Did Rafa know the 21-year-old Spaniard would look like this big of a part of what Tynesiders call the “Rafalution?”
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Probably not, but Newcastle has made Merino’s loan a permanent deal, signing him through 2022. After 14 minutes off the bench versus Spurs on Opening Day, Merino has played all but 16 minutes of the Premier League season.
“I’m really pleased we have been able to bring Mikel to the club permanently. He has played very well since he joined us. He has settled in quickly, has a lot of quality on the ball and is keen to learn – that is a crucial part of his future development.
Stuck behind Julian Weigl and Nuri Sahin at BVB, Merino is a young 21 (June) has shown his skill alongside and without Jonjo Shelvey. As a valuable part of a rotation that has kept Isaac Hayden out of the mix at times, Merino is a good sign that Benitez has aims to develop Newcastle despite some problems with owner Mike Ashley (who is said to be shopping the club).