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.