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Newcastle United have completed their 5th signing of the summer, as Borussia Dortmund midfielder Mikel Merino has completed loan a move to the St. James’ Park.
The Spain U-21 international has joined the Tyneside on a season-long loan with an obligation to make the transfer a permanent one after a year.
‘It feels good and I’m very happy to be here, to be part of this club,’ Merino said, upon completing the move.
‘I’m looking forward to touching the ball, meeting my new team-mates and starting to play football.
‘I know it’s a great club and a really nice city. I had different options but I think this is the right place for me to play.’
Here we take a closer look at Mikel Merino and what he will be bringing to the table for Rafael Benitez’s side.
Born in Pamplona, Spain, on 22 June, 1996, Merino started off his football journey with the academy of CD Amigo, before joining Osasuna. Having risen through the ranks at the club, he first broke into their Juvenil A team in 2012, at the age of 16 and a year later, he was a part of the Osasuna B team as a 17-year old.
Merino broke into the senior team in the 2014-15 season and established himself as a regular, making 29 appearances in the La Liga 2, scoring once and registering 4 assists. The midfielder built on his impressive debut season following up with 38 appearances in the 2015-16 campaign, returning with 7 goals and 1 assist, helping Osasuna earn promotion to the La Liga.
In the middle of the 2015-16 season, in February 2016, Merino signed for Borussia Dortmund on a five-year contract starting when the summer window opened. The Spaniard made his debut for Dortmund on 14 October 2016 in a 1-1 draw against Hertha BSC. However, he failed to settle into his new team and as a result, he just finished with 8 appearances in all competitions.
Merino was a part of the Spain U-19 side that won the UEFA U-19 European Championships back in 2015. Having made 12 appearances for the U-19s, he made his debut for the U-21s in September 2016 and has represented the side on 7 occasions, scoring a solitary goal.
Merino is a defensive midfielder primarily, but can also play as an orthodox No.8 and as a centre-back as well. A left-footed, aggressive midfielder, the 21-year old stands at 6ft 2in and is quite a presence in the air. He is quite robust physically and this will definitely aid him in adjusting to the Premier League. This also makes him a great asset to have while defending and attacking in set-piece situations.
A top-class passer of the ball, Merino has that ability to play defence-splitting passes from deep midfield areas or the cross-field passes over the opposition to switch the play and release his teammates down the flanks, with great accuracy.
Another strong attribute of the Spaniard’s game is his work-rate. When not in possession, he is someone who will hound the opponents relentlessly, press them hard and harry them in order to regain the ball. He can put in some crunching tackles too. This, combined with his ability to find his teammates up-field as soon as he wins the ball back, make him a great asset to have for teams set to play on the counter – something Rafa will have been mindful of before deciding on signing him.
With the move to Newcastle confirmed, Merino will be plying his trade in the Premier League next season. Looking at his abilities, he does seem to be a great fit for the Magpies in the middle of the park. The question will be if he can bounce back mentally from a difficult last season with Dortmund, where he hardly played.