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Tyne Talk

Mikel Merino verdict on how Alexander Isak will get on at ‘amazing’ Newcastle United

1 year ago

Mikel Merino and Alexander Isak were together briefly at Borussia Dortmund.

Back in January 2017 a then 17 year old Isak signed for the Bundesliga club for £7m from Swedish club AIK.

One of his new teammates a then 20 year old Mikel Merino who had joined six months earlier for £3m from La Liga side Osasuna.

Thomas Tuchel (I wonder whatever happened to him…?) was the Borussia Dortmund manager at the time and Mikel Merino and Alexander Isak only ever played four minutes together in the first team, both subs in a 3-0 asway cup win against Sportfreunde Lotte.

The summer of 2017 saw Mikel Merino move on, joining Newcastle United on an initial loan, which swiftly became a £6.5m permanent deal.

This of course was Newcastle United having been promoted BUT Mike Ashley going back on promises to Rafa Benitez, regarding allowing any kind of proper investment in the team to avoid a relegation struggle.

Newcastle fans were impressed, very impressed, Mikel Merino showing some real star quality despite having only just turned 21 and having to adjust to the step up to the Premier League, in an underfunded team / squad that faced a battle to stay up.

It has never been properly explained why Mikel Merino only stayed a year before leaving for Real Sociedad, a contract clause triggered, with the La Liga club paying the £10m release clause which saw NUFC get back their money (loan fee plus permanent transfer fee).

I think fair to say though that Mikel Merino has proved his potential that Newcastle fans could all see, starring for Real Sociedad and helping them to three top six finishes AND winning the Copa Del Rey in 2020, the club’s first trophy since 1987. Eleven caps for Spain have also followed on due to that club form, Merino forcing his way into a team / squad that is one of the strongest in the World.

In June 2019, Mikel Merino was reunited with Alexander Isak, the striker joining for £6m from Dortmund.

Isak also an essential part of that Real Sociedad team that won the domestic cup and gained top six finishes.

Looking back, I think Mikel Merino just came to Newcastle United a few years too soon. I wouldn’t mind seeing him playing alongside Bruno and Joelinton now…

Mikel Merino and Real Sociedad face Man Utd at Old Trafford in the Europa League tonight and the midfielder has been interviewed ahead of that match. Most of the interview concentrating around playing Man Utd and other non-NUFC related stuff. However, a couple of parts saw Mikel Merino talking about his time at St James’ Park AND his verdict on how Alexander Isak is going to get on at his new club…

Mikel Merino interviewed by Man Utd fan Andy Mitten for The Athletic:

How were your experiences playing at Dortmund and in Newcastle?

“Dortmund wasn’t like I hoped it would be. When you go on an adventure like that, you get into a good mindset to play, to develop, to become an important figure. Then I arrived and things were not as I expected. I learnt a lot from a top club with top players and I’m the person I am because of my experience there. That helped push me to a higher level.

“Newcastle was amazing.

“I felt like I was home there, the people were so kind to me. I’d walk around the streets and everybody would call me. The stadium was always full, home and away. It was great to play in the Premier League, to experience the physical side of a league where you have to go strong in the tackles. It’s not about managing the ball and giving passes, but strength and going into battle.

“I thank Newcastle.

“I didn’t learn any Geordie phrases, learning English was difficult enough! But watching TV in English, Netflix and Game of Thrones, helped me learn the language. You have to pay attention; otherwise, you lose the drama.”

How do you think Isak will do in the Premier League with Newcastle?

“Alex has already started well (at Newcastle United).

“His mindset is very good. He can adapt to whatever you tell him.

“When he came here (to Real Sociedad from Borussia Dortmund), he had to adapt to a very specific system of playing where he had a specific role to make an exact movement when the ball was in a certain position. Being from Sweden and being able to adapt showed how smart he is.

“With his abilities, his speed and strength, the Premier League is a good place for him.

“He’ll be great for the Magpies!”


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