez if he left Newcastle due to the situation at St James Park.

However, how can you then blame Mikel Merino for wanting to fulfil his own ambitions?

Whether things have happened behind the scenes or not in the second half of last season, the bottom line is that after January the midfielder got next to no chance to play any football.

His only start was when Rafa put out a one-off team at Anfield for damage limitation/try to sneak a point, apart from that the manager has only given the player 33 minutes off the bench in the last four months of the season.

With Diame and Shelvey hitting such good form, it is understandable why they stayed as first choice on the way to Premier League safety.

However, the fact that Rafa gave no starts to Merino even after safety was secured, as well as next to no time on the pitch off the bench, doesn’t suggest that Rafa Benitez was making any effort to keep the player happy.

Of course we will all support the manager regardless – but at the same time that shouldn’t stop you from also having some understanding as to why a young ambitious player might want to leave so he can get regular football.

Ironic really when we slag so many off who cling on until the end of their contracts for the cash, despite not getting a game.

The Mag – 25 June 2016:

Mikel Merino inches ever closer out of St James Park.

The midfielder turned 22 on Friday and a move to Spain is reported to be imminent.

The end of last week (see below) saw Real Sociedad reported to have won the race for the midfielder and now ESPN appear to have confirmed that.

They say that their sources have reported that the player has chosen Real Sociedad ahead of the likes of Real Betis and Athletic Bilbao.

ESPN also report that Mikel Merino has a surprisingly low release clause from his Newcastle contract set at the 12m euros mark (approx £10.5m).

The player cost Newcastle £9.2m in total, an initial £2.7m loan fee and then a further £6.5m to make it permanent.

Maybe with his experience at Borussia Dortmnd behind him, where Merino only got two league starts, he wanted to make sure he could move on from Newcastle as easily as possible if things didn’t work out – hence the relatively low release clause.

Whilst most transfer stories can’t be taken seriously, it does look with this one that Mikel Merino will be heading back to Spain this summer.

The Mag – 21 June 2018:

It increasingly looks as though Mikel Merino will be making a return to Spanish football this summer.

The Spanish media are giving the potential move almost daily coverage and on this one, it is difficult to believe there is not substance to a likely transfer.

Mikel Merino only made two league starts for Borussia Dortmund in 2016/17 and came to Newcastle, initially on loan, in order to get more regular football.

However, the Spanish Under 21 international made only 14 Premier League starts in the end, with only a single one after January.

Yes he did have injury problems but reality is that he was on the bench throughout most of February, March, April and May, and apart from the sole start at Liverpool, Merino only played 33 minutes off the bench after January.

From the start, the Spanish media have claimed that three clubs are chasing the midfielder: Real Betis, Real Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao.

It has increasingly been Real Sociedad and Real Betis as time has gone on and now Spanish newspaper AS claim that Real Sociedad are set to fly to England to try and get the transfer finalised.

Mikel Merino turns 22 tomorrow (Friday) and AS say that the club’s President, Jokin Aperribay, will travel with his entourage and hopes to get a transfer completed, with a fee of around 12m euros (approx £10.5m) believed to be proposed.

That would represent a small profit for Newcastle after spending £9.2m in total (£2.7m loan fee and then £6.5m permanent transfer fee) but having seen glimpses of real quality from Merino, it would be a bitter blow for Newcastle fans who have seen the potential of somebody who could turn out to be a very good player.

Personal terms are claimed not to be a problem and a five year contract and release clause of around £35m to be included in the contract, such a high amount (or even higher) is the norm in many transfers/contracts on the continent, protection in case a player progresses and their value soars far higher.

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  • MichaelMaximusMoose

    It`s not so much the worry about Merino leaving if he wants to,
    it`s the Krap they`ll replace him with is the problem,
    i.e some 2 million quid Gimp from France.

  • Wor Lass

    The lad wants to play and has the chance to go to a Basque club so it`s a bit of a no-brainer for him. If it`s a stepping stone for him then we need to have a decent sell-on clause in the contract. I was beginning to think Rafa had a thing against players with names beginning with “M” (Mbabu, Mbemba, Mitrovic, Merino) but then I remembered Manquillo! Rafa`s got to generate some spending money somehow and we won`t miss Merino too much as he hardly played him – same with Mbemba and Mitro.

    • MichaelMaximusMoose

      We`ll miss him if Jonjo`s injured, Who could replace him ?

    • mentalman

      we will miss him, we aren’t going to get a player of his quality in for 10million and Diame and Shelvey can’t play every game.

      Rafa is weakening the squad in the hope he’s going to be allowed to improve the first team

      • Garry Norman

        If it’s a release clause in his contract then it’s out of Rafas hands if he goes or stays

        • mentalman

          Its rafa who could have made him want to stay.

      • Ram Kishore

        So it’s now Rafa weakening the squad?..
        So funny…

        • mentalman

          How isn’t he?

          • Ram Kishore

            What if we are negotiating the arrival of another midfielder.. we will only know if he has weakened the squad at the end of the transfer window..

  • MichaelMaximusMoose

    Most likely be playing for Barca or the real Real in 3 years.
    the clubs on the Continent have been taking the p1$$ out of us for years.
    selling us Duck Eggs they get back at knockdown prices now they are into nicking our good players
    Well done Penfold, you a$$hole

    • Wor Lass

      You`re in a good mood today – did you have a sneaky fiver on Iran for the final?

      • MichaelMaximusMoose

        No, but i`ve got £10 on Mexico at 66/1
        got a hangover out along the Quayside yesterday with the Muppet

        • Wor Lass

          They`re a good team – thought they were unlucky last time around. I see VAR is providing a bit of entertainment to make up for the football in a few games.

          • MichaelMaximusMoose

            missed the 1st match, fell asleep during the 2nd

          • Wor Lass

            The last 10 minutes of the Portugal game was the only bit worth watching (apart from Queresma`s goal). It`s great to see the Portuguese getting wound up by the opposition`s antics – especially Pepe. Shame Ronaldo wasn`t sent off. Rooney could have winked at him on his way.

        • Leazes.

          The Water thing was disappointing…. no music to go with it….just random jets.

          • MichaelMaximusMoose

            I`ll be trying it at night see how it goes, i only live along the road

        • Rich Lawson

          I’ve got them in my local’s sweep,lookin’ good at the moment with no clear front runner.

    • TheFatController

      I’m not really understanding, based on that, why Barca and Madrid don’t sign him and loan him out?

      Dortmund loaned him and sold him. Why?

      You’re assuming big clubs don’t sign young players to loan out, they wait for them to be expensive and then buy, which denies the whole Chelsea youth transfer policy as an example.

      If they thought he’d come good, he’d still be being loaned out by Dortmund or a Barca / Madrid player?

      • MichaelMaximusMoose

        We`ll find out in 3 or so years, from what little i`ve seen of him for Newcastle & Spain he has the potential to be a top player

        • TheFatController

          That’s why I love The Mag – in the same day the following can happen

          – I can ask why Real or Barca don’t sign merino to loan him out, or why Dortmund sell him not loan him for a few years, if he has such potential – and get various replies suggesting he’s the next Iniesta

          – I mention wolves signing good Portuguese players and get Viana and Sanchez, not Ronaldo or figo, thrown out as examples of the lack of Portuguese ability outside of their home country.

          Nothing like blatant confirmation bias. And nothing like it anywhere else quite like on here.

          So, how about :-
          – merino is like viana ?
          – wolves have signed a Ronaldo?

          • Ram Kishore

            Good one

    • Ram Kishore

      So the managers are not to blame for mishandling the players?

  • Leazes.

    Martin.

  • mentalman

    funny comments in the article, bemoaning rafa not using Merino but then saying “Of course we will all support the manager regardless”

    Why should we support the manager regardless, the squad is going backwards and it’s not just MA’s doing

    • Virsino

      How is the squad going backwards? ..because of all the ‘rumors’?

      • mentalman

        we are selling our better players for amounts we can’t replace them for. We finished the season needing cover for full backs, wingers a no10 and a striker. We now still need all of these positions strengthened and now need a central defender and a central midfielder.

        We have a squad top heavy with players who aren’t up to it or the manager doesn’t like and we are so far struggling to get rid of any of them so incoming transfers will be limited

        • Leazes.

          We’ve gone backward so much that to get average players we’d have to break our own transfer record…. this is a stripped out bus.

  • Paul Patterson

    It’s become abundantly clear that he wanted to use us a stepping stone, get some PL experience and then return home to a good Spanish club. If he doesn’t want to be here, then off you go. It’s a little disappointing with him being young but out of the three (Diame, Shelvey and Merino) he’s not the one on form at the minute. The other two will start next season as first choice and rightly so. We still have Hayden as back up, so no rush to replace him. Striker and left winger required ASAP.

    • Leazes.

      I thought you were talking about Rafa for a moment. I couldn’t understand the purchase in the first place as he was crocked in Germany.

    • mentalman

      so your happy to potentially play half of the season with 2 defensive midfielders with no creativity in the middle of the pitch?

      What happens when Diame’s form from the second half of the season disappears and he goes back to how he was before christmas?

      • Paul Patterson

        Ifs and buts. Shelvey’s is creative and Diane’s the defensive one.

        • Mike Adam

          Merino was both in one player.

        • mentalman

          Ifs and buts that shelvey and diame will play every game. When shelvey misses a game we only have 1 other midfielder and he’s a defensive one.

  • mactoon

    Big mistake letting him go as he will become an excellent player but if he wants to go instead of fight for his place here then good luck to him. Seems he’s another player who doesn’t form part of Rafa’s plans.