One of the stand out performers in Newcastle’s solid start to this Premier League season has been 21-year-old central midfielder Mikel Merino.
The Spain under 21 international made his debut for his local side Osasuna as a 19-year-old in 2014 and would go on to make 67 appearances for the Spanish side. Merino’s impressive performances soon caught the eye of club’s across Europe and German giants Borussia Dortmund snapped him up on a five-year-deal in the summer of 2016.
Things however, did not go to plan at the Westfalenstadion for the talented midfielder and he made only eight appearances during the 2016/2017 season. Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez was unperturbed by the youngster’s struggles in the Bundesliga and moved quickly to sign the player on loan with an option to buy early this summer.
Merino started the Toon Army’s first fixture of the season against Spurs on the bench, but after Jonjo Shelvey’s red card in that game and subsequent suspension, the 21-year-old Spaniard was given a chance to impress in the club’s next game against Huddersfield. Since that day he has not looked back and has remained in the starting XI.
The centre-midfielder has displayed all the technical ability we have come to expect from a Spanish player and his cultured left foot has caught the eye, as has his excellent range of passing.
It has not been all plain sailing however, and there have been times when the youngster has looked a bit overwhelmed by the pace and intensity of the Premier League, but that is completely normal for such a young player.
All in all it has been a hugely positive start to life at St.James Park for the midfielder and working with a coach as tactically astute as Benitez can only aid his development over the coming season.
If Merino can continue his run in the starting XI and is given time to learn from the occasional mistake, Newcastle will have a serious player on their hands in no time.
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