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It has shades of Demba Ba as Rafa Benitez explains why Newcastle star is leaving

8 months ago
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Demba Ba was an excellent player for Newcastle United.

He scored 16 goals in 32 Premier League starts (plus 2 as a sub) in his one full (2011/12) season as Newcastle finished a surprise fifth.

Then did even better with 13 goals in only 19 PL starts (and 1 as sub) in 2012/13, then left for Chelsea in January 2013.

As well as being a very good striker for Newcastle, he was also very frustrating.

Harry Redknapp bizarrely revealing to everybody in the first week of January 2012 that Demba Ba had a release clause of well under £10m.

So from the very first transfer window after he arrived, fans were ever fearful that he would leave.

We survived the January 2012 and Summer 2012 windows but the striker jumped ship after only 18 months and 29 goals in 51 PL starts (plus 3 as sub), to go and sit on the bench at Chelsea.

There were constant media stories that Demba Ba was willing to allow his £7.5m release clause to be taken out of the contract, in return for higher wages. Mike Ashley refused.

Newcastle could hardly complain they had got a bad deal, as they picked up Ba for nothing due to a release clause he’d insisted on when joining relegation threatened West Ham midway through the 2010/11 season. The Hammers went down and Newcastle didn’t have to pay a transfer fee, Demba Ba and Yohan Cabaye recruited that summer and the key players as NUFC finished fifth.

Which brings us to the present day.

Mikel Merino is leaving after Real Sociedad activated his £10m release clause and Newcastle United can’t do anything about it. Just as with Demba Ba though they can’t complain.

Rafa Benitez explaining that the only reason why Newcastle were able to sign Merino, was because he had a similar release clause in his Borussia Dortmund contract.

You get the feeling that the writing  was on the wall once Diame and Shelvey clicked together.

Mikel Merino only got one start after January and that was when Rafa played a changed team away at Liverpool.

I think the manager knew the Spanish Under 21 star was intending to leave some months before the end of the season. Otherwise surely he would at least have given him a couple of games once safety was assured with five or six games to go. Mikel Merino was hardly even used as a sub in those final months, only getting four brief bits of game time off the bench from February to May.

At least one thing in his favour is that Merino is going for the chance to play more football, whilst money was always top of Demba Ba’a agenda.

I don’t wish him badly but it will be hard to take if Mikel Merino becomes the kind of player he hinted at in those first couple of months of last season.

Rafa Benitez on impending departure of Mikel Merino:

“It was a pity because obviously he wanted to play more football.

“He’s a young player and he struggled to get back into the team because Diame and Shelvey were doing so well.

“That meant Merino didn’t get much game time.

“Then we have had three or four Spanish clubs who were interested in him.

“In the end, it was something we couldn’t control because he decided to go.

“We knew that this could happen, so we had to be prepared – and in the end we were….

“Ki Sung-yueng will bring experience, experience in the Premier League, and he has quality.

“Mikel was a young player with great potential but now we have a player who has been there before.

When we first signed Mikel, people forget that the reason we got him from Borussia Dortmund was because he had this condition too.

“He had a release clause which he could use if he was not playing as much as he wanted.

“In this case we did that and he was playing really well for us, I was really pleased with him at the beginning of the season.

“After he had the injury, when he went two months without playing, he played less –  Jonjo and Diame did really well.

“But that is football and we move on.”

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