The calamitous combination of a dreadful transfer window and Jonjo Shelvey’s outrageous red card against Spurs, caused Newcastle to severely lack a ball-playing midfielder or creative presence. Newcastle were desperate. Step forward Mikel Merino…
It’s fair to say that Newcastle fans didn’t expect much from the young Spaniard. You could even say many were a little disappointed when he signed from Dortmund on a season long-loan, a relative nobody amongst hundreds of potential targets in European football.
Newcastle forked out just £2.7m to loan Merino. That’s like change in a water fountain. An absolute diamond of a bargain in today’s hyper inflated market.
Over-priced, largely mediocre players, are currently being bought for up to ten times that amount and left struggling to make the bench, let alone the starting eleven.* ahem Danny Drinkwater*
Merino made only two top flight appearances in Germany; before being thrust into the cold and unforgiving North-East enviroment, you’d expect performances to be a little tentative, to approach games with hesitancy before fully immersing himself in the notoriously physical, explosively-paced English game. Incorrect.
The Dortmund midfielder has adapted to the Premier League seamlessly, effortlessly executing the beautiful game with brilliance far beyond beyond his tender years.
Possessing an impeccable tackling ability, coupled with a suprising aerial presence, Merino certainly has all the physical attributes needed to compete against the divisions superlative central midfielders.
He was Newcastle’s finest player against West Ham. He can also do it on the international stage too, his exquisite strike against Italy for the Spain under 21 side epitomised the level of confidence he has in his own ability.
Take for instance last weekends performance at Swansea, Merino lined up against the 2016 European Championship winner Renato Sanches. The prospect of lining up against the teenage braided brute, who was only recently seen in the same changing room as Robben, Rodríguez and Ribery, would have been immensely daunting.
Intimidating enough to send even the most accomplished and competent players, let alone an upcoming star packing, suitcase in one hand and a selection of tapas in the other, on a one-way only flight back to Spain.
Merino was outstanding. Like two blokes jammed in a phone box, the 21 year old was determined to prevent Sanches from dictating the game, harassing his marker, forcing him into making wayward passes and dispossessing him of the ball at any given opportunity.
Remarkably tidy in possession and with enough composure to operate on Rafa Benitez’s hernia injury himself; Merino filled the void left by Shelvey expertly, formulating questions over whether the former Swansea technician should, and if Newcastle really need him, to return to the starting eleven.
Yes, we are only three games in, however, if Merino maintains kind of form he’s destined for greatness on Tyneside.
What do you think Newcastle fans? Is is too early to judge or is Merino destined for great things? Let us know in the comments below!